Wild swimming near Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a surprisingly good place for wild swimming, with sections of the Water of Leith, Portobello Beach, Pentland Hills streams, ponds and select reservoirs all beckoning the intrepid dipper.
Below we present some of the very best, all within easy reach of us at Seton Sands. Given Scottish water temperatures at the best of times, remember to bring a lot of dry clothing to put on after you emerge!
We partner with the RNLI to reinforce our safe and secure message around safety in the water. Take a look at our guide to staying safe before enjoying any of the wild swimming spots featured in this article!
The waters off Portobello Beach
8 miles from Seton Sands
A mile or more of sandy beach flanks the Firth of Forth just southeast of Leith, and on a summer’s day, it’s a lovely spot for a salty sea dip. It’s a popular spot, so you’ll not be alone in the water and the RNLI run swim safe lessons here for the nervous.
After your dip, there are plenty of inviting pubs and cafes for a restorative hot drink or meal, and dogs are welcome on the sand too.
20 miles from Seton Sands
What could be more inviting than a dip in a reservoir at the foot of the gently rolling Pentland Hills? Thriepmuir is a long-established dipper’s paradise, with several spots to enter from and gently sloping banks. You can hide your clothes under the trees and enjoy the purple heather-covered hills and pine trees swaying in the breeze.
The slopes nearby are well worth a wander. if you’re feeling energetic, walk around the side of Black Hill and you’ll reach Loganlea Reservoir and Glencorse after three miles.
16 miles from Seton Sands
Edinburgh’s other less well-known beach is at Cramond, to the west of the city at the mouth of the River Almond. There’s a promenade and sandy beach here, with plenty of places to take a dip.
At low tide, intrepid explorers can walk along the usually submerged causeway to reach Cramond Island, which still contains the abandoned pillboxes that once constituted wartime defences. Make sure you don’t get cut off, however, or you may be spending the night in one!
18 miles from Seton Sands
This pocket-sized reservoir is a perfect spot for a dip. Park at the Bonaly Park car park and walk directly up the hill through the trees. After enjoying the astonishing views, after around a mile and a half of climbing, you’ll see the reservoir’s bank on your right.
Make sure you enter the water away from the sluice gate – there are plenty of places to do so. On a summer’s day the trees and surrounding hills provide protection from the breeze, and it can even become a bit of a suntrap so don’t be surprised if you see the odd picnic.
Yellowcraigs and Gullane's waters
7-10 miles from Seton Sands
If you don’t fancy a drive into Edinburgh and you want a more secluded beach to explore, both Gullane and Yellowcraigs, to the east of Seton Sands, are great choices. Gullane has sweeping dunes to jump off and lots of fine, golden sand. There’s a wide, curving bay and rocky inlets with rockpools in which to look for crabs.
Yellowcraigs, three miles further east, is even quieter, so if it’s solitude you’re seeking you may find it there. You’ll be able to see the conical protrusion of Berwick Law, and the pretty seaside town of North Berwick is yet another possible spot for a sea dip, and has its own sandy beach.
Wardie Bay, Newhaven
13 miles from Seton Sands
Just west of the Port of Leith lie Newhaven and Granton Harbour. Between those two nestles Wardie Bay, a popular wild swimming spot, which even has its own local club, the Wild Ones, who swim on Sunday afternoons.
The neighbouring breakwater makes the sea comparatively calm here, so it is good for first timers. Do, however, look out for fishing boats or yachts.
19 miles from Seton Sands
Possibly the most popular Edinburgh Reservoir for wild swimming is Gladhouse. There’s no public transport here, so travel by car. It can be found off the B6372 near Gorebridge.
The eastern side of this large reservoir offers the easiest and safest entry points. There are trees under which to place your belongings, especially those all-important towels and warm layers!
17 miles from Seton Sands
One of the prettiest of the Pentland reservoirs, Glencorse is surrounded by some of the biggest Pentland peaks, including Scald Law at 579 metres. There’s a very accessible path up the latter if you’re feeling energetic.
To access the water park up on the road that runs alongside, and make sure you keep away from the plentiful fishermen (unless you’re scaring the fish in their direction!) Access can be found at Flotterstone, where there’s an excellent pub and restaurant - The Flotterstone Inn.