If the first thing that comes to mind about Scotland is bagpipes, the Loch Ness monster and that gross kidney pudding (haggis) then you aren’t alone.
But, aside from spectacular scenery, Scotland has a hell of a lot more to offer than sheep’s heart, kidneys and liver squished together.
So what’s one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets? Its amazing variety of snorkelling spots – picture perfect underwater havens with shipwrecks, rock walls and sheltered sea lochs where fish and coral are abundant.
If you think the water will freeze your fingers and toes off, all you need is a wetsuit in summer and extra boots and gloves in winter. With all that rubber on the cold ocean will have no chance.
Visit Scotland has put together a handy go-to guide for sensational snorkelling, Scottish style, after launching its global spirit of Scotland campaign in 2016. Here’s which spots made their list, and why you shouldn’t go past Scotland for snorkelling.
Snorkel Trail, North West Highlands
If you aren’t as experienced at snorkelling as you would like, don’t fret, because this snorkel trail is perfect for all levels of snorkeling.
You’ll swim past nine beaches and bays along the coast of Wester Ross and Sutherland, so make sure you bring a camera to capture all those postcard-worthy views.
Don’t swim past Achmelvich Bay, a beginners snorkelling beach home to a variety of colourful fish and kelp beds, or Gruinard Bay, where you can find shellfish hiding in the seagrass.
Swim with the sharks, Oban
No, don’t worry, these sharks won’t eat you. Just any plankton you may be hoarding on your person. If swimming in the deep blue water with some basking sharks is too wild for your tastes, you can easily watch them from the boat.
But you might want to get in when the whales, dolphins and seals show up to play – they definitely wont eat you. Combine this with puffins and other adorable seabirds as well as the stunning Argyll shoreline dotted with castles and ruins and you’ve got yourself a perfect day trip.
If you’re already planning in your head, Basking Shark Scotland operates basking shark boat trips, snorkel safaris and diving trips in various months between April and October.
The Sound of Mull, Scottish Highlands
The Sound is the site of some major wreckage sites, and the crystal clear water makes for easy viewing of sunken ships and a huge variety of marine life – like anemones, peacock worms and pipefish – that live inside the wreckages.
This snorkelling trip would basically be like living out ‘The Little Mermaid’ in real life – and isn’t that everyones dream?
Conger Alley, Argyll
In between the rocky shores of Succoth and Artgarten lies a divers paradise; undisturbed, deep water ready to be explored. You’ll find rocky reefs, sloping sandbeds and maybe one of the famous conger eels if you’re really lucky.
If eels make you squirm, there’s a couple of old piers perfect for snorkeling – and spotting huge schools of crustaceans right under your nose.
Firth of Lorne, Oban
If plain old fish don’t spike your interest, look no further than this absolute and unpolluted gem. Snorkelers and divers can find kelp forests, sea sponges, lobsters, eels and seals in the areas deep wrecks and drop offs.
Above the surface is pretty spectacular as well, with serene views and the world’s third largest whirlpool – the Corrywreckan. Just don’t get sucked in.
Dunbar, West Scotland
On the shores of this small Scottish town lies a sheltered snorkeling site tucked away within some deep channels of water – where an abundance of marine life hide. This spot is only 10 meters deep, making it a snorkeler’s perfect starting point.
The Caves at Loch Long
Loch Long is basically some boulders, underwater, with little gaps in between them – which makes caves home to a ton of fish and marine life. Other sea creatures also live on the surface of the caves, making the site a fascinating experience – especially with pinnacles less than a meter below the surface.
Staxigoe, near Wick
Off the coast of this former fishing town lies a harbor with a variety of small caves packed with creatures you definitely don’t see every day.
Think brightly coloured squat lobsters, squid eggs held up by kelp plants and crimson sea hare-covered rocks. Did we mention the 16-meter wall covered in sea squirts?
Portskerra arch, near Melvich Bay, Sutherland
This sheltered bay has an insane reef wall, which rewards snorkelers who stay close enough with a viewing of a huge school of stickleback fish – on their way to the end of the reef.
Obviously you should follow them and be wowed by the awaiting underwater arch, filled with anemone and sponges for you to get up close and personal with.
Outer Hebrides Snorkel Trail, Isle of Harris
Ever wandered what local Scottish marine species look like? Then this snorkel trail is for you. Off Scotlands west coast, under the sea boasts an amazing variety of sea-life, like brittlestar, lion’s mane, velvet swimming crab, periwinkle and sandeels.
If that sounded like a different language, you need to visit Scotland, stat.