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10 best places to swim with wildlife in the UK

Get up close and personal with the best of British marine life.
Written by Nina Zietman
5 min readPublished on
Did you know that the UK is home to the most amazing marine life? From giant sunfish to blue sharks to dolphins – you can spot all of these incredible animals just off the coast of Great Britain.
Snorkelling is one of the best ways to see these animals up close and personal, so we’ve put together the top places to swim with wildlife in the UK. Tug on a wetsuit, grab your snorkelling mask and dive underwater to seek out these amazing sea creatures.

1. Oban, Scotland

Where: Oban, Scotland with Basking Shark Scotland
Best for: Basking sharks
Just off the coast of Oban in western Scotland, you can go snorkelling with the biggest giants in British waters. At eight metres long, basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world. No need to start panicking when you see that fin swim towards you. These gentle creatures haven’t got any teeth, they just eat plankton.

2. Stackpole Quay, Wales

Best for: Spider crabs
Every May and June, an army of thousands of spider crabs march across the sandy base of Stackpole Quay to begin the mating season. Male spider crabs can grow up to be one and a half metres wide. You can watch this amazing phenomenon for yourself. Just pull on your snorkel mask, grab your fins and wade into this shallow harbour for a close encounter with these spiny red crustaceans.

3. Lundy Island, North Devon

Where: Take part in a Snorkel Safari on Lundy Island, Devon
Best for: Grey seals, moon jellyfish, common dolphins
Lundy Island is one of the best places to go snorkelling and diving in the UK. It was the first area to be named a Marine Conservation Zone in the UK. Grey seals are often spotted tugging on snorkelers’ fins here. You’ll also have the chance of spotting strawberry anemones, lobsters, moon jellyfish, dogfish and possibly a dolphin, if you are lucky.

4. Studland Bay, Dorset

Where: Study endangered seahorses with Studland Sea School
Best for: Seahorses
Studland Bay in Dorset is consistently ranked as one of Britain’s top snorkelling sites. Here you can swim with rare British seahorses. Your best chance of spotting these delicate animals is between May and September. Another option is to head out on a kayak snorkelling tour around Old Harry Rock - and maybe catch sight of a dolphin or two.

5. Inner Hebrides, Scotland

Where: Take a dip in Scotland’s first snorkel trail in the North West Highlands, including stops at Tanera Mòr, Camusnagaul and Achmelvich Bay
Best for: Sea urchins, moon jellyfish, common sunstars
Scotland has plenty of hiking trails, but the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s very first snorkel trail. The underwater tour will take you through four spectacular snorkelling sites in the North West Highlands. Observe lobsters and crabs at Tanera Mòr’s steep drop-off, plus sea urchins and anemones behind the old pier at Mellon Charles.

6. Isles of Scilly

Where: Swim away with Scilly Seal Snorkelling on St Martin’s in the Isles of Scilly
Best for: Grey seals
Ever wanted to swim with seals? Scilly Seal Snorkelling have been running snorkelling tours to the Eastern Isles for 20 years. Pull on a wetsuit, hop in a boat and these guys will take you swimming with the slinky Atlantic grey seals that dive under the crystal clear waters here. Seal snorkelling trips run from March/April time through to September.

7. Skomer Marine Reserve, Wales

Where: Become an underwater photographer with Andy Davies on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Best for: Puffins, seals, porpoises, pink seafans
Just under one mile off the Pembrokeshire coast you’ll find the untouched Skomer Marine Reserve. It’s known for being a paradise for birds as well as dolphins, seals, porpoises, colourful sea slugs, crabs and lobsters. You can take part in a photography snorkeling workshop with Andy Davies, capturing local puffins as they dive under the water, hunting for fish.

8. Porthkerris Cove, Cornwall

Where: Drawna Rocks, Porthkerris Cove, Cornwall
Best for: Dogfish, spider crabs, lobster
With super-clear visibility on flat days, Drawna Rocks is one of the best places to see marine life in the UK. The Cornish reef is home to John Dory fish, crabs, lobsters, jewel anemones and the occasional dogfish. You can also learn to scuba dive and freedive in these clear waters.

9. Sark, Channel Islands

Sunfish in Portugal
Where: Sark, Channel Islands
Best for: Sunfish
Sunfish are probably the most bizarre looking fish to be found in British waters. At two and half metres wide, these huge creatures are more frequently seen in tropical waters but they have been spied around the Channel Islands and Cornwall in late summer. Sunfish eat jellyfish and are often spotted sunbathing on the surface of the water before diving back down into the depths of the sea.

10. Penzance, Cornwall

Where: 20 miles off the coast of Penzance, Cornwall
Best for: Blue sharks
From June to October, Cornwall is home to beautiful blue sharks. You can take a full-day trip with photographer Charles Hood off the coast of Penzance to have a one-to-one encounter with the grey, slender creatures. They will appear on calm sunny days, and you might have to be patient, but once one arrives you’ll often see many more – and they usually hang around for a couple of hours.
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