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Wild swimming: 3 of Scotland’s most fantastic spots

If you’re going to go wild swimming, it should be somewhere deserving of the title. And Scotland is home to plenty of beautiful outdoor pools, streams, rivers and waterfalls that certainly won’t disappoint. Pay a visit to these natural swimming spots – whether you’re camping, hiking, or visiting Scotland for a city break – and prepare to get back to nature. These are three of our absolute favourites, plus some advice on how to enjoy wild swimming safely.

1. Higher Glen Etive, Ballachulish, near Glencoe 

Good access from the road and dramatic views make Higher Glen Etive a great place to take a dip. The drop pools along the river are popular with skinny dippers, despite the freezing temperatures. And you can laugh it all off afterwards in the Clachaig Inn, a popular pub and B&B serving food and drink in nearby Glencoe.

See Higher Glen Etive on a map >

2. Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye 

Incredibly photogenic and situated on a lovely walking route near the village of Carbost, the Fairy Pools are backed by stunning waterfalls. You can park at the Forestry Commission car park that’s on a single-track road between Glenbrittle and Carbost, then there’s a bit of a hike to get to the first waterfall. Be warned, though – this is a very popular spot and it gets busy at peak times. 

See the Fairy Pools on a map >

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3. Loch Ness, Drumnadrochit

There’s a lot more to Loch Ness than its legendary resident monster. Opposite the striking ruins of Urquhart Castle there’s a secluded, rocky area of shoreline that’s a great place for swimmers to access the water. Plus, every August there’s a Monster Swim, which you can join to raise funds for charity.

See Drumnadrochit on a map >

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Wild swimming: how to stay safe

Wild swimming in Scotland is popular, but that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free. Always consider the following points beforehand.

1. Beware of the shock of cold water, which can be much more powerful than you might expect. It can numb your limbs, drain energy and even cause heart attacks. Adjust to the temperature in a safe area, with other people around.

2. Wear a wetsuit in cold water. Even in August, the water temperature in Loch Ness can range from 10-15°C, so it’s chilly all year round.

3. Always check the water for depth and obstructions, to avoid serious injury – especially if you’re jumping in from above.

4. Stay clean and avoid health hazards. Use plasters to cover cuts, don’t swim in stagnant lakes, urban rivers or canals, and give toxic blue-green algae a wide berth.

5. Be prepared. Never enter water without a clear plan of how you’ll get out, and how you’ll warm up afterwards.

 

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