10 of the best places to go scuba diving in the UK
Don’t book that far-flung diving holiday just yet…
Scuba diving in the UK may conjure up visions of dark, murky lakes with no bottom and giant fish hiding in the seaweed, ready to jump out at you. However, Britain is actually home to some of the most beautiful scuba diving spots in Europe. From the Scottish reefs in the icy-cold North Sea to flooded quarries filled with old airplane wrecks, there are dozens of unique scuba diving sites with super clear visibility. You’ve just got to know where to find them…
1. Lundy Island, Devon
Lundy Island was the first area to be named a Marine Conservation Zone in the UK. Located just a few miles from Barnstaple in North Devon, it is one of the most vibrant marine life areas in the country with 10 diveable wrecks and great visibility. Expect to see lobsters, moon jellyfish, urchins as big as footballs and playful seals if you’re lucky.
Dive with… Lundy Diving
2. Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland
Scapa Flow is one of the most famous dive sites in the UK. 52 German Naval ships were scuttled here during the second world war and the wrecks now attract divers from all over the world. Blockship Tabarka is a favourite among many divers. It was voted as one of Europe’s best dive sites because it’s easily accessible at 14m to 18m, covered in sea life, and surrounded by crystal clear water.
Dive with… John’s Diving Charters
3. Farne Islands, Northumberland
The Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland are one of the most dangerous shipping areas in the British Isles. As a result, dozens of wrecks litter the seabed here, waiting for divers to descend and explore. Alongside fish, crustaceans and anemones, there is a strong grey seal colony here with an estimated 5,000 seals swimming around the Farne Islands’ rocks. You’ll know they are nearby when you feel one tugging your fins.
Dive with… PADI North England
4. Skomer Marine Reserve, Pembrokeshire, Wales
If you are looking for a spectacular British reef to explore, head to the Skomer Marine Reserve. Just off the coast of Pembrokeshire, it’s protected from fishing and development which means that the reef is teeming with sea life. There are wall drops which descend to over 50m, caves and over 500 wrecks to explore including the Lucy, a popular dive for advanced divers. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, seals, colourful sea slugs, catfish, lobsters and rare seahorses.
Dive with… West Wales Dive Company
5. St Kilda, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
If you venture 40 miles off the Outer Hebrides, you will find the archipelago of St Kilda, a mecca for British divers. The spectacular landscape — complete with towering cliffs and giant sea stacks — is mirrored in the depths below. St Kilda is a haven of caves, arches and walls covered in marine life with amazing water visibility. It’s a great place to spot seals and puffins diving in the water, huge lobsters, plus beautiful multi-coloured jewelled anemones.
Dive with… PADI Scotland
6. Capernwray, Lancashire
Capernwray is one of the most unique inland diving centres in the UK. Located just outside Lancaster, you will find a flooded quarry pit with more than just seaweed at the bottom. A helicopter, a minesweeper, a cannon, a 120-seater plane and two giant plastic horses from Blackpool Pleasure Beach are among the sights you’ll see down here. The lake descends to a depth of 18m and the water is brilliantly clear. We’ve heard the rainbow trout are especially friendly towards humans.
Dive with… Capernwray Diving Centre
7. The Manacles, Cornwall
The Manacles is a well-known Cornish diving site off the Lizard Peninsula. It has amazing drop-offs, pinnacles and reefs covered with Gorgonian sea fans, jewel anemones and dead man’s fingers. Over 110 shipwrecks can be found here, ranging from 8m to 80m deep. One of the most famous ships is the Mohegan which sank in 1898 and is said to be haunted. Watch out for conger eels hiding inside holes in the wreck.
Dive with… Porthkeris Divers
8. Rhoscolyn Beacon, Anglesey, Wales
Anglesey is every diver’s dream with a fantastic array of marine life and wrecks to explore. Rhoscolyn Beacon is one of the best drift diving spots in the UK. Located on the outermost rock at Rhoscolyn, the reef drops away to around 18m. When the current is right, fish and lobsters emerge and the anemones open up. There are plenty of rocky gullies to explore, populated by pollock, prawns, cuckoo wrasse and crabs.
Dive with… SBS Rib Charters
9. St Abbs Marine Reserve, Scotland
St. Abbs in Scotland is home to some of the best shore dives in the UK, thanks to the strong tides and deep water. Just 50m offshore, you’ll find Cathedral Rock, a beautiful double rock arch covered in anemones and dead man’s fingers. Broad Craig is another popular shore dive site, along with Big Green Carr and Little Green Carr. Expect to see plenty of wrasse and less common species like the horseman anemone.
Dive with… Dive St Abbs
10. M2 Portland, Dorset
Ever wanted to dive alongside a sunken submarine? HMS M2 is one of the most unusual submarine wrecks in the UK. Situated three miles off Lyme Bay in Dorset, it lies at around 36m deep and was an underwater aircraft carrier designed to surface, launch one plane and sink into the depths again. Sadly the M2 sunk in 1932 with all 60 souls on board. It’s an eery, unique dive that is really worth a visit.
Dive with… Dive Beyond
Feeling inspired? PADI run courses all over the country. A word of warning though – diving is addictive…