A new book, The Art of Wild Swimming: Scotland, showcases some of the top spots to take a dip in Courier Country and charts the health and wellbeing benefits. Gayle Ritchie finds out more.
Swimming outdoors – in cold water – can work wonders for your health and happiness.
From the dramatic turquoise bays of Orkney to the peaty lochs of the Cairngorms, Scotland has some of the most spectacular dook locations in the world.
And now wild swimmers have shared 100 of their top spots in a new book, The Art of Wild Swimming: Scotland.
In it, Edinburgh-based authors Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan chat to the wild water aficionados about the most spectacular sites, including those in Tayside and Fife.
“It’s all about the most magical locations, finessing your kitbag, keeping yourself and others safe… and maybe discovering a nice place for a warm-up cuppa and cake,” says Vicky.
“Whether you’re a seasoned dipper or a fledgling, The Art of Wild Swimming is the ultimate guide to becoming an awesome, joyful and responsible swimmer.
Vicky says she’s always been interested in tapping into the “hive mind” of the outdoor swimming community.
“That’s what we did when we wrote our previous book, Taking The Plunge, about the health and wellbeing benefits of wild swimming – something both Anna and I discovered through wild swimming ourselves,” she says.
“This time we thought we’d take it further and get some proper practical advice as well as personal stories.”
The past year has seen a phenomenal rise in wild swimming, and in particular in people swimming in waters close to home.
“That’s partly because the message has got out that wild swimming is good for your mental health, but also because people really started to make use of the outdoor spaces close to them.
“There’s nothing like a dip in some wild water to make you feel you’ve really escaped the claustrophobia of being stuck in your own home. We wanted tips from locals, and felt the book should be based around that kind of intimate knowledge.”
Vicky and Anna tracked down more than forty local “expert” swimmers who contributed to their list of more than 100 places to swim around Scotland – including waterfalls, remote beaches, rivers, lochs, reservoirs and quarry pools.
They wanted it not just to be a map to wild swim spots created by voices within the swim community, but an encouragement for others to find their own new spots and create their own maps.
Here some local contributors share their top wild swim spots…
Broadcaster/presenter Calum Maclean of Aberfeldy
“River Tay near Aberfeldy! Scotland’s longest river, but not the easiest to find good swimming spots in at times! Much of the river in its higher stretches is too rocky, too fast or too dangerous to get a decent swim in. But I made it my mission to find a good spot I could walk to from home. In Aberfeldy itself, there is a large tree with a rope swing and several jump platforms, with a very deep, slow-moving pool beneath it. Children would learn to swim here in the past and in summer it makes a great place to plunge in.”
PE teacher Mhairi Hastie Smith of Pitlochry
“Loch Faskally at the Lady’s Dell, Pitlochry is an easily accessible swimming spot beside Pitlochry Dam. From there, cross the grassy area known as the Lady’s Dell to the loch and arrive at an easy and safe beach entry point overlooked by trees. This has been the perfect spot to bring my friends and their children for a splash. Water levels fluctuate and it can be choppy or tranquil. I also love Loch a’ Choire up Ben y Vrackie which is more a micro-adventure than a swim! Follow the track all the way up to the foot of the final ascent to the Ben, where on a nice day the mountain is reflected in Loch a’ Choire. Winter is my favourite season for this adventure, when the loch can be frozen thick and you feel you’re in a different world. The creation of an ice hole may even be required. I tend to pack light, but include my ice axe!”
Dundee fundraiser and marketer Katie Lawson
“Broughty Ferry Beach is a huge expanse of beachy loveliness and is exceptionally clean. It’s generally quite flat and calm, although can be shallow, so you might have to wade out. Head to Jessie’s Kitchen for your shivery bite. I’m also a fan of Monikie Country Park’s reservoir outside Dundee. Monikie operates a pre-set course so check times before you arrive as swimming is seasonal and takes place on Tuesdays and Fridays. It’s perfect for beginners as there is full safety cover available along with good facilities and wetsuit hire. Elie Beach and Harbour is also brilliant. On the other side of the harbour wall, also good for a dip, is lovely Wood Haven (Ruby Bay).”
Edinburgh photographer and writer Anna Deacon
“Pittenweem tidal pool is one of several tidal pools along the Fife coastline, which also include Cellardyke and St Monans. It’s recently been restored to its former glory and is a wonderful spot to enjoy the beautiful coastline, known for being a leading whale and dolphin-spotting location.
“I love the feeling of stepping back in time and imagining when all the local children would have been taught to swim outdoors before swimming pools became popular.
“For me, the views are stunning, and the potential to spot a whale while I swim gives me an extra thrill! The Cocoa Tree Café is an excellent place for hot chocolate and warming stew.
“I also love Taymouth Marina on Loch Tay. It has an outdoor spa with enormous sauna and hot tub on the waterfront and a fabulously fun slide into the loch, so you can get cold, warm up, slide in and repeat!”
- The Art of Wild Swimming: Scotland, is published on October 26, by Black & White Publishing, priced £14.99.