The Most Beautiful Places for Wild Swimming in Scotland

By Christie Johnson

From enchanting Celtic pools to cascading waterfalls, there’s something incredibly special about wild swimming in Scotland.

Whether you fancy open-water swimming or cold-water dipping, this guide to some of the most beautiful wild swimming spots in Scotland has you covered!

Are you ready to dive in?

Suggested further reading:

Top Tips for Wild Swimming in Scotland

Wild swimming in Scotland is invigorating but it doesn’t come without risk. Before you test the waters, here are some simple steps you can take to help you get the most out of your outdoor swimming experience.

Note: If you have a health condition, speak to a healthcare professional before doing any form of physical exercise – this includes wild swimming.

Choose the Right Spot

Make sure to choose your location wisely. If you’re a wild swimming newbie, pick a spot that best suits your capabilities and experience. Be wary of water depth, check for hazards, and know your exit strategy.

Stuck for ideas? Ask a local wild swimming group for their recommendations.

Pack Your Kit

You don’t need to pack a great deal to go wild swimming in Scotland.

Whether you prefer to take the plunge in a swimming costume or a full-blown wetsuit is your prerogative. Bear in mind that during the winter months water temperature in Scotland can drop to as low as 44.8°F / 7.1°C so you may want to adorn some skins to keep you warmer and more buoyant.

Just starting out? Try wild swimming in Scotland during the summer months where the temperature is generally milder (58.6°F / 14.8°C in August) and you can enjoy Scotland’s long midsummer days.

For extra safety, wear a brightly coloured hat so you’re easily identifiable in case of an emergency.

Tip: Grippy swimming shoesprotect yourfeet from slippery edges, rocky bottoms, and pebbly beaches!

Never Swim Alone

Not only is it safer, but it’s also way more exhilarating going wild swimming with a friend or community group. Plus, you’re less likely to back out if you have someone cheering you on!

If you’re interested in wild swimming in Scotland, check out this wild swimming group.

Know Your Algae

Have you heard of blue-green algae? Found in the sea and freshwater swimming locations, exposure to blue-green algae (or Cyanobacteria) can cause skin rashes, vomiting, eye irritation, and more. In Scotland, blue-green algae can form in lochs, ponds, canals, and reservoirs so be vigilant if you plan on swimming in these locations.

Check the Weather and Tides

Before heading out on your wild swimming Scottish adventure, be sure to check the weather and tides. The weather in Scotland can change very quickly so assess early and be prepared to alter plans on the day!

Take it Slow

The best thing you can do when wild swimming in Scotland is to take it slow. Cold Water Shock can be life-threatening so rather than diving straight in, test the waters first and allow your body time to acclimatize to the cool temperatures – even on a warm day.

Tip: The more you practice cold water immersion, the easier it gets. Studies have shown that regular intermittent submersion in cold water can increase your body’s resilience to cold water shock by 50%.

Warm Up

After you get out of the water your body will be pulsating with that natural wild swimming high. However, you must warm up straight away with a hot flask and plenty of layers because you could develop Afterdrop.

When you swim in cold water, the blood vessels in your skin close up and blood starts to move to the core to keep your organs warm. When you get out of the water, the cold layer of skin and muscle continues to cool your core temperature which can lead to unpleasant symptoms such as violent shivering and hypothermia.

Note: You can lose up to 4.5°C from your core temperature so make sure you cultivate a strong post-wild swimming routine!

Places for Wild Swimming in Scotland

Wild Swimming Isle of Skye

Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle

Nestled under the magnificent Cuillin Mountains, the Fairy Pools are a collection of cascading waterfalls flowing into crystal-clear rock pools near the village of Carbost in Glenbrittle. A popular destination for walkers and wild swimmers alike, you can embark on an incredible 2.4km stroll from the car park (and toilets!) and explore each unique pool as you go. A truly magical setting enriched with ancient folklore and natural beauty!

Tip: Fresh mountain spring water can feel icy so it’s advisable to bring a wetsuit to keep warm and swim shoes to navigate the pebbles and rocks.

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Car park and toilets

Near: 5.5 miles from Carbost and 20.5 miles from Portree.

A woman about to go wild swimming in Scotland looking at a waterfall flowing into crystal clear rock pools with the Cuillin Mountains in the background
Photo of the Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

Sligachan River and Allt Daraich Pool

Looking for a less crowded spot for wild swimming in Scotland? A quieter alternative to the Fairy Pools, the Allt Daraich pool is just a short walk from the historic Sligachan Bridge with picturesque views of the Cuillin Mountains. Plunge into emerald green water replenished by a spectacular waterfall with lots of space to sit and relax. Keep in mind the depth will change depending on how much rainfall there has been.

Tip:The clear waters of the Sligachan River are thought to be blessed with fairy magic. The tale goes, if you submerge your full face in the enchanted stream (without drying it) you will be granted eternal beauty!

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Places to park near the Sligachan Hotel

Near: 0.4 miles from Sligachan

A waterfall flowing into a translucent rock pool on the Isle of Skye with the Cuillin Mountains in the background
Photo of Sligachan River by v2osk on Unsplash

Wild Swimming Near Inverness and the Highlands

Achmelvich Beach, Sutherland

Tucked away in the far northwest of mainland Scotland is Achmelvich Beach, a little bay of paradise boasting white sands and translucent waters. Sheltered from the wind by the surrounding cliffs, Achmelvich is a peaceful place to spend the day paddling and swimming.

Tip: Even on a warm day the North Atlantic Ocean can feel chilly so make sure you bring layers to warm up afterwards.

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Car park and toilets

Near: 3 miles northwest of Lochinver

Achmelvich Beach on a clear and quiet day featuring white sand dunes and turquoise water with hills in the background
Photo of Achmelvich Beach by Steve Bittinger on Unsplash

Loch Morlich, The Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms National Park in the heart of the Scottish Highlands has become a popular place for wild swimmers. Loch Morlich near Aviemore is no exception with spectacular views of undulating snowy peaks, vast forests, and a beautiful clean beach.

Tip: Loch Morlich has shallow shores which makes it the perfect spot for wild swimming in Scotland if you’re just starting out.

Suitable for: Great for beginners

Facilities: Car park, toilets, cafe

Near: 7.9 miles from Aviemore

A white duck and two sailing boats floating on Loch Morlich in Scotland surrounded by hills
Photo of Loch Morlich by Benjamin Blyth on Unsplash

Loch Ness

A stunning area immersed in ancient folklore, Loch Ness is thought to have a mysterious monster lurking in its depths! Containing more water than all of the lakes in England and Wales, the general advice is only go for a cold water swim in Loch Ness if you’re very experienced at wild swimming. Due to the depth of Loch Ness, temperatures are very cold all year round which can put you at risk of developing Cold Water Shock and hypothermia.

Tip: If you’re new to wild swimming in Scotland, visit some shallower lochs around Loch Ness such as Loch Duntelchaig and Loch nam Bonnach.

Suitable for: Advanced

Facilities: Car parks, toilets, cafes

Near: 8miles from Inverness

The remains of Urquhart Castle overlooking the clear waters of Loch Ness in Scotland
The remains of Urquhart Castle overlooking the clear waters of Loch Ness in Scotland
Photo of Loch Ness by Ramon Vloon on Unsplash

Wild Swimming Near Glasgow

Loch Lomond, Trossachs National Park

You won’t struggle to find beautiful wild swimming spots around Scotland’s largest freshwater loch. From Milarrochy Bay boasting incredible views on the eastern shoreline to Luss, a quaint little village on the west side with a wonderful stretch of beach, wild swimming in Loch Lomond is suitable for novice and experienced swimmers alike.

Tip: Although it’s safe to swim in Loch Lomond, many boats and canoes frequent the loch so it’s advisable to wear a brightly coloured hat or cap so you’re easily spotted.

Suitable for: Plenty of choices for all abilities

Facilities: Car parks, toilets, and cafes

Near: 33 miles from Glasgow

Wooden decking overlooking Loch Lomond in Scotland at sunset surrounded by snow capped hills
Photo of Loch Lomond by Sam Barber on Unsplash

Wild Swimming in Aberdeenshire

Cruden Bay, Peterhead

Situated on the vast Aberdeenshire coastline in the far northeast of Scotland, the Bay of Cruden has a sprawling golden sandy beach and impressive dunes with views for miles. Enjoy paddling or swimming in the ancient harbour of Cruden Bay village or find a spot along the 2.5km beach.

Tip: Look out for the electric sign where you can check water bathing quality predictions throughout the summer.

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Car park, toilets, cafe

Near: 8.1miles from Peterhead

Waves lapping onto a vast sandy beach surrounded by sand dunes
Photo of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Linn Falls, Aberlour

Basking under a magnificent waterfall is a right of passage when wild swimming in Scotland! Meander through enchanting woodland until you reach a clearing where you start to hear the soothing sounds of rushing water. Nestled in the beautiful flora, Linn Falls is a hidden gem a short walk away from Aberlour Distillery.

Tip: Be careful of boulders and make sure to edge in slowly. Linn Falls is deep enough (in parts) to jump in but we recommend only doing this if you’re experienced and wear the right protective gear.

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Public toilets, car parking, and cafe in Aberlour

Near: 1.3 miles from Aberlour

A cascading waterfall nestled in rocks and foliage flowing into a deep rock pool
Photo of Linn Falls, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Wild Swimming Near Edinburgh

Portobello Beach

Portobello Beach has been a long-standing favourite for wild swimming in Scotland. Located just a few miles from Edinburgh city centre, Portobello boasts of 2 miles of soft sandy beach and cafes dotted along the promenade. Whether you’re planning on going for a cold water swim or just a paddle, this beach is the perfect wild swimming spot for all abilities.

Tip: Check the tides before you set out on your wild swimming excursion. At low tide, you’ll have to walk quite far out before you hit deep water. At high tide, you will be out of your depth quickly so be cautious if you’re not a strong swimmer.

Suitable for: All abilities

Facilities: Car park, toilets, cafes, and restaurants

Near: 3.6 miles fromEdinburgh city centre

Waves washing up on a sandy beach in Portobello, Edinburgh
Photo of Portobello Beach by Callum Deas on Unsplash

Loch Leven, Kinross

Take a blissful dip in the tranquil waters of Loch Leven. Although spanning 13.3 km², Loch Leven is a safe wild swimming spot in Scotland encircled by stunning scenery and a unique view of Lochleven Castle. And let’s not forget the rich cornucopia of wildlife from swooping ospreys to flocks of ducks (the largest in inland Europe!)

Tip: Watch out for warning signs as toxic blue-green algae tend to grow in some areas.

Suitable for: Shallow parts are great for beginners

Facilities: Car parks,toilets, cafes

Near: Kinross and Edinburgh

Blue sky reflecting on the still water of Loch Leven with ducks paddling on the shoreline
Photo of Loch Leven by Katherine Carlyon on Unsplash

Your Handy FAQ to Wild Swimming in Scotland

What is Wild Swimming?

Simply put, wild swimming is going for an outdoor swim or a dip in a completely natural place. From rivers and lochs to rock pools and the sea, there are many salt and freshwater wild swimming locations to choose from – especially in Scotland!

Why is Wild Swimming So Good For You?

Wild swimming is so good for you for many powerful reasons. If you choose to regularly swim wild, expect to reap the following mental and physical health benefits:

  • Releases endorphins (the happy hormone!) making you feel calm and euphoric
  • Increases mindfulness which helps with anxiety and depression
  • Improves confidence and resilience
  • Improves immunity
  • Helps reduce inflammation in the body
  • Builds a strong connection with the natural world

Is it Safe to Swim in Scottish Lochs?

When swimming in Scottish Lochs, you need to consider water safety. Many lochs are vast and deep with strong undercurrents that can be dangerous if you’re not a trained or experienced open-water swimmer. If you’re a wild swimming novice, we recommend dipping in shallow lochs during the summer months when water temperatures are milder.

Need some inspiration? Our guide to wild swimming in Scotland features many lochs perfect for beginners!

Can You Swim Anywhere in Scotland?

There are a myriad of beautiful places to go wild swimming in Scotland. The Outdoor Access Code means you can wild swim in most nature spots as long as you respect your surroundings. Check out this guide for our top 10 recommendations for wild swimming spots in Scotland.

What Do You Need for Wild Swimming in Scotland?

Your wild swimming kit may vary depending on the time of year and where you plan to wild swim in Scotland. If you just fancy a dip in a river during the summer months, you may feel a swimming costume – and maybe a pair of swimming shoes for inevitable rocky bottoms – is all you need. Open water swimming in a reservoir or the sea in autumn, for example, would require a wetsuit and a brightly coloured cap for visibility.

Wild Swimming in Scotland: Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Our top 10 recommendations for the most stunning wild swimming spots in Scotland.

The wild swimming community in Scotland has grown in recent years with many people realising the physical and mental health benefits that come from connecting with nature in such a visceral and invigorating way.

From countless rivers, lochs, pools, and seaside locations to choose from, you certainly won’t regret taking the plunge in Scotland.

Will you give wild swimming in Scotland a try? Let us know in the comments section below and make sure to share this article with your outdoor-loving friends!