Already in love with wild swimming? Why not try another adventure on the water this year? After all, you’re never more than 70 miles from the ocean in the UK, not to mention deep lakes to paddle across, river pools to jump into, waves to surf and even curious sharks and seals to make friends with. Add my pick of the best aquatic adventures in Britain to your underwater bucket list.
Nine of the best aquatic and ocean adventures in Britain
1. Night SUP in Snowdonia
Snowdonia isn’t just about epic mountains – the sky above the peaks of North Wales is just as special. The National Park is one of only 11 dark sky reserves in the whole world, and the most amazing way you can take in its magnificent starry skies is by propelling a stand-up paddle board across the glassy surface of a moonlit lake. Psyched Paddleboarding will take you out at dusk to watch the night come alive whilst you glide across the water’s surface – if you’re feeling brave you can go for nocturnal wild swim afterwards, too. Magical.
From £50 per person, Psyched Paddleboarding
2. Swim with sharks in the Hebrides
Forget all your Jaws fears and try getting underwater with a peaceful basking shark. Despite being able to grow to a massive 10 metres long, these docile beasts don’t attack humans, and you can swim, dive or kayak with them in the crystal-clear waters around the Inner Hebrides, on Scotland’s east coast. Basking Shark Scotland will take you out on a boat to the fairytale island of Coll to hang out in the shallows with these majestic fish. The sharks are in residence from April to October, and if you head there in August you’ll get to meet the charming local puffins, too.
From £190 per person, Basking Sharks Scotland
3. Wild swim in a Lake District pot
The lovely land of the Lakes is a wild swimmer’s dream. The gorgeous big tarns this area of Cumbria is named for are rightly famous, but even better for a dip are the small, deep pots, full of irresistibly fresh cold water. A pot, in case you’re wondering, is a local name for a natural plunge pool. Seek out Black Moss Pot, where you can jump off high rocks into the water, or lesser known Tongue Pot, a necklace of inviting little pools in a deep green valley. After more places to wild swim? Try my favourite wild swimming spots in Britain.
4. Snorkel with seals, Isles of Scilly
You won’t find a more rewarding wildlife encounter in Britain than a snorkel with a colony of friendly and curious seals. Head to St Marys, part of the subtropical Isles of Scilly archipelago off the coast of Cornwall, and Scilly Seal Snorkelling will take you speeding out on a rib boat to uninhabited islets where seals lollop around on the rocks. When you jump into the water these puppyish characters will usually come up to say hello and to have a swim with you, and have even been known to gently nibble on snorkeller’s flippers. Read more about the time I snorkelled with seals here.
From £45 per person, Scilly Seal Snorkelling
5. Cliff jumping in Pembrokeshire
There’s little more exhilarating than flinging yourself off a high rock and plunging into the depths of the ocean. Cliff jumping requires caution though – always check the water below is sufficiently deep and free of rocks. Our favourite spot for a jump is the Blue Lagoon in Pembrokeshire, home to the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series. When the champions aren’t in town it’s a very peaceful place, and the man-made rocky steps cut into the cliffs mean there are increasing heights you can jump from.
6. Learn to freedive in Cornwall
Forget air tanks and respirators – the purest way to swim beneath the ocean’s surface is the art of freediving. This ancient technique is all about controlling your breath and achieving zen-like levels of calm in order to dive as deep into the sea as you can. Freedive UK’s AIDA 1&2 star certified two-day course will teach you all the basics, starting in the pool and then progressing to the beautiful turquoise waters of the Cornish Atlantic. You’ll even learn to plunge to depths of 50ft. Or if you want to try something even more weird and wonderful, Freedive UK also offer mermaid freediving courses, complete with scale-studded tails.
£300 for a two-day course, freediveuk.com
7. Gorge jumping Gower
The glorious Gower peninsula in South Wales is a water lover’s playground, full of secret spots waiting to be discovered. Explore it like a local with Antur Outdoor – this adrenaline-loving outdoors company will get you doing things you never thought you could in the name of fun. Their canyoning and coasteering days involve everything from leaping off tall cliffs to hanging off ropes in rocky gorges. There are even natural stone slides and sea chimneys to hurl yourself down – serious fun.
Canyoning and coasteering adventures from £55, Antur Outdoor
8. Shipwreck diving in Devon
No less than 137 ghostly wrecks wait beneath the waves around Lundy Island, a protected wildlife haven off the Devon coast that was once a pirate stronghold. The water in this marine nature reserve is beautifully clear, making it easy to explore the wreck of the The Montague, a 14,000 ton battleship now rusting underwater, or the Robert, whose crew were quickly rescued by the local lifeboat before she sank below the waves. Lundy Charters can take certified divers wreck-hunting or to meet the inquisitive local seals. And if diving isn’t your thing, you could always try a snorkelling safari instead.
Price on application, Lundy Charters
9. Cold water surfing in Scotland
Forget catching a wave in sunny Cornwall – you haven’t really surfed in Britain until you’ve taken to the ever-chilly waters of the Scottish Highlands. Thurso, the most northerly town in mainland Scotland, is the heart of the local surfing scene, and boasts world-class waves. In the winter surfers sometimes encounter floating chunks of the ice on the ocean but their staying power is rewarded with occasional glimpses of the aurora borealis. In summer, beginners can brave the smaller breaks during the long hours of daylight.