Image: Maria Kovacova

The best places to dip: Scotland

The UK is covered in great places to wild swim but where are they? We ask cold-water enthusiasts across the country to find out

In Scotland, people have access to all wild waters, so there are plenty of areas to explore from the lochs to the North sea. 

“If you´re new to outdoor swimming, finding local groups on social media sites like Facebook and asking people for their recommendations is a great way to discover new spots,” says Sydney Read, a 21-year-old seasoned outdoor swimmer and surf instructor based in St Andrews.  

“I´ve recently started not only running surfing lessons but also dip sessions where we go swimming in the North Sea, especially when the waves are not big enough for surfing, so we can still get the health benefits of a cold-water plunge,” explains Sydney, who is currently a Social Anthropology and Sustainable Development student. 

Maria Kovacova also enjoyed going for an outdoor swim while studying at St Andrews. “I prefer to go to East Sands. The place is beautiful and the water is really refreshing,” she says. The 24-year-old adds that it is important to check the weather forecast before going for a dip in the sea, as the waves can become high and unsafe. 

But finding groups and long-time swimmers to go with is not the only way to discover great places for swimming. Sydney told us that just by looking at the map you can discover some great outdoor swimming locations near you. To get you started, we’ve collected five places around Scotland to go for a plunge.

Avid cyclist and camper, Eleanor Hudson, 23, says Loch Ness at Dores beach is a popular destination for swimmers. She says: “Wild swimming in Scotland is a really wonderful experience. It was always freezing when I went, but also calming and exhilarating at the same time. Afterwards I always felt full of life.” Eleanor found herself camping directly beside the water in some cases, and plunging in for a quick dip whenever she had a chance.

She explains that being aware of ticks and mosquitos is important though, as she recalls a cycle with her boyfriend that she had intended to end with a wild swim. 

“I’d spent the previous couple of hours cycling the route between our campsite near Ullapool and Loch Inver. About two hours in we found a beautiful loch and decided to swim. It wasn’t an easy route and it didn’t have a nice access point to the water. We had to pass the bikes across some rocks in the water and then push them through high grass. When we finally sat down to look at the view and contemplate having a dip, I noticed there were ticks on my legs. I’m not a big fan of bugs, so I panicked a bit and decided it was probably best not to swim,” she laughs.

A man and his bike stand half in the water of a loch, a rough, rocky path leads across it.
“The loch feels endless when you’re in it and it’s difficult to see it as an enclosed space,” says Eleanor Hudson. Image credit: Eleanor Hudson

Despite this she says: “Swimming in such breath-taking places (such as the Scottish lochs) is very special. I think everyone who can try it, should try it.”

These locations are a great start if you want to dip into Scotland’s cold-water world. But if you’re keen to discover the best hidden spots, we recommend getting your hands on a copy of the book Swimming Wild in Scotland by marathon swimmer Alice Goodbridge – an excellent guide to over 100 places to swim.