A swimsuit might not be the first item you think about packing for a trip to Scotland, but let me tell you – it would be a big mistake to leave it at home if you visit during the summer months! Scotland might not have the hot springs of Iceland or the sauna culture of Finland, but we’ve got something else: wild swimming!
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There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer’s day than jumping into a lake, river or even the sea – and Scotland is no exception. Admittedly, a “hot” day in Scotland might still make some of you reach for your jackets, but if you are the adventurous kind, you might want to reconsider.
The waters of Scotland – be in the North Atlantic sea or the rivers and lakes fed by mountain springs, rain water and snow melt – can be freezing cold. But they are also incredibly serene and who doesn’t need a breath of fresh
air water from time to time?
Here are some of my favourite wild swimming spots across Scotland. So, take the plunge!
1. The River in Kinlochleven
It was our third day on the West Highland Way and so far the hottest. After a steep climb up the Devil’s Staircase and a long descent to Kinlochleven, we were exhausted and sweaty and really needed something to cool us down. We arrived at our hostel in the middle of the afternoon, when the sun was still standing high, burning down.
Following the advice of the receptionist, we therefore put on our bathing suits and made our way to the blue bridge across river … behind the hostel. We were the first ones to arrive, soon most hikers who had arrived here today, spread out across the rocky shore of the river and jumped into the icy cold water.
And icy-cold it was – nevertheless I jumped in three times from different heights and swam a few strokes to cool down. If you’re hiking the West Highland Way and the sun is out, this is an absolute must!
2. Isle of Mull beaches
There are beaches in Scotland, where the ocean looks more like the Caribbean than the North Atlantic. Bright turquoise and all shades of blue; white sandy beaches; kids building sand castles – exchange the sunbathing sheep for some exotic iguanas – all that is missing are the palm trees…
The Isle of Mull has a plethora of these beaches and one is prettier than the next. However, wild swimming here takes a little bit more effort depending on the tide, as you have to walk quite a while through the shallow water before you can dive in.
Other pretty spots for will swimming on Mull: Fidden & Loch Buie
3. Loch Etive, Highlands
I remember it like it was yesterday. I had spent New Year’s Eve in a small bothy in the middle of Glen Etive, surrounded by good friends and lots of stars – and maybe a drink or two. The next day, a bunch of us set out to ring in the new year in true Scottish fashion: jumping into a freezing cold lake – and we drove to Gualachulain to jump into Loch Etive. And if you think that’s a mouthful, just wait for how cold the water is!
I have to admit, I couldn’t make myself to jump in – it was just too cold… But in the summer the water looks significantly more pleasant, and who doesn’t love a quick cold refreshment to get the blood circulation going!?
Photo: Richard Wiseman
4. Loch Ard, Trossachs
Whether it’s for a hike up Ben A’an or a thrilling afternoon at Go Ape, the area around Aberfoyle in the Trossachs is one of my favourites in Scotland. It’s shocking – even to me – that I’ve never been to Loch Ard!
The loch is regarded one of the best wild swimming spots in the country, especially because of its sheltered position and clear water. The loch is also not as deep as many surrounding waters, and therefore slightly warmer than other places nearby. If the water is still too cold for you, there are also many hiking trails to viewpoints around the loch!
There even is a swimming festival here every September, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for upcoming dates here!
5. Glenrosa Pools, Isle of Arran
Forget about the Faerie Pools on the Isle of Skye – on a sunny day in summer, I bet you they are too crowded for a more or less elegant dip in the water. You can find similar conditions in a beautiful glen much closer to Glasgow (and Edinburgh) on the Isle of Arran!
A hike along Glen Rosa valley is an easy alternative to huffing and puffing up Goatfell on a sunny day. If you’re brave enough, you will be rewarded with a relaxing bath in one of the many pools formed by the river flowing through the valley!
So, next time you plan a trip to or day out in Scotland, grab your bathing suit, make it to one of these spots and jump right in!
Which is your favourite wild swimming spot in Scotland?
Planning a trip to Scotland?
Planning a trip to Scotland?