Wild Swimming in Argyll & the Isles

Scotland's Wellbeing Coast

Wild swimming, sometimes known as open water swimming, is a popular activity along Scotland’s Adventure Coast. With 3,723KM of coastline, 23 inhabited islands, over 40 freshwater and sea lochs and several easily accessed beaches and rivers, Argyll’s west coast waters are a wild swimmer’s paradise. We even have a resident Merman to guide you!

Just a stone’s throw from Glasgow, the coastal and inland waters of Argyll and the Isles offer rugged coastlines, picturesque islands with golden sands and pebble beaches, glittering sea lochs, meandering rivers, dramatic waterfalls and even a whirlpool. The ever-changing scenery is spectacular. Experiencing it from the water elevates it to magical.

The coast of Argyll is studded with inhabited and uninhabited islands and fresh water and sea lochs which offer wonderful, sheltered waters for wild swimming. The pristine sandy bays and pebble beaches of Argyll’s peninsulas and islands are perfect for an invigorating dip in fresh clear water. You’ll probably have the beach to yourself – unless an inquisitive seal joins you!

From a dip in a river to a paddle in a loch or a swim across the open sea, wild swimming in Scotland is about immersing yourself in nature. Literally.

Try Wild Swimming

Devotees of wild swimming say it can’t be beaten for mental and physical health. They are probably right. Cold water swimming (after all, it is Scotland!) has been proven to offer many health benefits including increased alertness and energy levels with reduced anxiety, stress and depression. Repeated exposure to cold water immersion has even been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol.

More importantly, it feels incredible. And there’s no better place to experience wild swimming than Argyll. Check out some of our favourite places to take a dip…

Safety first!

Open water swimming is exhilarating, but it’s not without risk. Keep safe by following these tips from the RNLI:

  • Be prepared. Check the weather and tides, choose your spot, go with a buddy, have the right equipment.
  • If in doubt, don’t go out. No matter how much preparation you do, or how experienced you are, if a swim doesn’t feel right there is no shame in getting out of the water straight away, or not entering.
  • Make sure you acclimatise to avoid cold water shock.
    Be seen. Wear a bright coloured swim hat and take a tow float.
  • Stay within your depths.
  • Float to live.
  • Call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard in an emergency.


Wild Swimming Spots in Argyll

Local Recommendations
Above & Below - Argyll & the Isles Wild Swimming Trail

The marine environment surrounding Argyll & the Isles is of international significance. As such, it is the UK’s first Hope Spot – a beautiful place, treasured by the local community, that is critical to the health of the ocean.

The Gulf Stream brings warmer waters to our shores and swimming in the sea here can be warmer than swimming in fresh water. Plus the salt water makes you more buoyant!

Use our Above and Below wild swimming trail to explore the magical waters of Cuil Bay, Tralee Bay, SAMs Beach, Port Appin and Ganavan Sands.

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Coastal Wild Swimming in Argyll

Ostel Bay

Tighnabruaich | Cowal Peninsula

The short walk (15 mins) over the dunes is worth it to experience the jewel in the crown of Argyll’s Secret Coast; a sandy beach with views of Arran which remains fairly shallow for a long way out.

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Glenan Bay

Portavadie | Loch Fyne

Accessed via a forest or coastal path, Glenan is pebbly bay. Continue past the river mouth to Buck Bay (about an hour’s walk) for white sand, rocky outcrops and plenty of driftwood.

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Ascog Bay at Stillaig

Portavadie | Loch Fyne

A narrow piece of land separates two shallow and protected bays at Stillaig. Walk over the headland or use the farm track just beyond the entrance to Stillaig Farm to get to Eilean Aoidhe.

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Carry Farm

Tighnabruaich | Cowal Peninsula

Carry Farm is easy to get to and great for a quick dip. The shoreline is pebbly, but it gets nice and sandy as you head further out. Walk though Carry Farm to get to the shoreline and the best bit for swimming is to your left.

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Port Bàn

Kilberry | Knapdale

The unspoilt coastline, sandy beaches and stunning views of Islay and Jura make a wonderful spot for a calming and restorative swim in the sea. Dolphin pods have been spotted here so don’t forget your binoculars and camera!

Island Wild Swimming in Argyll

Calgary Bay, Mull

Shallow turquoise water and idyllic white sands in a horseshoe shape to offer a little extra shelter for less confident swimmers.
Gulf of Corryvreckan, Sarba / Jura

The world’s third largest whirlpool is alluring and dramatic to witness. It’s safe to swim during a small window of slack water but for most swimmers, should only be attempted under professional guidance.
Scalpsie & Ettrick Bays, Bute

Located on the west coast of Bute, Scalpsie, is a stunning south facing bay while Ettrick has a sheltered sandy beach. Both enjoy impressive views towards the island of Arran.

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Isle of Tiree

Boasting the most sunshine hours in Scotland, Tiree is almost ringed with clean golden sands making it a great choice for wild swimming, paddling and picnics.

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Islay, Gigha, Iona, Mull, Coll

If pristine sandy beaches and crystal clear water are your thing, the islands of Islay, Gigha, Iona, Mull and Coll offer an abduance of choice, from the sheltered Sandeels Bay on Iona to the shingle of Kilchiaran Bay on Islay.

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Loch Wild Swimming in Argyll

The coastline of Argyll is indented with sea lochs providing wonderful, sheltered – albeit tidal - waters for swimming.

Loch Striven offers crystal clear waters, mountain views and warmer temperatures whilst Loch Long is a fjord type sea loch which, as its’ name would suggest, is 20 miles long!

For freshwater loch swimming, Loch Lomond, in the Trossachs National Park, is hard to beat. It’s Scotland’s largest loch, and home to the Great Scottish Swim at Balloch. There are sandy beaches at Inversnaid, stunning views at Milarrochy Bay and waterfalls at the nearby Falls of Falloch.

River Wild Swimming in Argyll

River Oude, Oban

For an energising river dip, follow the lively River Oude into the lake formed by the Oude Dam. Headcurrents will boost your progress downstream but beware of hidden rocks in some of the shallow areas.

River Orchy, Nr Dalmally

The Orchy flows down Glen Orchy east of Dalmally. It offers dramatic scenery, a number of waterfalls (best viewed from the land!) and calmer stretches which are suitable for paddling and swimming.

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Wild Swimming Guided Swims

If you’re new to wild swimming, or unfamiliar with the area, we strongly recommend that you swim with an experienced and professional guide.

Whether you’re looking for support as a beginner, coaching as a more advanced swimmer, or a guided experience at a beautiful swim location, professionals such as Dan the Merman have a wealth of knowledge and skill that will prove helpful to any level of swimmer.

Your swim guide will understand local tide times, conditions, rips and swells, entry and exit points, optimal swim times. He or she will empower you with open water skills and be qualified to manage your safety so that you can enjoy a safe and valuable experience.

Argyll's Resident Merman

Dan The Merman's Tips for Novice Wild Swimmers
  • Always begin with a course of lessons from a suitable qualified open water coach.
  • Use a swim specific wetsuit - this will have specific panelling to provide the full range of movement needed for swimming. A surf or diving wetsuit can really from a wild swim experience.
  • Skin swimming - swimming without a wetsuit - is increasingly popular.
  • Coaching is strongly recommended to learn how to safely manage the cold and maximise performance.

The RNLI offers comprehensive advice for open water swimming and the Outdoor Swimming Society offers lots of useful information for beginner wild swimmers.

Discover more about Swim - Dan the Merman - Argyll >

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Experience wild swimming with a guided experience

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Wild Hebridean Swimming

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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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