When you think of Scotland what comes to mind? Epic mountain ranges? Majestic lochs? Historic castles? But what about what lies beneath the waves? I think it’s fair to say Scotland’s beauty is well documented, but there’s a whole part of our wee country that I believe has been overlooked for too long… Our underwater world (and I don’t mean the elusive, mythical Nessie)!  

Ok, let’s be fair, Scotland isn’t exactly the diving capital of the world. When you think of places to go for scuba diving I’m not sure it would appear in many peoples top ten, but you might be surprised to find there is some spectacular diving to be found in Bonnie Scotland. Now, full disclaimer, I’m absolutely no expert in diving, marine biology or even photography. I’m literally just someone who fell in love with our underwater world and from that spawned a new found love for photography to try show off our unbelievable, and very much unappreciated, aquatic world.   

A diver gearing up for a dive in Scotland
Author Ross McLaren gearing up for a dive in Scotland.

Diving is something I always wanted to do from a young age, but I never really envisaged myself in the freezing cold lochs of home, and therein lies the first big challenge of diving in Scotland. Even during our summer the water temperature barely gets above 12oC and in winter… well let’s just say I’ve had to break the ice on more than one occasion to enter the world beneath. But, saying that, that’s what drysuits, hoods, gloves and a good set of thermals were designed for. There’s a saying in the UK about hiking by the famous Alfred Wainwright; “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” and it can be applied to diving as well. With the right kit, there’s no reason not to go exploring.  

The biggest issue we find, and it is a real pain for photography, is the visibility. It could be an absolutely perfect day on the surface, but put your head beneath the waves and you could be struggling to see your hand held out in front of your face. There’s no guarantee’s when diving here, but I think that’s part of the allure, part of the sense of adventure. The unpredictability can be frustrating yes, but at the same time it’s what keeps me coming back time and time again. You might find the “normal” life; crabs, squat lobsters, starfish but equally you could find the elusive octopus, nudibranch, bobtail squid, the list goes on.  

a shark spotted underwater in scotaland
A Dogfish at The Clyde in Scotland

People look out at the dreich (that’s a good Scottish word for dull and boring) steel grey waters of our coastline and lochs and often think there can’t be much in there in terms of life and colour, and I’ll hold my hands up, I did too until I started diving. But, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Ok… I’m not saying we’ll ever quite match the cacophony of colours you’ll see in more exotic locations like the Maldives, but there’s a lot more than you might expect.   

Not only are our waters awash with marine life, but they are absolutely full of history. In the Clyde estuary alone (river mouth near Glasgow) there are nearly 250 wrecks! All round our coast there are wrecks littering the seabed from fishing boats to massive battleships, we quite literally have it all.  

anemones underwater in scotaland
Dahlia Anemone at The Clyde, Scotland

Scuba diving in Scotland definitely isn’t the easiest diving you’ll do and you never know exactly what to expect, but it’s that unknown that keeps us coming back for more.  We might never be the diving capital of the world, but we do have something for everyone and when you do get that special moment it makes the challenges all worth while!  

Ready to dive into Scotland? Book your local adventure online here. Or, if you aren’t yet a scuba diver, click the button below to get certified and learn to #LiveUnfiltered.

Ross McLaren underwater in Scotland wearing dry suit.

Ross McLaren is a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver based in Ayrshire, Scotland. He has been diving for 6 years, and is looking forward to a lifetime of adventure in Scottish waters. Follow Ross on Instagram at @underwater.ross or on Facebook at Underwater.ross.

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