Stunning Wild Swimming Locations in Scotland
There’s nothing quite like a swim in nature. Wild swimming, sometimes known as outdoor or open water swimming, is an extra special watersport in Scotland. Here, it means gliding into a still loch in the shadows of Munros and castles, or slipping straight into the salty seas of the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea.
Read on for some of the top wild swimming spots loved by outdoors influencers and enthusiasts across Scotland and discover more about this activity and how best to stay safe on the water if you’re just getting started.
Where: Close to the town of Balmaha in the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, within driving distance of Glasgow
Loved by: Adventure travel blogger, Lesley @wander.somewhere. Read Lesley’s blog on Best Places to Wild Swim: Trossachs
Surrounded by Munros and walking trails, the stunning stretch of water has a sandy bay giving great access to the water, and its proximity to the town of Balmaha means you can warm up with a hot beverage from St Mocha Coffee Shop after your dip.
This September, join fellow open water swimmers at Loch Lomond for the Go Swim Loch Lomond Event. With distances ranging from 250 metres all the way through to 10,000 metres, there's something to challenge swimmers of all abilities, whether you're new to open water swimming or a seasoned pro.
Where: On the outskirts of Edinburgh
Loved by: The Wild Ones wild swimming group. View the Wild Ones on Facebook
Portobello Beach has been a favourite amongst visitors and locals throughout the years with its beautiful stretch of sandy beach and promenade. With its waters granted designated bathing water status from SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency), and its low tide, it’s the perfect place for beginners to enjoy the wonders of wild swimming.
Where: In the heart of the Cairngorms National Park
Loved by: Wild swimmer, Alice @swimwild_uk. Find Alice on Instagram
The award-winning beach here, Scotland’s highest beach, is surrounded by Glenmore Forest and the snow-capped peaks of the Cairngorms and offers easy access to the water. There’s a circular path all around the loch so you can see it in all its glory.
Loch Morlich is the location for Swim Wild’s Introduction to Open Water Swimming which is aimed at total beginners. Read Swim Wild’s guide on their website
Where: Just north of Oban
Loved by: Shetland blogger and influencer, Bee @bumblebambi. Find Bee on Instagram
Glide through the water in the shadow of the impressive Castle Stalker. Sitting on its own tidal island in the bay of Loch Laich, this castle dates to around 1320 and makes for a special swim indeed.
Where: A short drive from Stornoway
Loved by: Wild swimmers and surfers
Fancy a wild swimming adventure in the Hebrides? Head to Tràigh Mhòr and you’ll discover beautiful unspoilt golden-white sand and clear waters with an amazing coastal backdrop. Start your swim at Garry Beach and if the waters aren’t too choppy, embrace your inner explorer as you investigate tunnels, arches, and underwater spectacles. During the summer months, the sun barely sets making it the perfect place for a sunset swim.
Where: An uninhabited island off the coast of Great Bernera on the Isle of Lewis
Loved by: Immerse Hebrides @immersehebrides. Find Immerse Hebrides on Instagram
Nope, this is not the Maldives. It’s the secluded lagoon of Little Bernera – you can reach this beach with a guided swim experience from Immerse Hebrides. They will take you by RIB boat to all the best swimming spots, and they offer swims for more experienced swimmers, as well as beginners and families.
The Outer Hebrides is famous for its clear turquoise blue waters and there are plenty of lovely spots for wild swimming. In the summer, the sea water can even reach an almost tropical 14 °C.
Where: Situated in the far-north west of Scotland
Loved by: Snorkellers, wild swimmers, water skiers, windsurfers and kayakers
Planning a road trip along the North Coast 500? Bring your wetsuit and dive into the sea at Achmelvich Beach. This beach can only be accessed by a single-track road, where you will be treated to a stunning white-sand beach and dreamy aquamarine waters. Make the most of your beach day by arriving early to enjoy a range of activities including snorkelling and rock pool fishing. You might even spot a few wildlife friends while out in the water, with porpoises, dolphins and minke whales occasionally making an appearance.
Where: Around 10 miles from Torridon in the north west Highlands
Loved by: Edinburgh influencer, Pippa @pippaperriam. Find Pippa on Instagram
A secret little cove along the north coast of Scotland, this spot is found at the end of the road in the tiny Highland hamlet. A handful of white-washed cottages line the country road, before a shimmering, sheltered bay beckons you in for a quick plunge. Follow your dip with a meal at the amazing restaurant owned by a local couple, the Gille Brighde.
Where: Scotland’s longest river that flows through the city of Perth and on towards Dundee
Loved by: Outdoor adventurer and wild swimmer, Calum @caldamac. Find Calum on Instagram
Follow the river upstream to find pebble beaches or little bays dotted around the city centre. To the west, Loch Tay is another lovely swimming spot. Don’t forget to visit the Aberfeldy Distillery for a tour and taste unique Tayside whiskies, lovingly made from the pure fresh waters you just swam in.
Sections of this river are fast flowing so for the best and safest experience, we recommend joining an organised wild swim on the River Tay with Willowgate Activity Centre, based in Perth.
Where: Gullane is one of East Lothian’s loveliest towns
Loved by: The Gullane Bay Swimmers
How about a gorgeous beach swim next? Gullane features a narrow, sandy shoreline with great views of the Firth of Forth. You might want to choose a quieter time of day for your swim, as the beach is a popular spot for windsurfers and kite surfers when the wind blows. Warm up inside Tom Kitchin’s cosy gastropub Bonnie Badger and enjoy a hearty post-swim pub lunch or dinner.
Top tips for wild swimming
- Go with a friend – Never swim alone, even if you are an experienced swimmer.
- Keep it quick – Take it slowly, go in and out quickly to get used to the feeling of the cold water, and stay close to the shoreline.
- Do your research – Pick your spots carefully and take recommendations from other swimmers and community groups. Lochs in particular can have sudden drops around the edges, making them particularly deep. It is important to be aware of where you are standing and be cautious of water depth across the loch. In the summer, watch out for poisonous blue green algae and avoid swimming anywhere near it.
- Wear a colourful swim cap
- Warm up afterwards – Get changed quickly and make sure you come prepared with lots of layers
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