Where can I wild swim?

Scotland! Yes! Scotland is the perfect place to wild swim as you have a right to swim as part of the right to roam responsibly. The rivers and lochs are ideal with clear, clean burns running into cascading waterfalls that end in magical pools of crystal clear joy. And in here in Dumfries and Galloway there are some hidden gems among the burns and lochs throughout the woodland and forest parks.

What is wild swimming?

Wild swimming is immersing your body in natural freshwater like rivers and lochs exposing some or all of your skin to get the fully invigorating effects of the cold water. Or just plain old jumping into the river or lake as it was called when I was growing up!

Nothing beats plunging into the often chilly temperatures, especially on a hot summer’s day. It certainly provides a sense of elation and relaxation once you’ve got used to the temperature and is said to soothe muscle aches, relieve depression and boost the immune system.

Killantringan Waterfall Photo Credit Dooj Brawls

What are the Dos and Don’ts?

Do

  • Be aware of your own swimming ability
  • Be aware of fast moving rivers which can hide dangerous undercurrents
  • Always check the water thoroughly for depth, obstructions and currents BEFORE you jump in.
  • Identify your exit point BEFORE you enter
  • Wear footwear if you can
  • Watch out for boats on any navigable river. Wear a coloured swim hat so you can be seen

Don’t

  • Get too cold – warm up with exercise and warm clothes before and after a swim
  • Swim in canals, urban rivers, stagnant lakes or reedy shallows
  • Ignore No Swim signs
  • Swim in flood water and be cautious of water quality during droughts
  • Ever swim alone and keep a constant watch on weak swimmers

Where can I go in Dumfries and Galloway?

near Newton Stewart

The Wood of Cree offers a burn with a variety of plunge pools in an ancient woodland. Not a place for a long swim but ideal for cooling off while you walk through the RSPB Wood of Cree. You may even see an otter at the start of your walk!

New Galloway

The Greymare’s Tail Burn offers three delectable, albeit small pools to swim in; the highest of which is at the foot of the Greymares waterfall itself. Located in the Galloway Forest Park along the road called the Queen’s Way, one just has to follow the A712 from Newton Stewart. This Greymare’s Tail is signposted and has a car park – don’t confuse it with the much larger waterfall over Moffat way!

Grey Mares Tail Photo Credit Dooj Brawls

Loch Trool

The Water of Minoch at Glen Trool offers a place to swim above and below the waterfall. There is car parking close by and even a pub to refresh yourself/ warm up in afterwards! Take the A714 north from Newton Stewart and turn towards the Glentrool Village and then the Glentrool Visitor Centre.

Loch Ken

This narrow 10km stretch of water nestled in the Galloway Forest is well-known to wild swimmers and certainly offers a great opportunity for those wanting a decent swim in wild waters! No newcomer to wild swimming, Loch Ken has hosted an annual event for the past 8 years with supervised, timed departures for swimmers of differing abilities. This year’s event will take place 11, 12 September and there are still a few days to apply, so get busy! The event also offers options for 1K, 2K and 5K and a kids splash event, all run by the Galloway Activity Centre.

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Loch Ken view to Galloway Forest – Photo Credit VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins
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