Best places to go wild swimming Scotland

Dalmore beach. Picture: Peter Hamilton
Dalmore beach. Picture: Peter Hamilton
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Forget chlorinated pools swimming with toddler deposits, embrace the wild and take your trunks off to these lochs and beaches for some wild swimming this summer

There are people who swear that swimming in cold water makes them live longer. In Hampstead Heath ponds in London there are grannies who swim every single day of the year. But never mind those soft Southerners, there are far better places to go wild swimming in Scotland, where you can be surrounded by rugged landscapes and crystal clear water.

Loch Ness. Picture: Robert Hamilton

Loch Ness. Picture: Robert Hamilton

Swimming in cold water is extremely good for you, both mentally and physically. So says Robert Hamilton who runs wild swimming events and training events at Vigour Events. He takes swimmers off for 24 hours swims, swim camps and Firth of Forth crossings.

Top tips for wild swimming

“Similar to hill walking, tell people where you are going and when at the latest you expect to be back. Make sure you swim with someone, treat it the way you'd treat rock climbing,” Robert Hamilton says.

“Wild swimmers swimming off boats should bring tow floats, an air inflated bag that sits on the water, and you can wear a float too.”

Loch Awe. Picture: Robert Hamilton

Loch Awe. Picture: Robert Hamilton

“Take a flask of something hot to drink with you when you get out. No matter how warm it is, the wind chill will affect you quite quickly if you're wet. Bring a beany hat, two or three pairs of trousers, and jumpers and jackets. Swimzies have an outer shell and fuzzy lining,” says Hamilton.

Where to go wild swimming

Dalmore Beach, Lewis

Dalmore beach is on the west side of Lewis. There's about a 400 metre distance between the cliff faces and there are undercurrents. There aren't many rip currents but the tidal currents there are very strong. It's also exposed to the westerly wind. “Be very careful and aware and only swim here if you are very experienced and never go alone. Make sure you swim beyond the surf. It's all golden sand and turquoise water, it is absolutely breathtaking,” says Hamilton.

Loch Lubnaig. Credit: Robert Hamilton

Loch Lubnaig. Credit: Robert Hamilton

Luss, Loch Lomond

Luss is where Take the High Road was filmed. It's a fantastic place to go wild swimming because of the scenery and ease of access. It's surprisingly quiet there too. Milarrochy Bay is closed off on the east side of the loch so it means all the traffic goes south to Balloch. It's also reasonably warm at around 16 degrees at the moment.

Loch Ard

Loch Ard nearby in the Trossachs is unique because of the run-off from the mountains. The water there is more acidic which makes it clearer than most lochs. It's 13 to 14 degrees there at the moment.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness is a chilly choice but hardcore wild swimmers can brave it on either the north or south shores. It's most sheltered at Fort Augustus on the southern tip but it's still a challenge to swim because it's so deep. Loch Ness is the coldest because it's the largest body of water in the UK, it's usually 11 to 13 degrees in summer.

Loch Awe

Loch Awe is a favourite for wild swimmers. It's the longest loch in Scotland at 25 miles. There are also islands within the loch including Innis Chonnell and Innishail.

Loch Lubnaig

Loch Lubnaig, which means elbow in Gaelic, near Callander, is the warmest place in Scotland to go wild swimming at the moment. It is 20 degrees at the moment, according to our expert Robert Hamilton while another wild swimmer recorded a water temperature of 23 degrees. Then the water is still, the water reflects the lush trees on the short making it a beautiful swim.

River swims

Vigour Events are running their first ever River Spey Whisky Swim, a 10k swim from Kingussie to Loch Inch in the Dalwhinnie river. On 23rd September they have a crowd of 200 people doing the Firth of Forth crossing in between the road and rail bridges. It's a 2.2k swim (the equivalent of 64 lengths of a pool) and the river can only be closed for an hour so everyone is expected to make the crossing within that time.