A swimmer in a wetsuit crawling out of a lake
FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

Diary of A Wandering Swimmer – a crawl from a llyn

Kate Gillwood takes part in an event and makes an ungainly exit

By Kate Gillwood

Kate Gillwood was born in Galashiels, Scotland, raised from three years old in Yorkshire, found herself in London for 30 years and eventually escaped back to Scotland. She was raised to swim in rivers (the Wharfe at Appletreewick, for example), open air pools (Otley) and the sea, so open water swimming is not new. She started taking part in organised events about 10 years ago, putting on a wetsuit for the first time for the Great Scottish Swim in 2011. Now living just a few minutes from Portobello beach, one of her favourite things is to start the day with a sneaky swim in her local waters. She also likes to explore new swimming spots and share what she finds. Now that lockdowns have eased, she’s exploring again with her campervan, Clova.

The Swim

When I say crawl I don’t mean freestyle. No, I mean my own inimitable style that I shall simply call “missing the mat.” Does my expertise never end?


Despite my inglorious finish, which is still making me laugh, I cannot sing the praises of this event enough. It was a stunning location and the weather played nicely, but most importantly the atmosphere was lovely. That’s the only word I can dig out which is accurate enough. I think it was the most comfortable I have ever felt, given I’m not a fan of mass participation events. Plus, I loved the train ride I took to get to the start.

A swimmer in a wetsuit being given a helping hand to climb out of a lake
A huge thank you to the swimmer who did her best to help. (c) LoveSwimRun

When I spoke to the organiser, Chloe, and I can see exactly why I felt like I did. After having had a less than fun experience at an event where people swam over the top of her, Chloe decided that was the time to set up something for those of us who just want to enjoy getting there, rather than fight for space in a competitive environment. So LoveSwimRun was born. From sign-up through to finish the organisation of this swim was excellent. Even though there was a total of about 350 swimmers I still experienced a personal touch and that included the complexity of a 2-year wait.

It helps if you are swimming under the gaze of a towering mountain in clear, fresh-smelling water. The last time I came to this area was 1976 and the only thing I recognised was Snowdon, that I am proud to say I climbed with my Mum when I was 10. It felt reminiscent and oddly comforting to swim here and relive those memories.


Despite my questionable exit from the water, I felt great when I got out. I hope to come back and possibly even venture to one of the longer distances. But I should practice more at aiming for the finishing mat.

Main image (c) LoveSwimRun

A selfie of the author
Look, no nerves.

The location

I entered the Big Welsh Swim in 2019 to take part in 2020 – but for well-known reasons, that didn’t happen, hence the two-year wait. It’s fantastic LoveSwimRun survived that difficult time and this event has continued. Whatever distance you are up for, this event will cater for you offering 1.3km, 3km, 6km and 9km swims. Llyn Padarn sits right next to the town of Llanberis in the Snowdonia National Park. There are many campsites in the surrounding area and the town is well versed in hosting visitors so it is accessible by train as well as road. Llanberis typically is 5 hours from London by car, 2 hours from Manchester. Use postcode LL55 4TY in your Sat Nav and follow signs for the Slate Museum. 

Public transport: The closest train station to Llanberis is in Bangor. Buses run from Bangor to Llanberis.

The water is clear, the people are friendly, I highly recommend this event.

Contact me

If you have any suggestions of places I could swim email me on k.gillwood4@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @swimfreedomscotland

Please also take a look at my website: www.swimfreedom.co.uk

Read more about my swims

Yorkshire Lily Pads

A clear sweetie

A bit Wuthering Heights

Clova returns

Yellow tangs from a lava field

A rope swing to the past

An urban gem behind a sea wall

Jumping trout in the wind

Highland Adventure Part 1

Highland Adventure Part 2

Waterfalls of tea

Less skipping and more colour

How to swim 8m in 15 minutes

Storms, floods and a shallow lagoon

A year in open water from lochs, orca trails and sea pools to the stacks of St Kilda

A weekend of clarity

A swim spot that can’t be named

Moon channel

Getting a confidence boost on my home beach

In the wake of an orca

Discovering neuks and crannies

Imported sand, piscinas naturales and a pool to myself

Swimming in the shadow of a famous castle

‘Sunny Dunny’ home of the red cliffs and long lost lidos

Where the land is low and the water bulls are loud

Lakes, mountains, poets and a bit of running

Last swim with a friend

Sweeping views, menacing swans and a rich history

Clear water, abandoned submarines and pink footed geese

Famous for oysters & surrounded by mountains

Where the crabs are blue

I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year.