A short & sweet list of my top 10 favourite places to skinny dip/wild swim in Scotland.
1) St Ninians Cave
2) Lake of Menteith
3) Glen Rosa waterfall
4) Glen Etive
5) Barra - Vatersay
6) Loch Humphrey
7) Falls of Falloch
10) An Lochan Uaine
More details about each venue further on butt first I'll crack on 😏 with the questions I get asked the most along with a little more wild swim info. I won't go into too much detail as there's plenty of resources out there (links at the end).
A little heads up, this blog may not be as light hearted as the others but it's important for me to address/undress what's coming up...
Why? & Judgements
Many people ask why someone would want to go for a wild swim, never mind getting their kit off. Some think it's attention seeking behaviour or might sexualise it. I can't speak for everyone but...nope!! This might be quite dark but there's light at the end of the tunnel, so bare with me.
CONTENT WARNING ( eating disorder/body dysmorphia)
I guess there are two main reasons I love skinny dipping. From my early teens until my late twenties I had an eating disorder and suffered enormously with Body Dysmorphia, low self esteem & self worth. I utterly hated myself and was clinically depressed (this isn't a plea for compliments or sympathy). I won't go into details on this occasion but it seems I've kinda gone from one extreme to another. I've gone from wanting to cover up every bit of my body & loathing it to finally accepting it, embracing it & finding freedom. Don't get me wrong I'm not 'all better', each day comes with it's own struggles but my coping strategies & mindset are a lot healthier, not to mention my physical body is too. I've spoken about this on Instagram a few times but not very often, I don't want to trigger or upset people but if this is something you've experienced or going through and you want to talk I am ALWAYS here, or reach out to a helpline. Please do not suffer alone. 🖤https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services/helplines
The second big reason will come as no surprise...I'm a bit of a 'hippy', I adore nature and being surrounded by it, so being fully immersed in it fills me with complete joy. Put these two together and you'll find the perfect recipe for skinny dipping/wild swimming, forest bathing or doing yoga/meditating outdoors etc. In short, it makes me feel happy and healthy. Oh I know, I was born in the wrong era, can I go back to the Woodstock days please?
A side note to those eager to throw some shade: Consider a persons journey before you jump on the 'slut shaming/body shaming' wagon, surely you would rather see a person that's happy in themselves rather than hating themselves? I post pictures because I'm incredibly proud of my journey. I want to inspire, empower & support people going through similar journeys or experiences, it's not for sexual attention or to be slated for being more body confident & healthy.
It's incredibly sad that people have to explain & defend themselves for being happy & confident in their bodies over and over again. Anyway let's dive onto some wild swimming chat 🤪
Is it legal & What if someone is there?
Yup, it's legal throughout the whole of the UK and usually nobody would bother with you, providing you're not cheek to cheek with them. Give people space to avoid blushes and any other issues that could arise 😅. If you are feeling self conscious then you could always undress/dress in the water and tie it around you or take a tow float/dry bag for storage. Try to build it up, you don't have to strip off and go running in arms & legs flailing in front of everyone. Although that does sound fun. If you discover it's not for you then cool, just wear your swimwear and enjoy a wild swim, you get the same benefits.
The light banter just keeps flowing huh?! There's a vast amount of information available now thanks to the likes of Sir Wim Hof (could he be knighted please?) who has made cold water therapy quite a hit, also strangely because of Covid and not being able to access our mountain ranges we've turned to other resources in nature to find our fix. Our outdoor communities are growing and I'm buzzing about it.
To acclimatize start off slowly, you can build your cold water tolerance in the shower, or go for wee (not that kind) dips in the sea/loch/lake or in a wheelie bin of ice like I've seen all over Instagram. Build it up, be aware of cold water shock, don't just jump in, especially if you're alone. Check out websites like The Outdoor Swimming Society (link below) for more information and useful links, it's a great wild swimming community to be a part of too.
There's no shame in wearing a wetsuit or neoprene gloves/booties & a bobble hat then using whatever you can to warm up when you come out. It's not SAS selection training. Take a hot water bottle, a flask & lots of layers. Dryrobes or Smoc-Smoc's are very popular, I don't have one as of yet but I'm considering it, right now I just use a fleece, my primaloft jacket & a hat. Focus on layering your core first, even if your legs are actually purple lol. Once I'm dressed I either get back on my bike for some high intensity pedaling whilst trying not to spill hot tea from my flask or do a mini PE class session with some star jumps, heels to bum & jumping jacks etc, all the fun stuff ha.
Ok, one last thing from Captain Sensible is be visible if your open water swimming, I've seen too many horror movies and have a wildly vivid imagination involving power boat blades, sharks and giant leeches, a neon tow float can help with one of those.
Congratulations you've graduated, no more lessons.
1) St Ninians Cave
St Ninians Cave is at Port Castle Bay in Whithorn (D&G) and usually a very quiet place too. It's one of my favourite haunts back home, there's a beautiful rooty & bluebell covered woodland to cycle/walk through to get down to the beach and then you are blessed with a cave where the Wickerman was filmed aaaaand water. What more could you ask for? Yes, Jason Momoa would be lovely.
2) Lake of Menteith
Located in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park it's Scotland's only Lake. Handy if you're from Glasgow like me as it's only an hours drive along the A811. There's also a couple of islands there too Inchmahome & Inchtalla, they're pretty small but if you're a strong and confident swimmer you could get to them or kayak/canoe/sup for some more privacy. I haven't done that as of yet, I would drown, I need to buy a SUP first, but it's on my to do list. I take no responsibility for your safety & decision making, eek.
3) Glen Rosa Waterfalls
I cannot get enough of the Isle of Arran, I've been so many times and I always find another a wee gem I've not discovered before. If you haven't been to Arran yet...go, there's so much to see and do there and very easy to get to. The Glen Rosa waterfalls is a semi popular attraction but there are areas to be a little more discreet however I'd pack swimwear just in case. It's not far from the ferry port at Brodick and basically you follow the signs for Goatfell, then left towards Glen Rosa. You could also just get into the sea like I tend to do. So many options with it being an Island, water everywhere :) Please be aware of strong currents & tides. It seems Captain Sensible doesn't want to leave.
4) Glen Etive Pools
Everyone loves Glencoe. You will love it even more when you've played in the pools along the River Etive or gone to Loch Etive itself. So go and find some spots for yourself and then head up to see the iconic Three Sisters mountain range or wild camp in the Hidden/Lost Valley. Even just driving or cycling there is breathtaking.
I know, another Island, my thoughts with this blog is not to give you the exact GPS coordinates but a rough idea, if I found somewhere to dip then so can you plus it's half the fun right?! One of the coolest things I've experienced was getting on a tiny plane to Barra...it lands on the beach. Again there's 5918 options here too, we did find a couple of secluded places but Vatersay was stunning albeit more busy, don't be fooled with the turquoise waters, it's baltic. If you are a keen cyclist then cycle around the island to see more.
6) Loch Humphrey
The often Underestimated Kilpatrick Hills, the loch is super easy to get to/park or cycle there. I think everyone needs to experience a peaty loch 🥴. I mountain bike here quite regularly and the climb up is a killer so I'm often getting into the Loch to cool down. It's not quite the same as walking on the pebbles into the sea, it' nice and squelchy between your toes. There's pretty nice views and walking paths there too.
7 Falls of Falloch
I'm sure you have heard of the Falls of Falloch, it's located along the A82 in the Stirling area and about an hour from Glasgow, another fantastic cycle route (mostly a cycle path). There's waterfalls, natural pools and is surrounded by lovely woodland. Pretty ideal really.
I've put a few mountain biker & hill walkers off their stride along the West Highland Way path at Crianlarich, I see a waterfall and I get in it, clothes or no clothes. Again, there's many options and it's particularly refreshing in summer after bagging some Munros. I know, "What's Summer?" I hear you say. If you would rather a loch than a river then Loch Dochart & Lubhair are pretty stunning too along the A85 just past Crianlarich.
The beach at Dunskey Castle might be one the quietest places for a dip and there's a cave there too, supposedly haunted. I abseiled into it once ha. You may be familiar with this castle if you have done the Southern Upland Way. Such a beautiful and tranquil place. Morrach Bay is also worth a visit, the path to enter the water is a little more accessible too.
10) An Lochan Uaine
Ok, I'm going to end with a few places in Aviemore as it's a stunning location but often busy so you might want a few options. An Lochan Uaine is one of the most popular attractions in Aviemore and known as the green loch due to it's colour, obviously. Close by is Loch Morlich or you could head to Loch Garten (not actually been dipping there yet, let me know if you do). There's also Lochan Uaine between the mountains Ben MacDui, Braeriach and Cairn Toul (Corrour Bothy) but I would only suggest that if you are very experienced in the mountains. (Oh hi again Captain Sensible, even my eyes are rolling.)
IG Guide available.
Congratulations for getting to the end, You've won absolutely nothing but I hope this has given you some inspiration or at least got you psyched for wild swimming & skinny dipping. I have a 'guide' on Instagram with some lovely photos of all of these locations if you want to see them all and why I might like them so much.