Many organised group activities got cancelled from our calendars during recent lockdowns and restrictions. If you’d had some experience with snorkelling and freediving, you could have done these activities with your family, not too far from home and with minimal equipment. If you weren’t lucky enough to live by the coast or be a seasoned water baby, perhaps now if the time to explore the coastline on this year’s staycation and learn a new skill.
Our list below includes some more of the UK’s best snorkelling and freediving destinations. Please see our earlier blog Top 5 Snorkelling Experiences for further suggestions.
Located in a secluded cove along the Lizard peninsula, Porthkerris is in a Marine Conservation Zone. It has some spectacular snorkelling from the shore, while The Manacles can be reached by boat. Below its vertical cliff faces are rocky reefs with large boulders embedded in a sandy bottom. There is plenty of marine life to see in this area from cuttlefish to John Dory and snakelocks anemones. From June onwards, blue sharks appear offshore to enjoy a diet of squid. They are easily identified by their blue/silver back, slender body, long pectoral fins and big eyes.
Courses and tours: SSI Freediving courses, freediving with blue shark tours, freediving with seals and dolphin tours
Best time to visit: Courses all year round, June-September for blue sharks
Water temperature: between 10-17 degrees
Visibility: up to 25 metres
Approximate cost: half day Try Freediving £100, blue shark trip 6 hours £100
Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
Hugged by the Atlantic Ocean, the north Causeway Coast is a rugged, green playground home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Giant’s Causeway. As a snorkeller or freediver you can enjoy shipwrecks, caves and canyons which grace the crystal clear waters below steep cliff faces. Swim with the curious island seals in the kelp forests of the Skerries Islands or Cat Sharks in the 2 marine conservation zones. Basking sharks, mola mola and dolphins are also seen here. Topside, explore Dragonstone and Pyke Harbour, which were Game of Thrones locations.
Courses and tours: SSI Freediving courses and intros, SUP lessons, water safety and surf survival courses, snorkelling trips
Best time to visit: Possible all year round, weather dependant
Water temperature: max 15 degrees in height of summer
Approximate cost: 3 hour Cave Snorkel tour £45, half day Intro to Freediving £80
Just 28 miles off the coast of Cornwall lie an archipelago of islands with stunning beaches, sub-tropical gardens and prolific birdlife. This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Eastern isles, has one of Europe’s most important breeding populations of Atlantic Grey Seals. They enjoy the warm climate and kelp forests, often sneaking up behind you to play a game of hide-and-seek. Granite reef walls are home to a variety of marine life and shipwrecks.
Tours: Seal Snorkelling trips
Best time to visit: April-September
Water temperature: max 15 degrees
Approximate cost: half day trip £49
St Abbs, Scotland
Established as a marine reserve in 1984, the coastal waters of Berwickshire stretch from Eyemouth to St Abbs Head. Healthy kelp beds, rocky shores and deep gullies make for some spectacular snorkelling where you are likely to find sea hares, crabs and wolffish. Cliff faces covered in soft corals, hydroids and anemones will demand your attention, but keep one eye behind you as bigger mammals like grey seals, minke whales and harbour porpoises might pass by in the blue!
Courses and tours: Discover Snorkelling session and guided snorkelling tour
Best time to visit: All year round, but June-September is the warmest
Water temperature: 14 degrees max July-September
Visibility: 8-10 metres year round
Approximate cost: 2 hours Discover Snorkelling £30, 2 hours Guided Snorkelling £30
Plymouth Sound and the Tamar Estuaries is a Marine Protected Area. Limestone drop-offs, kelp forests, coves and caves is just some of the topography you can enjoy snorkelling and freediving. Firestone Bay, Batten Bay, Jennycliff, Bovisand and Wembury are all ideal locations to soak up a large percentage of Plymouth’s 1,000+ marine life species. Native cold water kelp and warm water species inhabit the waters alongside soft coral ecosystems and seagrass beds, which provide habitats for seahorses and sea slugs. Basking sharks and blue sharks can also be seen in summer.
Courses and tours: SSI Freediving courses, blue shark safaris, Kids Club and Summer Activity weeks
Best time to visit: Year round but kids Summer Clubs run during the summer holidays only; Sea Safaris for blue sharks are in August and September
Water temperature: between 6-18 degrees
Visibility: Up to 15 metres
Approximate cost: Freediving and Snorkelling Sea Safari £180, Try Freediving course from £49
Lulworth Cove, Near Swanage, Dorset
Lulworth Cove on the Dorset coast has crystal-clear waters and stunning coastal views. The picturesque horseshoe-shaped bay is part of the Jurassic Coast and is a fine example of coastal erosion. Snorkelling is best at the cove itself where seaweed forests are home to diverse marine life including pipe fish. At Man O’War Bay - east of Durdle Door - the reef runs out across the mouth of the protected area. Here rocks and channels shelter Ballan wrasse and blennies among others.
Tours: Guided snorkel tour
Best time to visit: Every Monday and Tuesday during summer holidays
Water temperature: 8-16 degrees
Visibility: Around 5 metres
Approximate cost: 2 hour tour £25
Anglesey, North Wales
Surrounded by the Menai Strait and the Irish Sea, much of the coastline around Anglesey Island is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Anglesey’s shallow bays have a plethora of macro life. Porth Castell and Trearddur Bay offer some great snorkelling with a mixture of kelp, walls and rocks covered in dead man’s fingers and anemones. There are plenty of cracks harbouring corkwing wrasse and squat lobsters, and you can see velvet swimming crabs and dragonets on the sandy bottom. You may even receive a visit from the occasional seal or porpoise.
Courses and tours: Guided Wild Swimming and guided Snorkelling Adventure
Best time to visit: All year round, but May-October are warmer
Water temperature: between 8-17 degrees
Visibility: 5-20 metres
Approximate cost: half day Guided Wild Swimming Experience session, half day Snorkelling Adventure – prices on application.