Wild Swimming in the Cairngorms
Swimming and Scotland are not the first pairing that comes to mind when thinking of the nation’s favourite activities. The climate’s generally cool enough to put off all but the bravest souls who dare swimming in waters wilder than the local heated indoor swimming pool.
But this is Braveheart country, and believe it or not we’ve witnessed many a bold adventurer taking the literal plunge into our bonny network of Highland lochs. Given the elevated temperatures this summer, there’s never been a better time to take a wee dip and experience the freshness of untamed, natural water instead of its chlorinated cousin.
The Wonders of Bathing Outdoors
You’d be forgiven for glancing past the murky depth of the lochs on an overcast day, but Scottish lochs glimmer proudly and invitingly when the summer sunshine beams upon their mirror-like surface. Whether you’re taking a slow stroll with your loved ones in Cairngorms National Park or halfway through your intensive hike, the heat and humidity of summer can take its toll.
Personal Satisfaction and Peace
You won’t be taking a break from your sunbed to slide into the sea up here, but don’t discount the joys of diving into the freshwater goodness of the lochs. On a fine day, there are no waves, no currents and no loch-bound monsters to deter you from a lovely lap or two departing from the sandy or pebbled shores of our famous lochs.
It’s wise to carry a sensible swimsuit in your backpack or pack a spare into your rucksack. When the going gets balmy, the balmy get going! A towel to dry yourself quickly and effectively is also a must, as is a warm, dry change of clothes. Any fan of summer festivals knows that Scots can be spontaneous and you’ll find them merrily splashing away in forest pools at the break of day, given the chance!
Avid British wild swimmers have compared this pastime to the thrills of reaching a mountain’s summit – you get singular views all to yourself and the full immersion in nature precipitates a calmness of spirit that lasts long after you’ve left the water.
Aquatic Wildlife to Spot
Bottlenose dolphins make frequent guest appearances in the northeast of Scotland along the Moray Firth Coast, which can be reached by a mere 45-minute drive from Aviemore. That’s as close as you can get to a beautiful stretch of Scottish sea near the Cairngorms, and it’s replete with aquatic creatures to appreciate.
You’ll be poised to encounter Atlantic salmon, crabs, seals, porpoises, sharks – even whales! – in Scottish waters. The intimidating species of shark and whale are confined to deep seas, so don’t fear a scary brush with these marine hunters.
Many aquatic birds and seabirds still roam lochs and sea shores and can be quite friendly to human attention. Kids will delight at the sound of seagulls in their natural habitat and you might be surprised by a new sight of a moving organism lurking underwater as you wade into the water.
The cool thing is that Scottish lochs are devoid of poisonous or otherwise dangerous animals that could be an obstacle to a safe swim. The most important safety precaution we have concerns the temperature.
Don’t dive into the water if it’s too cold and don’t spend hours floating in cold enough water, even if your body has acclimatised to it. Wild swimming in Scotland is done right in happy bursts, not lazy baths!
Where to Swim
The Guardian recently featured our National Park as one of the top wild swimming spots in the UK. Call us biased, but we have to agree! Aviemore is a versatile village and we can go from skiing in the winter to swimming in the summer without breaking a sweat.
There are around 60 lochs in the vast area of the Cairngorms but we currently recommend these two gems for wild swimming:
This is the largest loch in the park and a steady favourite for water-based activities. Boasting a fully fledged beach and water sports facilities, Loch Morlich is both well-endowed and well-explored. What better way to commemorate your presence than with a couple of strokes framed by the gorgeous countryside? It’s a way to start the day that’s the envy of many.
The popularity of Loch Morlich is a great fit for water-shy first-timers and you can hire comfortable wetsuits plus warm up at the café after your dip.
One of the smaller breed of loch, Lochan Uaine compensates in splendour what it lacks in size. Scottish legend has it that the emerald colour of the crystal-clear waters is the result of fairies washing their clothes in the pool, but it’s likelier a funky combination of algae that doesn’t occur anywhere else.
You’ll be able to see your refracted torso and limbs in full detail in this stunning body of water, reminiscent of the Isle of Skye’s world-renowned Fairy Pools.
If you’re not ready to add the “wild” to your swimming yet, Hilton Coylumbridge offers breaks with the best of both worlds. Our swimming pool is indoors, heated and sheltered from the elements, so you and your family can float about in reassurance (with a fun slide you won’t find outside).
Book now to get a fantastic deal with our summer sale!