The North of Scotland is one of the best places in the world for wild swimming, here are five great spots to swim

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OUTDOOR swimming has made a splash as one of the fastest growing activities in the UK, with record numbers of people bathing in lochs, lakes and rivers.

Recent statistics show that the number of people participating in this hobby has almost tripled in the past three years.

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Alice Goodridge bathes in Loch Insh

And the Cairngorms region has become a magnet for wild swimmers looking for a refreshing dip – with some experts claiming it’s one of the best places for leisure on the planet.

Alice Goodridge swam the canal in 2010 and saw hundreds of people following her through the water.

Now she runs wild swimming retreats, holidays and clubs in the north of Scotland which attract visitors from all over the world.

She said: ‘We’ve seen a huge increase over the years and more recently in the number of people coming to consider the Cairngorms one of the best wild swimming spots.

“Is this the best place in the world for wild swimming? I think it’s pretty high up there. It is a cold water swimmer’s paradise with a variety of lochs and stunning rivers.

“We have people coming from all over to join us. Two Saudi ladies recently joined us and they absolutely loved it – and weren’t put off by the cold.

“Wild swimming is like a reset button for the mind. Essentially, it allows you to focus. There’s nothing else you can do when you enter this water. You have to focus to enter and breathe. These days, when you have so many distractions, it’s a rare pleasure.

Mark Tate, CEO of VisitCairngorms, said: “There are so many wonderful wild swimming spots in the Cairngorms that it’s easy to see why it’s such an outdoor swimmer’s paradise.”

If you’ve been thinking about dipping your toes in water, here are five of the best places to try:

shiebridge (photo credit SwimWild)

Feshiebridge

Feshiebridge is a great place for a wild swim, with pools, clear waters and wooded shores.

Feshiebridge has deep pools

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Feshiebridge has deep pools

There is a plunge pool directly under the old stone bridge, about six miles south of Aviemore, and a pebble beach for walking in the water.

The river is tricky in parts, especially upstream, so it’s a good idea to stick to the shallows if you’re not confident in the water.

Loch Morlich

This stunning body of water is surrounded by forests and fringed by beaches, with the often snow-capped peaks of the northern Cairngorms as a backdrop.

Loch Morlich is surrounded by mountains

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Loch Morlich is surrounded by mountains

The loch, an ice age feature known as the Kettle Hole, is a particularly good loch for beginners and novices with shallows along the shore

There is also a water sports center and a cafe nearby, to warm up after a swim.

An Lochan Uaine – the green loch

Known as the lochan fairy, local legend has it that it gets its green color because fairies wash their clothes there.

An Lochan Uaine is a magical place

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An Lochan Uaine is a magical place

But you can also bathe in the magical waters, which lie along the Ryvoan Pass from Glenmore.

It is easily accessible on foot or by bike and is a beautiful setting for a picnic.

Loch Inches

It’s a favorite spot for dips year-round due to its easy access to a cafe serving hot chocolates, soups, and homemade pastries.

There is hot chocolate available for brave divers

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There is hot chocolate available for brave divers

It is also a beautiful place, surrounded by hills and woods.

The loch – seven miles south of Aviemore – is also known for watersports and fishing, so choose your spot wisely.

Loch Garden

It’s a hidden gem, nestled in the Abernethy Nature Reserve.

Loch Garten has calm shallows

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Loch Garten has calm shallows

The Loch itself is surrounded by a magnificent pine forest.

And its waters are calm and tranquil, even on windy days. Confident swimmers can swim hundreds of meters uninterrupted while less confident swimmers can enjoy the clear, shallow waters.

DOS AND DON’TS FOR WILD SWIMMING

EXPERT Alice has compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to make sure wild swimmers stay safe in the water.

DO: Find a friend to go with if you are swimming for the first time or joining a club. It’s safer, more fun and will boost your confidence

DON’T: dive. The water in the Cairngorms can be very cold, whatever the season. If you enter too quickly you can get cold water shock, so take it slow and go with a group.

DON’T: swim too long. Hypothermia can creep in and when you’re in the water it’s hard to tell exactly when it’s time to get out. Your body will continue to cool when you get out of the water and won’t reach its lowest temperature until 15-30 minutes after your swim.

DO: Stay visible. Wear brightly colored clothes, buy a brightly colored swimming cap. It can be difficult for boats and other people on the water to spot a full-speed swimmer.

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