At Top of the Woods we love to explore different ways to enjoy Nature and wild swimming ticks all our boxes!
We know being outside in nature benefits us physically and emotionally, but wild swimming has its own special benefits. Cold water does some interesting things to our bodies and helps to improve our circulation, immune system and even libido!
When you’re serenely floating in water, you will find birds & wildlife are more accepting of your presence. You become part of the nature around you and get to experience wildlife up close & personal!
Last year, several of our camping and glamping guests asked where the best wild swimming spots were, here are some of my favourites close to Top of the Woods:
1 – A Secluded River Gorge Swim
The River Teifi from Cilgerran (4.7 Miles from TOTW, 10 mins drive)
This is a stunning section of river gorge to swim in is a Special Area of Conservation because of its diverse wildlife. It also has amazing history of trout fishing in traditional local boats called “coracles”, and numerous woollen mills along its banks!
Go for a quick dip, or simply float your way along wooded river banks down to the Welsh Wildlife Centre & Nature Reserve. This swim really is secluded, and you will be truly immersed in nature. Look up at the tree canopies… you might be lucky enough to spot a Kingfisher or an Otter along the way!
Be aware that there are some sections of this river where you can’t get out easily, so you will need to be a confident swimmer!
If you need a refuel stop head to The Glasshouse Café at the Wildlife Centre and treat yourself to tasty locally sourced food, have a wonder around the Wildlife Centre, meet the giant badger and get lost in their living willow maze.
2 – A Magical Woodland Dip
The Secret Waterfall at Ffynnone Woods (Approx. 2 Miles from TOTW, 30 mins walk)
This is a truly magical little spot and you can walk straight from TOTW! Just ask for our Secret Waterfall Trail Map or download here.
My mum told me when I was little, the Ffynnone waterfall was the doorway to fairyland. In the ancient Welsh Mabinogion book, it is referred to as the gateway to the ‘otherworld’! Watch out, you might encounter fairy folk whilst swimming!
Although not a long swim, the secret waterfall at Ffynnone is perfect for an exhilarating dip! Nestled in the shaded woods the water here is always cold & refreshing.
We often see people leaping into the water from the rocks – this can be great fun, but please check for any underwater obstacles and the depth of the water before doing this!
3 – A Hidden Quarry Swim
Rosebush Lake (14.5 miles from TOTW, 25 mins drive)
This one is a hidden gem of the beaten track. Until you see it, you really wouldn’t think such an incredible body of clear blue water would be nestled in the Preseli Hills, part of the Pembrokeshire National Park.
It is an abandoned quarry, so will be cold year-round! Surrounded by slate and flourishing with the wildlife that has reclaimed the quarry, you will be blown away by this spot!
Near Rosebush Lake is the iconic Tafarn Sinc, a community owned pub, unmistakable because it’s big, red and made of tin! As soon as you walk in, you will be taken back to years gone by. They serve lunch, dinner and a good range of beverages.
4 – A Wild Sea Swim
Poppit Sands (9.7 miles from TOTW, 15 mins drive)
Poppit Sands is one of our nearest beaches with parking, a café & toilets just off the beach. Cardigan town and St Dogmael’s village that is close by, has some great pubs & places to eat.
This is a lifeguarded, Blue Flag beach (from July – September between 10am & 6pm).
This is my favourite local beach, there is something special about it. With soft sand, gorgeous dunes (which is home to loads of wildlife, including beautiful & rare coastal flowers) and good facilities. It’s also the start (or end!) of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
5 – A Relaxing Estuary Swim
The Parrog, Newport estuary (12.8 miles from TOTW, 25 mins drive)
This is a fab estuary swim with a long boating history. You’ll see gorgeous views of Carn Ingli mountain above the bay and plenty of wildlife, including dolphins playing on the horizon!
This spot has great facilities, too – a car park, public toilets and a café. You can also head into Newport town and enjoy a range of restaurants, pubs and artisan shops.
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path can be accessed from here from here, with miles and miles of stunning coastal walking.
Check out our Top 20 Things to Do in Pembrokeshire
1 – Always swim with someone, or at the very least tell someone where you are going and what time to expect you back.
2 – Swim sober. Drinking is well known to impair our judgement and coordination – it might seem like a great idea, but it really isn’t!
3 – Cold Water. Although in the summer, the water might will feel like a refreshing escape on a warm day, be aware that cold water shock can be triggered at below 15’C. Cold water can also weaken your arms and legs. Ease yourself in gently to acclimatize, stick nearby banks/exit points to begin with & don’t jump straight in until your body has adjusted!
4 – Dress appropriately & have warm, dry clothes & towels ready nearby. Be aware of your fitness & ability level and don’t push yourself too far – swimming takes a lot of energy! Make sure you’ve eaten appropriately & have something yummy to maintain energy after (lots of seasoned wild swimmers love cake!)
5 – Check your surroundings before getting in – make sure you know where to get out, check the water depth (don’t jump in without knowing how deep it is first!!) and be aware if there has been any recent flooding/changes to the water that could lead to debris
6 – Sea Swimming – it’s best to stick to life guarded beaches. Stay between the flags and pay attention to any warnings & notice boards around you. If you see someone in trouble, don’t try to rescue them yourself; call for help or dial 999/112 and ask for the coastguard. Check the tide times before swimming (swim when the tide is coming in NOT going out!).