By guest blogger Yvonne Press
Whenever divers get together, usually somewhere tropical, one of the first questions to make the rounds is where everyone has been diving — answer “Scotland” and the usual reaction runs the gamut of disbelief. But visit Scotland yourself and you’ll soon discover a lively scene of diving schools, clubs and individual divers.
And what are they diving for? No, it’s not the Loch Ness Monster. In fact, Loch Ness is one of the few freshwater lochs that’s much less attractive to divers than their saltwater cousins.
Similar to Norway’s fjords, saltwater lochs with access to the Atlantic line Scotland’s west coast, offering ideal territory for training and practice dives. Full of crustaceans, including squat lobsters and shore crabs, these lochs are also home to dogfish, arguably one of the most patient underwater photography subjects. Soft coral can also be found: aptly named dead man’s fingers, they come in shades from translucent white to flaming orange.
Traveling west, divers are spoiled for choice between the spectacular wall and pinnacle dives around the Small Isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna. Closer to the mainland lies the Sound of Mull. Treacherous for pre-GPS boat traffic, the Sound is home to a number of shipwrecks, many of which sank in the early 1900s. One of the crowd favorites here is the wreck of the Rondo. Sitting on the wall of a tiny islet, it stretches from 16 to 180 feet (5 to 55 m), making it one of the most accessible, yet challenging, wrecks to dive. For those who can’t go too deep yet or techies who must wait out deco stops on the ascent, it’s worth exploring the reef on either side of the wreck, which is home to kelp forests, scorpionfish and a plethora of sea hares.
The crown jewel of Scottish diving, however, can be found in the north, in the shelter of the Orkney islands. This is the world-famous Scapa Flow, home to the remains of Germany’s World War I fleet, which was scuttled here in the aftermath of the war. Battleships up to 492 feet (150 m) long rest here in depths of 98 to 148 feet (30 to 45 m). They are surrounded by smaller warships, as well as shallow blockships, making Scapa Flow one of the world’s top destinations for wreck fans. It’s easy to spend a week-long liveaboard trip here and barely scratch the surface of maritime history.
If all of this hasn’t yet convinced you to don your drysuit and start exploring the 43 to 57 degree F (6 to 14C) waters, how about this: in most places in Scotland divers are allowed to collect seafood such as scallops, lobsters and edible crabs as long as they are destined for their own dinner table. It’s one of the most sustainable ways to enjoy a true seafood feast.
For more information about learning to dive in Scotland and diving Scotland’s coasts try Deep Blue Scuba. To dive the Sound of Mull, contact Lochaline Boat Charters, and to explore Scapa Flow by liveaboard try the M.V. Invincible or Scapa Scuba.