July 06, 2023 6 min read
Wild swimming has really taken off in recent years, with more and more people embracing the cold waters and reaping the benefits from it. It’s well known that being outdoors and exercising in green spaces is good for you, but we shouldn’t overlook the blue spaces and all the amazing ways a wee dip can benefit us too. Athletes have been taking ice baths for years to reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery but the benefits are vast, including improved alertness and energy levels, immune system-boosting, and enhanced brain function to just name a few.
There are so many different ways and places to swim ‘wildly’; almost any beach, loch, or river will do. Many people head out to their local spot every day to get their quick fix, but if you’re looking for an experience that’s a bit more special, there are some really wild places to take a dip that are truly worthy of a little extra effort. Although some of these spots will take a bit of time to get to, I guarantee that they are so worth it! Others might not be too far off the beaten path, but they will give you that same feeling of being out in the wild and away from civilization.
Spot 1 – Falls of Falloch
The first stop on our list is the incredible Falls of Falloch. Although not far from the A82, once you’re off the road and have walked from the car park into the woods, you forget the busyness behind you as sounds of the river and falls quickly drown out any traffic. The pool at the base of the falls is the perfect place to take a plunge. Just be careful not to go too near the falls if they are flowing rapidly as can happen after a heavy rain. The Falls of Falloch are in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park so there are plenty of options nearby for exploring whether you want to head up a Munro or take in one of the country's most famous lochs.
Spot 2 – Easdale Slate Quarries
The small isle of Easdale is one of the Slate Isles in the Inner Hebrides and offers one of the most unique wild swimming experiences imaginable. The car-free island is only accessible by ferry after travelling to the remote town of Ellenabeich on the isle of Seil, which is connected to the mainland by the Clachan bridge. Once on Easdale you’ll find it is covered in flooded slate quarries which have long been abandoned. The quarries were flooded during a storm in the 19th century when a monumental wave hit the island. Lacking the technology to drain the water, the quarries were quickly deemed useless and therefore, deserted. However, they are most certainly not useless to us, as they make for near perfect swimming pools since once you’re down in the water, you’re protected from the sea winds and can peacefully enjoy these odd yet scenic pools.
Spot 3 – Allt Daraich Pools
Everyone knows that Skye has a lot to offer, just ask the thousands of tourists that flock there every year. A somewhat hidden gem is the Allt Daraich Pools which are a brilliant alternative to the Fairy Pools. These pools are far quieter and feel more remote than their popular counterparts even though they aren’t too far from Sligachan, which is where you’ll need to park before proceeding on foot. Once you reach the pools, relax and drink in the views of the Cuillin mountains. The further you hike upriver the more pools and waterfalls there are to explore. For those looking for more adventure nearby, you could hike towards Loch Coruisk and Sgurr Na Stri, the path loosely follows the Sligachan river which also covers some opportunities for swimming.
Spot 4 – Traigh Mheilein, Harris
This secluded beach on the Isle of Harris is reached after only a 40-minute walk on a steep cliffside path. To reach the start of the path, however, you first need to make your way along a 12-mile single track road full of hairpin bends, steep climbs, and blind summits. After making the hike, the chances are that you’ll have this remote location all to yourself and can enjoy the vast white sand beach, dunes, and of course, crystal-clear blue water. Lewis and Harris are famed for their wide open and near-empty beaches with turquoise waters, so you’ll have no shortage of places for further swims or easier-to-reach options.
Spot 5 – Urquhart Castle
There aren’t many places more classically Scottish than Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. Deep in the highlands and surrounded by hills, this famous body of water is not for the faint hearted. Although easy enough to reach, the water stays cold all year-round because of its depth. It is also quite a busy waterway as it forms part of the Caledonian Canal and has numerous boat tours. We’d recommend sticking to the edges to take in the castle from the water. A wetsuit and a colourful swim cap wouldn’t go amiss either.
Spot 6 – Loch Duntelchaig
Not far from Loch Ness is Loch Duntelchaig, a gorgeous spot for a secluded dip. With no designated car park, you can either park at Dunlichity Church and walk back to the loch (which I would recommend) or you can cross your fingers and hope that the small layby is empty. This loch is unlike others in the area as it’s not peaty and offers great visibility… so you might even want to bring a snorkel! In autumn, the trees surrounding the loch turn to a range of oranges, yellows, and browns and when they reflect off the calm water are really something to behold. The more adventurous swimmer who isn’t satisfied with just one loch might want to do the three lochs circular hike, with the 8-mile route allowing you to stop in at the smaller Loch A’Chlachain and Loch Bunachton.
Spot 7 – Loch A’an (Avon) Cairngorms
Arguably the most remote and rewarding blue space on this list is Loch A’an which is right in the heart of the Cairngorm mountains. With Munros all around, there’s no shortage of walking routes to enjoy. With a 3 – 4 hour hike each way, this remote freshwater loch is a refreshing stop after a long trip up into the hills. It is the 8th highest loch in Scotland and completely freezes over in winter. I’d recommend visiting in the late summer and early autumn months when the water is warmest, and you’ll be able to soak up this incredible place for longer before having to climb out, warm up, and make your descent.
We hope this has inspired you to take a step off the beaten path and brave the cold waters that are a little more secluded, as well as a little more wild. Even if you don’t fancy taking on a big adventure right away, maybe just try absorbing the scenery, dipping a toe in, and seeing the positive effect submerging in the cold will have on you.
Top Tips from Anna Deacon: Meander Ambassador, Author and Wild Swimming enthusiast;
1. So many people ask what kit they need to get started and I would suggest you don’t need anything more than a swimsuit/trunks and a towel, and just see how you get on. You can always add more kit later if you want, perhaps neoprene gloves or boots, maybe a bobble hat!
2. Find someone to swim with, ideally someone who is used to outdoor swimming and can help you get started, there are lots of local online groups for this.
3. Make sure you know where you are swimming. Outdoor swimming carries many risks including riptides, hypothermia, currents, hidden objects underwater etc. Ensure you have a safe entry and exit point as well as having someone with you.
4. Keep it short, allow your body to adjust to the water and always get out before you think you should. Listen carefully to your own body as you may not be able to tolerate as much as the next person.
5. Lay your dry clothes out ready for when you get out of the water, if you are super well organised you can bring a hot water bottle and wrap your clothes around it for extra heat.
6. Get warm quickly after your swim. Your body can continue to lose heat for around 30 minutes after a cold swim, this is known as ‘after drop’, and can be dangerous. Bring a hot drink to warm up from the inside out, and get your wet things off quickly and put on as many layers as you can. Loose baggy clothes are always easiest when fingers are cold and numb.
Blue Scotland Book Launch with Mollie Hughes
If you’re interested in reading about more wild swimming spots around Scotland, then you’ll probably want to pop along to our Blue Scotland book launch event later this month. A few of the spots in this blog are covered in more detail in the book as well as many others. You’ll get to hear from and meet the author, Mollie Hughes, as she talks about her guide to exploring Scotland’s waters as well as her world record breaking expeditions to Everest and the South Pole. To read more about the event click here.
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