Snorkel Scotland's Adventure Coast

3,723km of coastline to experience

Snorkelling in Scotland is increasingly popular. Take the plunge to discover marine life in all its rich and varied forms. It may be cold, but that’s what wetsuits are for!

With 3,723km of coastline, clear shallow waters and an abundance of marine wildlife and wreck sites, Scotland’s Adventure Coast is perfect for snorkelling. So perfect that the area has been designated the UK’s only Hope Spot – a special place that is critical to the health of the ocean.

Just a stone’s throw from Glasgow, the living west coast waters of Argyll offer shallow sheltered bays, crystal clear sea lochs and unspoilt natural reefs. With a huge range of habitats, marine life is abundant. There are even guided night-time snorkelling adventures.

The ever-changing scenery is spectacular both above and below the waterline. Discover rich forests of kelp, seagrass meadows and rocks studded with starfish and sea urchins. Watch crabs scuttle across the seabed and silvery shoals of fish. You might even see a basking shark – the gentle giants of the sea - out near Coll and Tiree. Bob your head above the water and you’ll get a different view of Argyll’s stunning landscapes – it’s not unusual to spot seals basking on nearby rocks.

Above and below, Argyll has it all.

Why try Snorkelling?

Snorkelling allows you to glimpse the flora, fauna, colours and creatures of the underwater world. It’s an ever-changing landscape rich in biodiversity.

As well as being magical, snorkelling shares many of the benefits of wild swimming. It’s a great boost for physical and mental health and, in shallow, sheltered spots, is easily accessible for all the family. Just don a wet suit and a snorkel mask and you’re ready to go!

Snorkelling in Argyll

Argyll’s coastline is one of the most biologically diverse marine environments in Scotland and the UK. You don’t have to venture far from the shore to discover an incredible array of species and habitats. The marine environment of Argyll and the islands is of international significance with numerous Marine Protected Areas and Special Areas for Conservation designations. Marine biodiversity is rich, with a huge range of habitats thanks to the intricate coastline of sea lochs, peninsulas, deep water sounds, narrows and islands.

Marine life is diverse and plentiful and varies from site to site, season to season and even tide to tide, making snorkelling in Argyll an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

The Argyll Snorkel Trail

The Argyll Snorkel Trail takes in idyllic sandy coves, sea lochs, marine restoration projects and exotic gardens.
Use the map below to find out more about locations, parking, access and facilities.

Guided Snorkelling

If you’re new to snorkelling, or unfamiliar with the area, we strongly recommend that you take some lessons and or snorkel with an experienced and professional guide. Your guide will understand local conditions and point out lots of things of interest so that you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable introduction to snorkelling.

Top Snorkelling Spots

Local Recommendations
Loch Creran
Loch Creran

Loch Creran, a tidal sea loch, is one of only two known sites globally where serpulid worms form reefs, creating habitats for many other species. Look for horse mussels, urchins, crabs and otters.

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Queenie Reef, Loch Creran
Queenie Reef, Loch Creran

Loch Creran is one of only two known sites globally where serpulid worms form beautiful reefs: creating habitats for many other species. Look for brittle stars - black starfish like animals - that cover the ground in a dense mat at certain times of the year.

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Beach at Scottish Association of Marine Science
Beach at Scottish Association of Marine Science

The horseshoe bay which lies adjacent to the Scottish Association for Marine Science near Oban is called Camas Rubha na Liathaig – known to locals as SAMS beach. The bay is sheltered by a stretch of rock formations at either side and kelp forests lie beneath.

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Ganavan Sands, Oban
Ganavan Sands, Oban

A lovely safe bay and beach popular with locals and visitors. Look out for lush seagrass meadows, which provide safe nurseries for many species of fish and shellfish, as well as removing carbon from the atmosphere.

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Wee Ganavan, Oban
Wee Ganavan, Oban

A beautiful small beach facing west with views towards Mull. Great snorkelling close in around the islands in the middle of the bay.

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Asknish Bay, Arduaine
Asknish Bay, Arduaine

Snorkel beside the exotic Arduaine garden and enjoy the marine treasures below.

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Village Bay, Ardfern
Village Bay, Loch Craignish, Ardfern

This site is part of Seawidling's seagrass restoration project. Lush seagrass provides safe nurseries for many species of fish and shellfish, as well as removing carbon. Look out for native oysters which are also part of Seawilding's restoration work.

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Johnny's Shore, Gigha
Johnny's Shore, Gigha

Also known as Port Na Chinn Mhoir (Johnny’s Shore), this is an idyllic sandy cove slipping gently into green waters. Perfect for spotting green shore crabs, pipefish, hermit crabs, otters, seals and gulls.

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Safety First

Before you go

Snorkelling is a lovely way to explore the oceans but it’s not without risk.

Keep safe by following these snorkelling safety tips from the Scottish Wildlife Trust:

  • Check the conditions: be aware of tides, water temperatures, currents and weather forecast before you leave.
  • Take a friend: never snorkel alone and always tell people where you are going.
  • Know who to contact: find out where the nearest medical and/or coastguard facility is and note down who to contact in an emergency.

Please note:

Snorkelling is not without risk. Featured locations and local businesses are provided for your information only. All activities are undertaken at your own risk.

At the beach

  • Know your surroundings: check the weather and tides, and identify a landmark for reference.
  • Use the right snorkel equipment: only use quality and well-fitting mask, snorkel and fins.
  • Wear the right protection: a full wetsuit will provide warmth, buoyancy and protection against jellyfish stings.

In the water

Follow the Snorkeller’s Code:

  • Do not remove seaweed or animals from rocks.
  • Take care not to kick sea life with fins or stand on them.
  • Observe animals where they live and don’t take anything away.
  • Keep a safe distance, you could be bitten, stung or pinched and don’t touch corals – they can cause burning and irritation.
  • Know how to treat any injuries.

Experience snorkelling with a guided experience

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Basking Shark Scotland

Operating across Argyll & the Isles, our wildlife watching adventures run from April - October. Basking Shark Scotland is the only dedicated snorkel oper...

PA34 5PZ

Tel: 07975 723140

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Local Experts with Top Tips & Insights

Shane Wasik, Basking Shark Scotland

Basking Shark Scotland are the local experts for snorkelling in Argyll. They offer snorkelling training plus the opportunity to experience snorkelling at night and snorkelling with basking sharks and seals.

Argyll is the jewel in the crown of Scotland's marine environment. Snorkelling allows a window into a world exploding with life. We have a diverse range of marine habitats to discover, from white shell sand and turquoise bays, lush kelp forest and seagrass meadows, curious seals to the 2nd biggest fish in the ocean - the basking shark.
With part of the coastline formed from super volcano, the landscape is pretty impressive too. Snorkelling into the depths of Fingal's Cave under a basalt column archway is truly unique. We have a world class playground here, all you need to do is join us and dive in!

About Shane
Shane's background is Marine Biology, completing his honours degree in 2003. He attained scientific and commercial diving qualifications but started diving as a wee laddie in 1996. His experiences with basking sharks has driven him to enable others to share the breathtaking experience of seeing these gentle giants in the wild.

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Floodlit Night Snorkelling

As the night draws in, the shallows are perfect for guided night snorkelling. The sea remains warm - or warm enough for an hour's snorkel if you're in the right kit!

Basking Shark Scotland offers a unique floodlit diving experience. You'll join a small group snorkelling in a huge pool of light. It's still and calm and you can see only what is captured in the rays of your torchlight. You may even spot some bioluminescence.

Snorkelling with Baksing Sharks

The coasts of Argyll are a hotspot for basking sharks: these gentle giants migrate to Scotland for the summer months and are one of only three shark species to feed on plankton. The best way to appreciate these beautiful animals is to swim or snorkel with them.

Basking Shark Scotland offer boat trips for incredible encounters with these elusive creatures.

Snorkelling with Seals

Scotland's Adventure Coast is home to the common and grey seal. These beautiful mammals can be inquisitive and playful but it's important to snorkel sensitively to avoid disturbing their habitat. Basking Shark Scotland offer a number of trips where you can learn more about these creatures and increase your chances of a snorkelling encounter.

Please note: Snorkelling with basking sharks, seals, or at night time should only ever be undertaken with a professionally guided group.

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More Snorkelling Sites You'll Love

There are numerous sites of interest, some of which need to be reached by boat.
The Sound of Mull
The Sound of Mull

Crystal clear waters allow snorkellers a good view of the wrecks below and the creatures that inhabit them.

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Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull
Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull

This beautiful bay with white sands and turquoise waters is wide and sandy with rocks to either side which give way to accessible kelp forests. It’s usually away from the main currents, has good visibility and low boat traffic.

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Conger Alley, Arrochar
Conger Alley, Arrochar

The old piers provide for an interesting snorkel with a great view of the crustaceans just under the surface.

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Ganavan Sands, Oban
The Caves, Loch Long

With superb visibility and a complex underwater topography with pinnacles close to the surface at low tide, Loch Long offers the opportunity to spot a rich variety of marine life.

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Scaranish Harbour, Isle of Tiree
Scaranish Harbour, Isle of Tiree

The beach next to Scaranish Harbour is relatively enclosed, has easy beach entry and shelter from most directions and an easy beach entry. Stay close to the coast to avoid the strong currents and shipping traffic.

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Connect with local snorkellers

If you’re an experienced snorkeller, you can connect with others and get inspiration at Snorkel Scotland: a Facebook Page to share adventures from snorkelling around Scotland.

Share your snorkelling adventures

We love to see people enjoying snorkelling in Argyll & the Isles. Share your photos with us on social media and inspire others by tagging us @wildaboutargyll.

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Snorkelling FAQs

What is snorkelling?

A snorkel is simply a breathing tube.

To snorkel, you swim using a mask, snorkel and fins, but without using self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA). If you can swim, you can probably snorkel.

Is snorkelling legal in Scotland?

Yes, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows you to roam and swim relatively freely in inland and coastal waters provided that you do so responsibly. This means it is legal to snorkel in Argyll’s sea, lochs and rivers.

Is snorkelling safe?

No water-based activity is 100% safe and you should always have a healthy respect for the water.

If you’re new to snorkelling, you should seek training so that you know how to snorkel safely in open water. BSAC offers a range of snorkelling courses for beginners.

You should wear good quality snorkelling equipment which fits properly. Start at a clear, shallow beach and stay in your depth.

You can minimise the risks by reading and following the safety advice provided by Scottish Wildlife Trust and others (see useful links) planning ahead and exercising caution at all times. Never snorkel alone.

What kit do I need for snorkelling?

As a minimum, you’ll need:

  • Full wetsuit (to keep warm, provide buoyancy and shield your skin from stings and grazes)
  • Snorkelling mask and snorkel (breathing tube)
  • Fins and fin socks or thick boots

If you are going to be in the water a while, a rash vest, hood and diving gloves will be be useful.

Wear lots of layers and bring a robe for changing and warming up after your snorkel. Bring something to stand on while you get changed.

A drink and snack will be welcome after your snorkel.

What do I do if I get into trouble or see another snorkeller experiencing difficulties?

Call the coastguard on: Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard in an emergency. (If you don’t have a signal, your phone will try to connect you to the nearest network.)

How is snorkelling spelt? Is it snorkeling or snorkelling?

It depends whether you are using UK English or US English. The UK spelling is snorkelling, the US spelling is snorkeling. You will find different spellings for snorkelling and or snorkeling in Scotland – mainly because those writing about it come from different places!

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Explore all the places to visit in Argyll & the Isles

3700km of coastline, 23 inhabited islands, major towns and villages are all waiting for you.

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