Wild swimming in Wales

Taking the plunge: A Q&A with author Emma Marshall

We caught up with author Emma Marshall to find out all about wild swimming in Wales.

Taking the plunge: A Q&A with author Emma Marshall

Taking the plunge: A Q&A with author Emma Marshall

We recently caught up with Emma Marshall, author of ‘Wild Swimming Walks Eryri / Snowdonia’. In this chat, Emma tells us how she discovered wild swimming, a couple of her best-kept secret spots and why an icy midwinter dip is never out of the question…

Tell us how you discovered wild swimming.

I’m quite unusual in that I had always actually hated cold water – before I discovered wild swimming, I would never take the plunge unless it was super hot on holidays abroad. It was really something I believed about myself – but then when we had amazing weather over lockdown, I actually discovered that I loved it.

The Afon Ogwen runs right below our house, and I used to walk with my children a lot down there during those lockdown months – they were always desperate to get in and eventually they persuaded me to, too. The love of it honestly was instant and I got the bug from that moment!

I then started to incorporate it into my mountain running, which I have always done a lot of. During that 2020 heatwave I would start to seek out rivers, streams or lakes to help me cool down during a run – there is honestly nothing more refreshing than just kicking off your trainers and taking the plunge, running clothes and all!

What makes North Wales special for wild swimming?

It’s the fact that we have everything so close together here! The mountains of Eryri give us the most incredibly beautiful lakes, waterfalls, rivers and pools – and if you know where to go, you can seek out places that are never busy and avoid crowded honeypots.

On top of this, we also have the beaches of Anglesey / Ynys Môn and the Llŷn Peninsula – these are really popular places and sometimes it is lovely to be in such a buzzy area - but more often than not it’s more peaceful to seek out those quiet coves along the coastal paths and take a dip there.

When is your favourite time to take a wild swim?

I do swim all year round – yes, even in winter! There is something very special about those ice swims, with snow on the ground – but it’s so important to warm up beforehand, walk briskly or run if you can and dress with plenty of layers. If I’m honest though, my favourite is when we’re lucky enough to have hot and sunny weather during the summer months and you can just dive right in.

In terms of the time of day, I love a sunrise swim! One walk in my book heads for Llyn Caseg-fraith (which means lake of the speckled mare) in the Glyderau mountain range – this is a beautiful one because Tryfan glows pink in the sunrise – it’s absolutely enchanting and feels really special.

I must say that, for a sea swim, I just love sunset – there’s nothing like swimming out into a golden path of sunlight off the west coast of Anglesey.

Is there anyone in particular you like to head out with on a swim / run?

I do prefer going it alone, although swimming with a couple of close friends is also very special. One constant companion who is always with me however, is my Border Collie Seth.

When my children were little I used to love watching them in the water – now they’re a little older, I must say that some of my most memorable and special swims have been when I can convince my 18-year-old Loti to come in with me!

Do you have any post-swim rituals?

Not really – I pretty much like to get moving straight away again! Unless it’s a summer swim, when there is nothing better than lying on a rock with a bottle of beer and drying off in the sun afterwards – which is something my husband and I like to do. Otherwise, it’s a case of getting your clothes back on as quickly as you can and getting going again!

Can you give us a sneak peek of any of your favourite spots from the book?

There are two truly hidden spots where I have never seen anyone else swim; a lake not far from Yr Wyddfa and a waterfall pool in the Llanberis Pass. These are really special to me because they are just so quiet and hidden, and feel like they’ve never been touched by another human before. You’ll have to grab a copy of the book to find out more!

Finally – can you tell us why you decided to write a book?

There are two reasons, really. Firstly, because people kept asking me – they would see my Instagram posts and get curious - I was always so surprised that people didn’t know these spots.

The second reason is that I’m just so proud and passionate about the region! I really hope the book can encourage other people to get out here and discover the wonders of this beautiful part of the world.

Readers can buy ‘Wild Swimming Walks Eryri / Snowdonia’ at https://wildthingspublishing.com/. For a special £3 off including free P&P), use the code Boltholes24.