There are many activities that are akin to an action-packed holiday on the British Isles- walking the hills in the Lake District, a spot of surfing in Cornwall, horse-riding along the shores of Norfolk; but how many of you realise that the UK is actually one of the best places in the world to go diving? When you think of diving, you tend to think of tropical climates, warm waters and exotic sea-life. While the UK may not match this ideal in many respects, British waters offer an abundance of fascinating wreck sites, diverse sea-life and spectacular scenery, making them a paradise for divers.
Orkney Islands, Scotland
The Orkney Islands are a magical set of islands of the north coast of Scotland, offering tranquillity, white, sandy beaches and a wealth of natural beauty. The Orkney Islands are also home to Scapa Flow, one of the best wreckage sites in Europe and possibly even the world! Scapa Flow is one of Britain’s most historic stretches of water and is best known as the UK’s chief naval base in World Wars One and Two. To protect the Grand Fleet of naval ships, defences including minefields and anti-submarine nets were assembled and old merchant ships were sunk to act as blockships to prevent access to the channel. There were many German attempts to take Scapa Flow and as a result, the area is now an unrivalled wreck-diving experience, rich in history. Present day divers will find German warships, destroyers and the British blockships, just waiting to be explored.
Weymouth in Dorset, is one of the top spots in the UK to head to if you’re interested in wreck diving. There are around 120 wreck sites within a 20 mile radius of the area and due to its sheltered nature, diving is usually possible all year round. The English Channel is awash with ship wrecks from centuries of sea battles and merchant shipping. Divers around Weymouth can explore the wrecks of U-Boats, passenger liners and warships. One of the most popular dive sites in the area is the wreckage of the HMS M2, a navy submarine that was adapted to carry a small sea plane. The M2 sank in 1932 and it is widely thought that one of the hangar doors was accidentally left open or not closed properly, which resulted in the ship flooding and sinking. The wreck is still largely intact and makes for a fascinating dive.
Farne Islands, Northumberland
These rocky islands, just off the coast of Northumberland, offer an exciting opportunity for divers looking to get closer to nature and explore the habitats of the surrounding wildlife. The Farne Islands are home to over 5,000 grey seals with around 1,000 pups being born into the colony each year. Divers here are in for a treat as underwater, the seals are playful and balletic in their movements. Expect them to be inquisitive and come in for a closer look; the younger pups will want to play and will probably nibble at your fins! There are also around 23 species of birds on these islands including around 37,000 pairs of puffins, so visitors can enjoy the surroundings above water, as well as under.
The UK really does have many fascinating diving opportunities that are right on our doorstep but are all too often overlooked. The waters surrounding Britain are steeped in history, nature and beauty that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, so for your next diving trip, consider staying closer to home and exploring the diving spots of the UK.