With the rise in interest in wild swimming, the fact that Scotland has a lot of water is certainly not a negative! With over 10,ooo kilometres (6214 miles) of coastline, many rivers, and countless lochs and lochans, the options for wild swimming are as endless as your imagination. Here we list several ideas, from remote rivers to famous lochs, by way of warm sea bays.
The home of the legendary monster, you are more likely to suffer from the extreme cold here than be eaten by Nessie. Come equipped with a wetsuit to keep you cosy as the great depth of the loch means it rarely feels warm! The loch often plays host to wild swimming events, including the swimming stretch of the epic Monster Triathlon but, with such a huge area of water, you can always find a quiet spot to enjoy the stunning surroundings away from other people.
These beautiful pools have become an iconic wild swimming location and it’s not hard to see why. There are a number of spots suitable for wild swimming, some deeper than others, linked by beautiful waterfalls and surrounded by nature and the magic of the Isle of Skye. One of the pools even features an underwater archway. The water here, straight from the mountains, is so clear that the depth can be deceptive. Like Loch Ness, it’s cold too, but on a warm summer’s day the surrounding grass and rocks do heat up and give you a chance to rest in the warmth.
This stretch of the River Dee is an ideal spot for wild swimming. If you are visiting Royal Deeside – maybe touring the many local castles – a visit here is well worth it. There is an attractive Victorian suspension bridge here, painted white and a good reference point for your swim. The depth slopes down to around four metres (13 feet), unless there has been heavy rain or snow-melt, and there are flat rocks along the edge, which warm up in the sun.
Travel to the west coast of Scotland, either along the famous Road to the Isles or by taking the train, which winds among the hills, lochs, and coastline of this stunning part of the world, and come to Arisaig. The coastline immediately around Arisaig and stretching to the north is full of shallow bays, silver sands and crystal clear waters. In summer the sea here can get surprisingly warm, with the warmth of the Mexican gulf stream being carried across the Atlantic, and the heat of the sun adding to this.
In the heart of the Cairngorms, Loch Morlich is surrounded by wonderful views and outstanding countryside. This is a popular spot with other water users, such as windsurfers, so a little more care needs to be taken when swimming here. However, this popularity does mean you can hire wetsuits and then warm up at the convenient shoreline café after your swim. The beach is beautiful too, and it’s possible you’ll observe wedding ceremonies on the shore, all tartan and kilts, as you swim out in the loch.
This is the Scottish Highlands at their best, with mountains on all sides, majestic Caledonian pinewoods, islands in the loch, and the chance to see some of Scotland’s rarest wildlife. Further upstream is Loch Affric, also a good location for a swim, with the whole glen providing opportunities, including waterfall pools such as the Dog Falls or Plodda Falls. Combine your wild swimming with wild camping for some unforgettable experiences.
As with Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin and Glen Affric, there are many opportunities for wild swimming all along Glen Feshie. At Feshiebridge itself the river levels and speed are dependent on rain fall, take extra care if it has rained heavily recently, as the current upstream can be powerful and there may be submerged logs in the water. However, this is a fun swimming location, with pools, clear waters and forested banks. Exploring further upstream is well worth it.
It is difficult to pick a single location for wild swimming in Orkney, the archipelago off the northern coast of Scotland. In her award-winning memoir, The Outrun, author Amy Liptrot details the regenerative power of nature — including the joy of wild swimming — following a return to her home islands of Orkney. With over 900 kilometres (560 miles) of varied coastline to choose from, it’s all here; whether you want to swim in the Atlantic Ocean at the (rather chilly!) Bay of Skaill with its famous Neolithic village, or the identically named Bay of Skaill in the North Sea off Deerness, or find a secluded spot where you only have birds and seals for company. In summer, the sun only just dips below the horizon, which means sunny, long days can warm bays to a surprising level, such as at Waulkmill Bay in Orphir. The sun also heats the surrounding hills, and the coconut scent of the gorse bushes and honey of the heather adds to the sense of bliss as you float in the warm waters.