Scotland and Ireland both offer a multitude of stunning places where the joy of swimming is paired with awe-inspiring natural beauty. From the mystical Fairy Pools in Scotland’s Isle of Skye to the serene waters of Ireland’s Lough Erne, these countries offer diverse experiences for swimmers of all levels. Whether you prefer plunging into the untamed beauty of a highland loch or swimming in a tranquil tidal pool on Ireland’s rugged coast, you’re guaranteed a swimming adventure like no other. This guide will provide you with key information on access points, nearby facilities, and safety requirements for each spot, ensuring a memorable and secure swimming experience.
We have detailed guides to other areas of the UK:
Map of Wild Swimming in Scotland and Ireland
Scotland, with its captivating landscapes, is a paradise for wild swimmers. Whether it’s the Fairy Pools on Skye with their magical aura, the tranquil waters of Loch Duntelchaig, or the adventure hub at Willowgate Activity Centre, there’s a spot for every swimmer. Loch Insh and Loch Lomond are renowned for their vastness and breathtaking beauty, providing ample space for swimmers to explore. Loch Morlich’s sandy beaches and mountain backdrop offer a unique setting. Witch’s Cauldron in Clunes, with its secluded waterfall and grotto, creates a whimsical wild swimming experience. Each location in Scotland brings its own charm and challenges, making every swim a memorable adventure. Always remember to respect the local environment and stay safe during your swim.
The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, IV55 8WF
You’re in for a magical time at the Fairy Pools in Skye! These naturally occurring pools, famed for their enchanting aquamarine waters, offer an unforgettable wild swimming experience. The pools are nestled at the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains, offering stunning views as you swim.
The nearest car park is the ‘Fairy Pools Car Park’ located on the B8009 (IV47 8TA), less than a mile away from the pools. From the car park, a well-marked, gravel path leads you directly to the pools, with a walk of about 20 minutes.
Remember to bring a £5 coin for the car park, as this is the fee for parking. No change is given.
For sustenance post-swim, ‘The Old Inn’ in nearby Carbost offers food and drink options. There are also toilets available near the car park, but there are no changing facilities onsite, so come prepared!
Despite the inviting name, remember that the Fairy Pools can be quite cold, even in summer. A wetsuit is advised, especially for longer dips. Also, always be aware of the weather conditions, as rain can make the terrain slippery and heavy rains can make the current strong. Be safe and enjoy this truly otherworldly spot!
Loch Duntelchaig, Inverness, IV2 6TX
If you’re searching for a tranquil spot for wild swimming in Scotland, Loch Duntelchaig should be on your list. This secluded loch in the Highlands is a true gem, providing stunning views and calm, clear waters that are ideal for a refreshing swim.
The nearest place to park your car is along the road on the south side of the loch. There isn’t a dedicated car park, so please park considerately. Use the postcode IV2 6AW for your satnav, this will take you to the nearby Duntelchaig Farm, from where it’s a short walk to the loch.
After a swim, head towards Inverness, a short drive away, where you’ll find plenty of cafes. Unfortunately, there are no public toilets or changing facilities at the loch itself, so it’s recommended to come prepared.
Remember that wild swimming always comes with potential hazards, such as sudden depth changes and cold water temperatures, so caution is advised and make sure you have a friend with you.
Willowgate Activity Centre, Perth, PH2 7JU
For a supervised and secure wild swimming experience, Willowgate Activity Centre is an excellent choice. Located on the banks of the Tay, just outside Perth, Scotland, this centre offers an array of water activities including open water swimming.
The main swimming course is a 350-metre circuit but there are shorter routes available. There are usually two sessions a day, morning and evening. The times change seasonally so always double check the schedule. Booking is online via the website.
Safety is a primary concern at Willowgate. It is a lifeguarded site and all swimmers are required to wear a bright coloured swim cap for visibility. Wetsuits are recommended but not compulsory. A safety briefing is given to all first-time swimmers, and regular checks are made to ensure water quality.
The centre’s car park is conveniently located just a short stroll from the swimming area. Use the postcode PH2 7JU for your satnav to guide you directly to the centre. For your convenience, the centre provides toilets and changing facilities to ensure you can comfortably switch from swimwear to day clothes.
The Willowgate Café is on-site and offers an array of refreshments. It’s a perfect spot to refuel after a swim.
Loch Insh, Cairngorms, PH21 1NU
Loch Insh, in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, is an ideal location for wild swimming, offering a unique experience with beautiful mountainous scenery as your backdrop.
For parking, use the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre’s car park. The postcode for your satnav is PH21 1NU. The loch is only a short walk from the parking area.
You’ll also find on-site toilet and changing facilities. For safety, it’s recommended to swim parallel to the shore, stay visible with brightly coloured swim gear, and be aware of changing weather conditions. Remember that while wild swimming at Loch Insh is generally safe, it is always at your own risk. Always take note of local signage, avoid swimming alone and inform someone of your plans.
At Loch Insh, you have the option to combine your swim with other water-based activities available at the Loch Insh Outdoor Centre, such as windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing. The Boathouse Restaurant, located on-site, offers a menu with a range of meals and refreshments, perfect for refuelling post-swim.
Loch Lomond, West Dunbartonshire, G83 8EG
Loch Lomond, located within the stunning surroundings of the Trossachs National Park, is a fantastic spot for wild swimming. As the largest freshwater expanse in mainland Britain, it offers a vast swimming area, with stunning views of mountains, woodland, and wildlife.
The most accessible spot for swimming is around the southern shores of the loch, specifically the beaches near the Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre. The car park postcode is G83 8QL. From the car park, it’s a short stroll to the water’s edge. The calm waters and pebbled beaches make this an ideal location for wild swimming.
The nearby Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre has cafes, toilets, and some changing facilities. Mallard’s Café offers refreshments with a wonderful view of the loch.
While wild swimming is generally safe at Loch Lomond, you should always be cautious. Swim parallel to the shore, and never swim alone. Wear a brightly coloured swim cap to increase visibility, use a tow float, and take note of local signage and weather conditions. It is also crucial to respect the local environment and wildlife, leaving no litter behind. As with any form of wild swimming, always swim at your own risk.
Loch Morlich, Highlands, PH22 1QU
Nestled within the Cairngorms National Park, Loch Morlich offers an unique blend of sandy beaches and mountainous surroundings – a truly spectacular setting for wild swimming. The loch’s waters are generally calm and clear, and it’s relatively shallow, making it a comfortable spot for swimmers of all abilities.
You’ll find a car park conveniently located at the Loch Morlich Watersports Centre, the postcode is PH22 1QY. From the car park, it’s just a brief walk to the loch’s sandy shores.
On-site, you have the Boathouse Café serving up delicious refreshments, perfect for after your swim. Restrooms, including changing facilities, are also available at the Watersports Centre.
However much experience you have of wild swimming it is vital to still be cautious. Always swim within your ability, keep to the designated swimming areas, and avoid swimming alone. Take heed of weather conditions, and if in doubt, stay out. A respect for local wildlife and the environment is essential; please remember to leave no trace of your visit.
Witch’s Cauldron (Eas Chia-aig), Clunes, Highlands, PH34 4EJ
The Witch’s Cauldron in Clunes, also known as the Eas Chia-aig Falls, is a whimsical and secluded wild swimming spot nestled within Scotland’s breathtaking landscape. Known for its stunning waterfall and enchanting grotto, it provides a unique experience that adventurous swimmers will cherish. You will find a series of waterfalls and pools on the river just before it enters the eastern end of Loch Arkaig. The deepest pool is the first one nearest the bridge.
The name comes from a tale of an old woman allegedly cursing Lochiel’s cattle wit her evil eye so they were all sickening and dying. Somehow she fell into the pool below the waterfall and, died and the cows immediately recovered. These picturesque falls were used in the 1995 film Rob Roy.
You can park your car at the nearby Layby parking, located on the A82 road, the closest postcode is PH32 4TU. From here, Witch’s Cauldron is accessible via a short walk through the woodland path, following the signs towards the falls. You can actually see the falls from the road it is so close.
Unfortunately, as this is a more remote location, there are no cafes, toilets, or changing facilities in the immediate vicinity. The nearest amenities can be found in the town of Fort William, which is around a 15-minute drive away.
When it comes to safety, it’s crucial to remain cautious and respectful of the natural environment. Check the current and weather conditions before you swim, as water levels can change. As always, never swim alone and always let someone know where you are going. Leave no trace of your visit to help preserve this beautiful location for future swimmers.
Ireland, the emerald isle, is a haven for wild swimming and open water enthusiasts. The country is rich in idyllic spots, ranging from coastal tidal pools to peaceful inland lakes. The unique tidal pool in Belmullet, County Mayo, offers saltwater immersion in a tranquil setting. For those who prefer freshwater, Lough Erne in County Fermanagh and Peddlers Lake in County Kerry provide clean, calm waters surrounded by mesmerising landscapes. Loughrea Lake in County Galway and the outdoor pool in Banagher are also notable locations that guarantee an unforgettable swim. For a truly wild experience, don’t miss the chance to plunge into the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, where cascading waterfalls fill up natural pools in the rock. Remember, Ireland’s waters can be cool, so consider wearing a wetsuit to enjoy the swim comfortably.
Carlingford Lough, County Louth
Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland offers a wonderful wild swimming experience, combining natural beauty with accessible facilities. The nearest car park to the popular swimming spot is located at Carlingford Marina (BT34 4DB). From the car park, it’s a short, well-marked walk to the water’s edge.
The marina’s facilities are great for swimmers, providing toilets and changing facilities right on site. Nearby, you’ll find the Marina Cafe, a lovely place to refuel post-swim with a delicious meal or warming hot drink.
While the Lough’s waters are inviting, safety is paramount. The depth can change rapidly, and the water can be colder than you might expect, so it’s essential to acclimatise slowly. Swimmers are also advised to wear a brightly coloured swim cap for visibility, use a tow float, and avoid swimming alone.
Mountshannon Beach on Lough Derg, County Clare
Situated in the heart of Ireland, Mountshannon Beach on Lough Derg provides a fantastic wild swimming spot, known for its clean and calm waters. The closest car park is at Mountshannon Harbour (V94 A4EY). Simply follow the footpath from the car park to reach the beach, located less than a 5-minute walk away.
There are plenty of facilities, including public toilets and changing areas situated close to the beach. After your swim, consider a visit to the local Lakeside Cafe, perfect for a warm cuppa or a hearty meal.
Safety, of course, is always important. Swimmers should be mindful of the water’s depth, and colder temperatures can be a shock, so gradual acclimatisation is advisable. Always swim within your ability and make sure you’re visible to others with brightly coloured swim caps and use a tow float. Follow local advice, be safe and enjoy the unique experience of wild swimming at Lough Derg.
Lough Erne, County Fermanagh
Lough Erne in Northern Ireland is a magnificent spot for wild swimming with its clean, clear waters and picturesque landscapes. The nearest car park to access the Lough is at the Broadmeadow Enniskillen (BT74 7EF), just a short walk to the water’s edge.
You’ll find toilets and changing facilities at Enniskillen Castle Museums, a short walk away. If you fancy a bite or a warm beverage after your swim, Granny Annie’s Kitchen is a delightful nearby cafe to satisfy your hunger.
Safety is paramount, and swimmers should be mindful of boat traffic. Stay close to the shore, make sure you’re visible by wearing a bright cap, and avoid swimming alone. Respect local regulations and always be aware of your surroundings. Temperatures can vary so acclimatise gradually to the water. Lough Erne offers a wonderful wild swimming experience with stunning views.
Banagher Outdoor Pool, County Offaly
Banagher Outdoor Pool, located in Northern Ireland, is a unique and exciting place for wild swimming. It is located in the River Shannon, with Offaly on one side and Galway on the other. Its fresh, clear waters, combined with the picturesque views of the surrounding countryside, provide a wonderful swimming experience. The pool is owned by the community and is free to use.
The nearest car park to the pool is just a short walk away, and the postcode for your sat-nav is BT47 4TR. There are on-site facilities that include changing rooms and toilets.
As for safety measures, Banagher Outdoor Pool is well-maintained and overseen by local authorities. However, swimmers should always be aware of their own abilities and not swim alone. The pool is part of the river so be aware there is a strong current. Water temperatures can be chilly, so acclimatising to the water is crucial. Lifeguard services may not always be available, so ensure you’re equipped with the necessary safety gear. Enjoy the unique experience of swimming in this fantastic outdoor pool surrounded by nature!
After a refreshing swim, you can treat yourself to some delicious snacks or a hearty meal at the nearby Canal Cafe or The Martello. If you have any energy left you can explore Cromwel’s Castle that overlooks Banagher Outdoor Pool.
Lough Rea, County Galway
Lough Rea in County Galway, Ireland, is a popular spot for wild swimming due to its vast and clear waters surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
The lake’s main car park is situated just a short walk from the water’s edge, with the postcode for your sat-nav being H62 E653. From here, clear, well-marked paths lead directly to the lake, making it easily accessible for swimmers. There is a handy jetty to access the lake.
Facilities around Lough Rea are superb. There are public toilets and changing facilities available near the car park. For refreshments after your swim, you’ll find the Loughrea Lake Cafe just a stone’s throw away, offering a selection of drinks and bites.
In terms of safety, it’s essential to be mindful of water temperatures and conditions. Lough Rea’s water can be cooler than expected, so acclimatise slowly. Always adhere to local signage and safety guidelines, and never swim alone. Lifeguard services are seasonal, so come prepared with your own safety equipment.
Belmullet Tidal Pool, County Mayo
Belmullet Tidal Pool offers an exceptional and safe wild swimming experience, as it provides a unique blend of sea and pool swimming. The seawater pool is refreshed with each tide, giving swimmers the exhilaration of sea swimming but in a more controlled environment. There is a toddler’s section and a deeper section for experienced swimmers.
The main car park for accessing the Tidal Pool is located adjacent to it and the postcode for your sat-nav is F26 X7P6. From the car park, it’s just a quick stroll to the pool, making it very convenient.
The pool is naturally replenished, so be sure to check tide times and weather conditions before your swim. There is only a lifeguard on duty during July and August. Therefore, always swim with a buddy and ensure you have your own safety equipment.
Nearby, you’ll find toilets and changing facilities for swimmers. For a tasty treat or a warming beverage post-swim, there’s the Talbot Hotel nearby, known for its friendly atmosphere and good food.
Peddlers Lake (Lough Doon), County Kerry
Peddlers Lake in County Kerry is a hidden gem for wild swimming. Tucked away in the rugged beauty of the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks mountains, it provides an invigorating and unique swimming experience amidst breathtaking landscapes. The lake’s clear and calm waters are perfect for a refreshing dip.
The closest parking area is along the R563 road, though there isn’t a specific postcode. From here, the lake is accessed via a well-trodden but steep hill walking route, so sturdy footwear is recommended. Do note that the route might be challenging for some, and the journey is part of the adventure!
While there are no official changing facilities or toilets near the lake, you’ll find local amenities in the nearby town of Killorglin, which is a short drive away. Here you can also enjoy a post-swim meal at a selection of cafes and restaurants.
Safety is paramount when wild swimming. As Peddlers Lake is a remote location, always go with a companion, let someone know your plans, and bring safety gear. Please be aware of weather conditions and the terrain, and remember to respect the natural environment.
In conclusion, Scotland and Ireland boast some truly remarkable spots for wild and open water swimming. Whether it’s the crystal-clear Fairy Pools on Skye, the tranquil Loch Lomond, or the refreshing waters of Ireland’s Carlingford Lough, each location offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature and experience the exhilarating thrill of open water swimming. Remember to respect the environment, observe local safety guidelines, and ensure you’re well-prepared for your aquatic adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or a beginner, these locations offer something for everyone.
Where is safe to swim in Scotland?
There are numerous safe wild swimming spots in Scotland, like Fairy Pools, Skye, Loch Duntelchaig, and Loch Lomond, among others. Always follow local guidelines and swim with others for safety.
Are Scottish Lochs safe to swim in?
Yes, Scottish lochs can be safe to swim in. However, always be mindful of water conditions, weather, and wildlife.
What do I need for wild swimming in Scotland?
Essentials include a swimsuit, towel, and warm clothes. A swimming cap and goggles can enhance your experience. Safety gear such as a buoy is also recommended.
Do you need a wetsuit for wild swimming in Scotland?
A wetsuit isn’t necessary but can provide warmth and buoyancy, particularly in colder months.
Is there anywhere to swim in Ireland?
Yes, Ireland has great wild swimming spots like Carlingford Lough, Lough Derg, and Loughrea Lake.
Is it safe to swim in a lake in Ireland?
Yes, it can be safe to swim in Irish lakes, always adhere to safety guidelines.
Can you swim in waterfalls in Ireland?
Yes, you can swim in some waterfalls in Ireland. Always check local regulations and safety warnings.