The best wild swimming spots in Scotland

Activity, Nature, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Dawn on 18th February 2021

Wild swimming Scotland

Scotland should be top of any wild swimmer’s bucket list. Not only does it have a wide range of lochs, burns, waterfalls and seas to swim in, but Scotland’s open access laws mean you have a right to responsibly enjoy inland water for recreational purposes.

Of course, there are some safety considerations to take into account – for example, Scotland’s waterways are generally extremely chilly so the effects of cold-water shock need to be brushed up on and you should always take appropriate safety measures. You can find out more about tips for wild swimming in Scotland here.

However, if you take the proper precautions, wild swimming in Scotland offers an unforgettable experience that will take your breath away – quite literally! Dive into plunge pools beneath rushing waterfalls, glide through placid lochs surrounded by giant mountains or run across white-sand beaches to jump into turquoise waves. And afterwards, warm up in front of a roaring fire in a cosy pub, dram of whisky in hand, to experience ‘coorie’ at its finest.

Here are our favourite places to wild swim in Scotland:

Grey Mare’s Tail Burn, Dumfries and Galloway

This lovely place in the tranquil Galloway Park Forest offers a smorgasbord of wild swimming spots to suit all abilities. Choose from Grey Mare’s waterfall, Buck Loup falls, and a series of plunge pools along the burn. Access is via the main road or from the Black Loch car park but some of the pools require a bit of a scramble so bring sturdy shoes.

Across the other side of Clatteringshaws Loch, there’s a lovely café that’s perfect for warming up in after a dip. Galloway Forest Park is also well worth exploring pre or post swim, where you can wander the beautiful forest trails, spot wildlife like red deer and wild goats and, as dusk falls, marvel at the starry night sky.

Stay nearby: Wee Hartfell, Moffat | sleeps 6 + 1 dog

Loch Lomond, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs boasts 22 lochs to choose from but we’d recommend Loch Lomond for an invigorating dip. The largest inland stretch of water in Britain will captivate your soul and stimulate your senses as you quietly swim through the large stretch of blue. You can take part in one of the many open water events at the loch, or take the plunge solo – the choice is yours.

However, as the loch is also popular with boaters, it’s advised that you keep to quieter areas such as Milarrochy Bay, and wear a brightly coloured swimming cap and a tow float if possible, so it’s easy for others to spot you.

Stay nearby: Claddochside, Loch Lomond | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

Rob Roy’s Bathtub, Stirling

To the north of Loch Lomond are the Falls of Falloch, a highly picturesque waterfall on the River Falloch with art installations so you can combine cold-water swimming with culture. The huge plunge pool underneath the waterfall is known as Rob Roy’s Bathtub and offers plenty of space to dive in and enjoy the spectacular landscape.

This is one of the most easily accessed wild swimming spots in Scotland, just a short walk from the car park. For a post-swim pick-me-up, head to the traditional Drovers Inn in Inverarnan for a summer pint in the beer garden or a hearty meal in the winter months.

Stay nearby: Clyde Cottage, Dalmally | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Soldier’s Leap, Perthshire

The wide gorge at this Perthshire beauty spot in Killiecrankie opens out to a huge river pool where you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the tranquil water. It’s so called because it’s said a solider once leapt from one side of the glen to the other – although if you try and replicate it, we have a feeling you’ll just end up in the water!

The access is a little tricky and does require a scramble, but once you’re there it’s extremely peaceful so it’s well worth the trip. Plus, you can warm up in the gentle sunshine on the beautiful white pebble beach on the far side of the pool and soak up your surroundings. When you’re warm and dry, there are lots of facilities in the surrounding area with Pitlochry, Tay Forest Park and Loch Tummel all close by.

Stay nearby: Arrlochaira, Pitlochry | sleeps 8

Loch Ness, the Highlands

Loch Ness is the largest loch by volume in the British Isles, so there’s a lot of water to swim in! The best spot is opposite the imposing Urquhart Castle on the west side of the loch, which provides a spectacular backdrop to a relaxing dip. Who knows – you might even be joined by Nessie herself on your swim!

While it’s possible to swim in Loch Ness all year round, we’d recommend only visiting in summer as the water can get down to a chilly 5 degrees in winter. If you need warming up after your swim, there’s a welcoming pub in Drumnadrochit nearby.

Stay nearby: Strone Castle Cottage, Loch Ness | sleeps 4

Plodda Falls, the Highlands

Plodda Falls offers one of the most spectacular wild swims in the whole of Scotland. The country’s second-highest waterfall cascades down a rocky canyon and into a deep plunge pool where you can take a dip. The dramatic gorge is surrounded by evergreen trees making it an extremely pretty setting.

There is a car park not far from the falls, and you walk through the tranquil woodland to a viewing bridge where you can enjoy the views. The scramble down from here is via a slippery path and can be a bit tricky, so wear sturdy shoes – however, you will be rewarded by the most stunning scenery.

Stay nearby: Swallow Cottage, Cannich | sleeps 5 + 1 dog

Fairy Pools/Bla Bheinn, Isle of Skye

These crystal-clear, turquoise pools are one of the most magical places to swim in Scotland and very befitting of their name. The Fairy Pools are found at the foot of the Black Cuillins on the Isle of Skye and are filled with fresh water running off the mountain range which cascades down from the rugged heights. A dip in these pools is bracing to say the least!

They’re accessed via a 40-minute walk from Carbost on the west of the island, where you take the road to Glenbrittle and follow the river until you reach the unmistakeably blue pools. After your dip, warm up on the surrounding rocks and breathe in the fresh mountain air.

Stay nearby: Rowan Glenbrittle Cottage, Isle of Skye | sleeps 2

Loch Caoldair, the Highlands

This loch on the western edge of the Cairngorms has the benefit of being easily accessed from the road but still retains a wild atmosphere, surrounded by birch woods. It also has its own little beach which is the perfect spot for a picnic after you’ve dried off. Take a swim in the peaceful water or wander a little way down the road to Strathmashie Forest where there are some brilliant waterfalls.

The loch is also only 3 miles from Laggan which has a brilliant hotel where you can warm up with homecooked food and perhaps a wee dram!

Stay nearby: Wagtail Watch, The Cairngorms | sleeps 5 + 1 dog

Achmelvich Beach, the Highlands

One look at this beach and you could be convinced you’ve somehow ended up in the Caribbean, with white sands fringed by turquoise sea – that is, until you put one toe in the sea and the chilly temperatures bring you back to reality!

Achmelvich Bay in the far north-west of Scotland boasts some of the clearest waters on the British Isles and is sheltered by cliffs from the strong winds, so it is a truly tranquil place for a dip and should be on any wild swimmer’s bucket list. Our tip is to wait until the afternoon, when the sun will have warmed the beach just slightly, making your swim that much more pleasant.

Stay nearby: Darrach Cottage, Lochinver | sleeps 4

Holidays in Scotland

If you’ve been inspired to take the plunge into the world of wild swimming in Scotland, we have a wide range of cosy cottages nearby some of the country’s finest swimming spots that are just perfect for warming up in after an invigorating dip. Take a look at our full collection below or read our guide to the top Great British water sports for more inspiration across the country. 

All Scotland cottages

Map of the best wild swimming spots in Scotland

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.