Stop sniggering at the back. We know. Plunging the depths of Scotland’s chilly natural waters isn’t top of the average to-do list. But it should be. Tropical in climate it is not, but that doesn’t stop young and old from jumping, diving, or slipping in and experiencing some of Scotland’s most beautiful waterfalls, lakes, lochs and seas.
Beyond the blissed out sense of freedom and adventure, Scotland’s wild swimming phenomena has really found its (water) wings in recent years, and while long term residents can opt to join some top notch outdoor swimming clubs to get their jollies, the more adventurous visitor can don their thermals and give it a go with relative ease, all by themselves. There are loads of great spots to choose from, but these are some firm favourites.
If you’re loch bagging anyway on your trip to Scotland, the chances are you’ll be heading for Loch Ness and Loch Lomond – the country’s best-known lakes. The former for its resident mythical monster, the latter for its bonnie banks. Both offer some awesome spots for swimming. Loch Ness, complete with green humped Nessie, is cold (read: freezing), but when wet suited up, it’s well worth the effort. Head for Drumnadrochit and pitch up at the beach opposite Urquhart Castle. From there, it’s nice and shallow and offers great panoramas of the loch. Water babies keen to flex their muscles a little more should note that Loch Ness now has a pretty nifty 60-mile long canoe trail, which runs the length of the loch through the Highland Great Glen.
If you’ve made the trip to Invernesshire anyway, the Plodda Falls are more challenging but totally unforgettable for the fit and able. It’s a half hour forest walk that leads you to a glorious plunge pool at the bottom of Scotland’s highest – and no less beautiful - waterfall.
Loch Lomond is just a short 20-minute jaunt from Glasgow, or an hour or so's drive from Edinburgh and is just as ubiquitous. We have a few favourite spots: the first is Firkin Point between Luss and Tarbet. The second is near Inversnaid, where Rob Roy’s cave lies. Whether you believe the legend or not of how the Scots folk hero hid out here during his cattle rustling years, it’s no matter, it’s just a super spot at the north of the loch to swim in one of the UK’s largest freshwater lakes. Finally, Millarochy Bay, near Balmaha, is not as well known as its Loch Lomond counterparts but offers some great vistas of the east shore nonetheless.
Those willing to venture further north and opt for an island visit should head for Isle of Skye and Talisker Bay. A popular beach for water sports, it’s a lovely spot for a dip, and better still you can dry off with a local dram or some award-winning scran at one of Skye’s mighty fine eateries (The Three Chimneys and Kinloch Lodge to name but two). Skye’s also home to the charming and crystal clear Fairy (or Faerie) Pools, near Glenbrittle at the foot of the Black Cuillin Mountains.
Finally, for wild swimming of a different sort, opt for Scotland’s annual New Year’s Day tradition, the Loony Dook. So named, as you’d have to be at least a little loony to do it. Thousands head to South Queensferry, just 10 miles outside of Edinburgh, to run into the Forth: the town’s iconic Forth Rail Bridge at their back. Be warned though: fancy dress is necessary, nae obligatory.
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Have you been wild swimming in Scotland? Where was your favourite spot? Let us know in the comments section below.
Written by Anna Millar
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About the author: AnnaMillarAnna Millar
Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.