Wild Swimming in Snowdonia

With what was, (by my standards), a disappointing summer coming to an end, I find myself itching to get those last hits of warmth on my skin, of sand between my toes. The nights are getting darker, colder and the urge to sit inside with an XXL bar of galaxy in a knitted jumper listening to Michael Buble on loop is growing more prominent. (I’m warning you Mike, get back in ya cave.)

With not much travelling taking place this summer and being stuck at home finishing the van, I found myself lusting over everywhere from the Whitsunday Islands to Joshua Tree National Park. And then I became marginally obsessed with the National Parks of the U.S…. seriously, it was borderline unhealthy.

And then I stopped for a second and appreciated what is RIGHT HERE on my doorstep. In a land that has inspired everyone from Tolkien to Stevie Nicks, a magical land that is home to the highest peak in England, Wales and Ireland; a land containing lakes, glens, waterfalls, a coastline both dramatic and beautiful enough to rival Big Sur. In this land, lies Snowdonia National Park.

2,132 square kilometres of breathtaking forest with valleys and peaks carved out by glaciers millions of years ago. Trickling streams hidden in depths of woodland, dappled by precious sunlight spying its way through the leaves. This is my homeland, and it’s beautiful, it’s enough to make anyone believe that the mythical creatures depicted in traditional Welsh folklore might have actually wandered these lands years ago. Anyway, I digress, with summer still on my mind and the weather looking suprisingly June-esque, I stuffed a few things in my trusty backpack, told my friend to get ready, checked out a few of the 100 lakes of the national park online, and stumbled across ‘Llyn Elsi’ – just over an hour away, and absolutely stunning.

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Of course, it was freezing, I gently climbed in from a generous slab of rock, cladded only in a seriously impractical bikini, breathing calmly over the cold water shock (trying to, anyway). After about two minutes, I was back at home again, body weightless, limbs sprawled, content and blissful. I made sure I took time to really absorb my surroundings, before swimming to one of a few small islands scattered about the lake, passing some rather bewildered onlookers on the way.

For the 28th September, the sun was warm enough to penetrate the shallows and warm my skin, making me truly nostalgic for warm summer days spent attempting to surf and throwing myself from small cliff edges.

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Llyn Elsi itself is in fact a reservoir, providing water for the village of Betwys-y-Coed below. Formerly two naturally occuring lakes, it was then made into a dam in 1914. Despite it’s pretty name, I can’t find anything to suggest that it may have been named after someone. After our swim, we dried and dressed rather precariously on the waters edge, trying to avoid flashing any innocent dog walkers. We set my instant camera up on my rucksack, and managed to get a perfectly timed shot of us to commemorate our first wild swim and then ate goats cheese, spinach and chutney wraps whilst gazing out across the incredible vista before us. I have always adored this homeland of mine, but perhaps not enough.

Here’s to many more wilder days.

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