The popularity of wild swimming has skyrocketed in recent years, particularly during the Covid pandemic when thousands of people across the UK regularly took to the water to experience the physical and psychological benefits of cold water immersion. The Cairngorms are no exception, and we have some really lovely spots here for a dip. Staying in Grantown-on-Spey, you are within easy reach of river, loch and sea, so let’s dive in and get those endorphins pumping!
First things first though – let’s talk about water safety. Even at the height of summer, the colder water of the Scottish Highlands causes a real risk of cold water shock. A few key tips:
- Go with a friend – even if they stay on shore to watch you
- Swim within your capability
- Wear neoprene booties to protect your feet; gloves are also recommended
- Do your research – weather, wind, water temperature, entry and exit points
- Wear a colourful swim cap – make sure you’re visible in the water, and consider a tow float for longer swims
- Keep it quick, particularly if it’s colder than you’re used to
- Do not swim in lochs when there is algae bloom
- Warm up afterwards – get dressed quickly, woolly hat and plenty of layers – and take a flask of something hot!
Now onto the fun part – where to swim? There are so many options!
- In Grantown-on-Spey itself, swim in the River Spey. For easy entry to the water, head to the wee sandy beach accessed by foot or bike by following Kylintra Burn down to the river (there’s an underpass under the A95), or by car at the parking sign just off the A95 between the two roundabouts on the south edge of the town.
- North of Grantown-on-Spey, travelling on the A939 and at the north end of the Dava moor, you’ll see a single-track road veering to the left before the bridge at Dava School House. This will take you down to Lochindorb, a freshwater loch with an island supporting the ruins of the ancient Lochindorb Castle, which dates back to the 13th century. It’s a popular place for fishing, and bird-watching, so you may well spot some oystercatchers, ospreys, lapwings and common sandpipers while you swim!
- Further north, only a 45-minute or so drive from Grantown-on-Spey, you will reach the Moray coast. Here you can swim in the fresh, cold North Sea – the vast, glorious beach at Nairn, Findhorn’s lovely pebbly beach and Bow Fiddle Rock at Portknockie are just a few of the fantastic places to explore along the coast.
- About 17 miles south of Grantown-on-Spey, between Nethy Bridge and Boat of Garten, you’ll find lovely Loch Garten, surrounded by ancient Caledonian pine forest and part of the Abernethy National Nature Reserve. Calm waters and stunning views make this a top swim spot for locals.
- Further south, just off the A95 between Aviemore and Carrbridge, beautiful Loch Vaa with its circuit path, pine and birch forest and stony beach is extremely popular with local wild swimmers. Even in the depths of winter, the regulars are down here smashing up the ice to get in the freezing water!
Other favourite locations of our local wild swimmers include Loch Morlich, Loch An Eilean, the Green Lochan at Glenmore, Feshiebridge, Loch Insh and Loch Alvie. It really is a wild swimmer’s paradise.
Regular visitors to the Cairngorms may wish to join the Cairngorm Wild Swimmers’ private Facebook group. A friendly, welcoming group, its Facebook page provides a means to make social arrangements for swims, training, outings, adventures and expeditions with other like-minded swimmers.
And if reading this has piqued your interest but you’d like to build confidence in the open water, how about booking a half-or full-day guided swim adventure with local wild swimming expert Alice of SwimWild? As anyone who goes wild swimming will tell you, you won’t regret it!
For somewhere to refuel after you swim head into the centre of Grantown-no-Spey and visit one of the Cafe’s, restaurants or bars.