SCUBA Travel

Diving the UK: British Dive Sites and Operators

6 July 2016
The UK has some fabulous diving in her seas, not least on the hundreds of wrecks. There is also beautiful marine life and at times stunning visibility.

You will need a drysuit, or a 7 mm wetsuit with hood and gloves. When is the best time to dive the UK? September and October are the warmest months for diving, February and March the coldest. You can dive all year round, using inland sites when the weather is rough.

Diving in Britain - Nudibranch
Dendronotus frondosus nudibranch taken in the Irish Sea. Photo credit: Tim Nicholson

The UK's marine area covers over 850000 km2: that's three times more than her land area. Her seas regularly host 13 species of marine mammal and even leatherback turtles. When divers first visit UK seas they are often amazed at the diversity and abundance of life (although, in winter, they are sometimes also dismayed by the cold water). There are an estimated 8500 marine species of plant and animal. Two species of seahorse can be found in seagrass and seaweed beds in shallow offshore waters – the spiny seahorse is found as far north as Shetland. 1

See also our Diving the Isle of Man section.

UK Dive Sites UK Diving Operators and Clubs UK Accommodation UK Diving Books Your Comments


UK Dive Sites

Scotland: Scapa Flow Sound of Mull St Kilda England: Farne Islands Capernwray Plymouth Channel Cornwall Lundy Island Wales: Pembrokeshire

SCAPA FLOW

On Midsummer Day in 1919, German Admiral Ludwig von Reuter ordered the German High Seas Fleet to be scuttled. Seventy-four German ships had been anchored at the Orkney Islands of Scotland. They were sunk to prevent them being divided up amongst the allies. Many of the ships were recovered for salvage; but those remaining submerged have helped make Scapa Flow into one of the most popular dive sites in Europe.

As well as the WWI wrecks, there are many "blocking" ships. These were deliberately sunk during both wars to prevent access into the bay by the enemy. Additionally, there are more recent wrecks such as the James Barrie. The wrecks are not only interesting in their own right but are covered in marine life.

Dive boats in Stromness and Kirkwall take you out to the wrecks.

You can dive all year round at Scapa Flow. August, September and October have the warmest water but this can coincide with algal blooms giving poorer visibility. The best vis is between December and March, but days are short and the water cold around 7 °C. The diving season runs from April to October, with You can dive all year round though.

Diving Scapa Flow
Divers decompressing in Scapa Flow. Photo credit: Joe Ryan

For more details we recommend the Scapa Flow Dive Guide.

Depth: 18 m

Blockship Tabarka, Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland

Diving the Blockship Tabarka

One of the last blockships to be sunk. She is upside down with numerous entry points and has been voted the best dive in Europe.

The wreck lies between 14 and 18 m and needs to be dived at slack water. You can do it as a shore or, more usually, as a boat dive. She is covered in anemones.

The Tabarka was built in Rotterdam in 1909.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (2)

"Tabarka gets my vote - I dived it a few years ago now: and the memory is still fresh in my mind. It was stunning"
Jon Chitty BSAC, 31 March 2014
"In 18 m this wreck was scuttled to prevent submarine attack during WW2 and is a 2000t steamer built 1909. Boilers and reciprocating gear intact, covered inside with marine life, anemones, lobsters, starfish, urchins and wrasse. Easy penetration dive, hull very open many access and entry points, light streams in. Wonderful dive"
Janet A'Lee
"All the wrecks are cool, but this shallow 18 m dive is a real beauty. One of the block ships, but only dived on slack as the tide when rushes and you would not want to be inside it when its running. Luckily all Skippers from Stromness are class. Covered in life, gin clear water -like a cathedral a beautiful place. Worth the trip and the one of surprises of Scapa."
Richard Rigby, Jordan

Photo credit: Joe Ryan.

Depth: 42 m

MV James Barrie, Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland

The James Barrie was a fishing boat which ran into Louther Rock in 1969. The crew abandoned ship but some hours later she floated off by herself. A lifeboat took her in tow, helped by two fishing boats. Ice in the hold of the James Barrie had plugged the hole in her, but as the ice melted the sea rushed in. The tow lines were cut and the James Barrie sank.

Divers on the wreck of the James Barrie in Scapa Flow, UK
Divers on the wreck of the James Barrie. Photo credit: Joe Ryan

She lies at 42 m. Intact, she is covered in hydroids with plumose anemones.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Amazing to find such clear conditions at 41 m in UK waters. A great dive.
G. R. Walters

Photo credit: Joe Ryan.

Depth: 18-36 m

Cöln II, Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland

The most intact of the German High Seas Battle Fleet. A light cruiser, she now lies on her starboard side.

"Fantastic historic wreck. Mostly intact (some evidence of salvage operations) lying on its side. Guns still intact, good vis. loads of life."
Danny Jones
Depth: 15 m

Inverlane, Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland

One of the World War II blocking ships. Rises out of the water: you clamber on and dive down through one of the hatches. Many plumose anemones.

Depth: 37 m

Brummer, Scapa Flow, Orkney, Scotland

Light German cruiser scuttled in 1919. Built 1913 and used as a mine layer. Superstructure intact and guns still in place. Covered in life including brittle stars, feather stars, sea urchins, crabs and plumose anemones.

Sound of Mull, West Coast Scotland

"I've been diving for a few years in various parts of the world and if you don't mind the cold then you could do much worse than dive the wrecks of the Sound of Mull on the west coast of Scotland. There are lots of dive operators and lots of dives for people of various experience. Lots of wrecks: The Hispania, Thesis, Shuna and Rondo just to name a few. The best part is even if you're not into wreck penetration the life on the wrecks is just as worthwhile."
Den Dyer

Anemones and Pink Sea Urchins

Hispania, Sound of Mull, West Coast Scotland

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"The best wreck in Britain. Very intact, picturesque, covered in life.
Tim Nicholson

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Saint Kilda, Scotland

This volcanic archipelago, with its spectacular landscapes, is situated off the coast of the Hebrides and comprises the islands of Hirta, Dun, Soay and Boreray. According to UNESCO, it has some of the highest cliffs in Europe, which have large colonies of rare and endangered species of birds, especially puffins and gannets. The archipelago, uninhabited since 1930, bears the evidence of more than 2,000 years of human occupation in the extreme conditions prevalent in the Hebrides. Human vestiges include built structures and field systems, the cleits and the traditional Highland stone houses. The diving around St Kilda is beautiful with great visibility. Many photos of the underwater life of St Kilda are in our British Isles photo gallery.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Oceanic blue water and visibility. The only dive site in Britain which is outside the green coastal waters. Highlight? 7.5 lb lobsters!"
Tim Nicholson

Lobster underwater in St Kilda, Scotland

North Sea, UK

" Pick from any of 2000 wrecks - pick the right tides and auto 25 metres viz. "
Mick, 2012

Farne Islands, England

"Farne Islands in North East England - amongst Grey Seal colony numbering 6,000."
Gordon Ollivere, September 2015, UK

Capernwray, England

" Capernwray, the nationally acclaimed diving centre located inland just outside Lancaster. Capernwray is set in a disused quarry and has a depth of around 18 metres with extremely clear water and 18c temperature which is 10c less than we have been used to in Egypt. To add some additional interest to the shoals of fish including the most human friendly rainbow trout that investigate every diver as they enter the water. The owners of the centre have added a couple of helicopters, a few boats including an old minesweeper, a diving bell, a cannon and a fantastic 120 seater passenger plan, plus two huge plastic horses named Shergar and Lord Lucan that were originally part of the Blackpool illuminations.
We spent most of our first dive in and around the plane. As we got down to around 15 metres we approached the plane from the front, a sight that was kind of eerie, first you see a large shadow, then the nosecone and then the cockpit and wings; it was awesome. The doors and seating have been removed and the tail section is separated from the main fuselage which makes it easy to access and swim around, it does test ones buoyancy. As a disabled person I have to say that it was the easiest access I have had onto a plane for the past 22 years.
As we prepared for our second dive of the afternoon we noticed a large number of people arriving and marquees being erected close to the water's edge. We were informed that they were preparing for the Great Northern Swim, a sponsored event that had been transferred from Lake Windermere due problems with toxic algae. Our second dive went really well, we looked around the minesweeper, next onto an old cruise boat and then one of the helicopters. Before we knew it we were getting low on air and it was time to call it a day. But as we surfaced none of us could believe our eyes, we have an audience of over 500 people eagerly waiting for us to get out of the water so they could start their swim. I’m told that the owners of Capernwray are planning to add a Blackpool tram; I can't wait for the opportunity to actually sit on the top deck of a tram for the first time in 22 years."
Dave Thompson, 2012, UK
Depth: 50 m

Lanfranc, English Channel

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"A liner in 50 metres, midway between France and England in the Channel. Very good viz on the slack. Copious large cod and pouting. Some splendid crabs and lobsters. Brilliant cold water dive.
Steve Axon

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HMS Scilla, Plymouth, England

" Great wreck dive"
Mark, 2014
.

Eddystone Reef, Plymouth, England

"12 miles off Plymouth, England. Reef rises from sea to depth approx 50 m. Encrusted with jewel anemone. Remains of ancient wrecks, including large 17th century anchor. Stunning! "
Janet A'Lee

Egan Layne and the Cilla, Plymouth, England

"At Plymouth there are the two classic dives: the Egan Layne and the Cilla, both close to each other. There are various inshore and off shore sites around the breakwater: broken up wrecks etc. There is also diving at the Eddystone Reef. There are a couple of dive shops near the harbour who can refill your air and maybe get you on a dive boat. Slightly further afield Looe divers run a boat out (you need two tanks) with them to inshore wrecks and the Kanton Buckets, about thirty mins from Plymouth a little further near Mevagissey."
Banburger, 2009

LUNDY ISLAND, England

Lundy Island is a marine conservation zone lying in the mouth of the Bristol Channel. It is extremely rich in marine life, has 10 diveable wrecks and generally has great visibility. Small, it is three miles from end to end and just half a mile across. You can read more on the marine conservation zone here.

Pinnacles, Lundy Island, England

"There are three pinnacles which can be reached all within one dive. Vast amounts of jewel anemones, cuckoo wrasse, edible and spider crab. Edible urchins as big as a football, amazing. "
Yvonne Davis

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Depth 18-25 m

The Robert, Lundy Island, England

The MV Robert sank in 1975. It is buoyed and lies between 18 and 25 m. You can easily enter the hold.

Plumose Anemones

"Wreck covered in plumose anemone, lots of life around and inside the wreck itself. Large conger and a resident lobster that must be at least 80 yrs old, fantastic dive. "
Yvonne Davis

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Seal Colony, Lundy Island, England

Lundy Island is famous for its colony of around 200 Atlantic grey seals. These are playful and curious.

Gaverne, Cornwall, England

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Shallow bay entry but surprising gully to the right with an abundance of life and it drops to 13m to a sandy floor with cuttlefish. Am only a beginner that can dive above 18m but it is a beautiful dive when the sea is calm. "
Phillip Hyden, 2011

Newquay Headland, Cornwall, England

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Not very deep with 4 entries, 3 to the left of the car park and 1 on little fistral. Are seals on the right and loads of crabs muscles fish etc. "
Phillip Hyden, 2011

Maen Vase, Cornwall, England

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Sharks, wrecks and superb Fauna. "
Mick, 2012
31-36 m

HMS Whirlwind, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Built in 1943, HMS Whirlwind was a Royal Navy destroyer. In the 1950s she was converted to an anti-submarine frigate and was used in the cold war. She sank in 1974 whilst being used for target practice. The wreck lies on its port side. GPS co-ordinates are 52 16.791N, 004 40.527W.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"WW2 destroyer sank in the 70's, awesome, lots of fish, good viz lots of light 36 mts"
Catfish, 2015
28-35 m

SS Vendome, Pembrokeshire, Wales

A coal cargo ship, the SS Vendome sank in 1888 just 6 years after launch. She lies between 28 and 35 m. On her final voyage she was travelling between the Isle of Man and South Wales when she hit a rock. The wreck lies off Portgrain.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Victorian steamer on reef, plenty of life 32 mts. "
Catfish, 2015
8-13 m

Dan Beard, Pembrokeshire, Wales

Torpedoed by a U-boat while on route for Derry in 1944. 29 men were lost.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Shallow wreckage of US liberty ship with caves and seals, good viz. "
Catfish, 2015

UK Dive Operators and Clubs

In the UK much of the diving and diver training is via a BSAC Club. BSAC training covers many skills from the beginning, like rescue, that you need to pay extra with a PADI centre. There are of course also many commercial centres offering PADI, BSAC and other courses and diving opportunities - one of these may be a better option if you are pressed for time. If you live in Britain the cheapest way to go diving, though, is by joining a club.

England: Cornwall Plymouth Kent Lundy Derbyshire Greater Manchester Merseyside Cheshire Scotland: Scapa Flow Wales: Glamorgan Pembrokeshire

Cornwall

Cornish Diving School

Cornish Diving School
Cornwall Divers
Bar Rd
Falmouth
Cornwall
TR11 4BN

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"PADI Open water course £299.00 including equipment.
One of the best learning experience, and adventurous experiences I have ever had. Their "tailored to the individual" approach and sense of fun made learning to dive thrilling, and enjoyable. I will be going back to The Cornish Dive School for all my future PADI Training. Excellent value for money. "
Stu Last, UK, 2013
Cornwall

Cornwall Divers

Bar Rd
Falmouth
Cornwall
TR11 4BN

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Excellent help when buying new equipment. Staff are genuinely interested in getting the customer the best deal on the gear most suited to their needs and scuba style."
Stu Last, UK, 2013
Cornwall

Wavecrest Scuba

Monkey Tree Holiday Park
Scotland Road
Hendra Croft
Cornwall
TR8 5QR
Tel: 07890 132822

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"£30 a guided dive. Various dive sites visited like Port Gaverne, Newquay Headland, Swanpool. Driven to dive site, lunch supplied, kit available to hire when with them on a guided dive. An excellent service with tea/coffee as soon as you get out and up for a really good laugh. Have a caravan there for divers to rent. Can sleep 6 and only £60 a night for the caravan no matter how many are staying. A+++ caravan with all the amenities and a great balcony to sit and talk about the days diving with a bottle of wine. The whole package is well worth the money, £60 a day for the caravan, 2 dives a day £60, as well as first class instruction when needed from a 5 star padi IDDR.
I am agoraphobic and find it extremely hard to be around people and Mark and the Staff make me feel welcome and relaxed so easily so is the best and only place I would go in Cornwall to dive so far. "
Phillip Hyden, UK, 2011
Gloucestershire

Dive 90

Organise trips to Lundy Island.

Knightsbridge Business Centre
Cheltenham
GL51 9TA
Tel: 01242 680003

Kent

Blue Ocean Diving

Organise trips to Lundy Island, Cornwall, Portland, Plymouth and the English Channel.

West Park Road
Maidstone
Kent
ME15 7AF
Tel: 01622 212022
[email protected]

Kent

Mutiny Diving

9 The Glenmore Centre
White Cliffs Business Park
Whitfield
Dover
Kent
Tel: 07889 821266
E-mail: [email protected].
Most of their diving is around the coastline of Kent with its huge abundance of sunken shipwrecks. Provides tailored PADI and IANTD diving courses.

London

Big Squid

Unit 2f Clapham North Arts Centre
26-32 Voltaire Road
London
SW4 6DH
Tel: +44(0) 207627 0700 (direct line) +44(0)7950 252548 (mobile)
E-mail: [email protected]

Chesterfield

Divenut Scuba

Chesterfield Adventure Centre
Wheatbridge Road
Chesterfield
Derbyshire
S40 2AB
Tel: 01246 245408

Derbyshire

Belper Sub-Aqua Club

Belper Leisure Centre on Wednesdays @ 8pm or afterwards at the Greyhound Inn on Whitemoor Lane from 9pm. Affiliated to the British Sub-Aqua Club.
Phone: Andy or Sue on 01629 822393

Manchester Diving Group

The Old Tramways Offices
Barlow Moor Road
Chorlton-cum-Hardy
Manchester
M21 8DQ
Tel: 07775 422056 (Kath), 0161 881 9050 (Club nights only)
[email protected]

Salford Sub-Aqua Club

Fit City Broughton Pool
Great Cheetham Street West
Salford
M7 9DN

BS-AC Club meets every Monday between 8pm and 9pm in the Main Pool at Fit City Broughton Pool and later at the nearby Cricket Club fon Mondays from 9.30pm, (26 Catherine Road, Crumpsall, Manchester, M8 4HF) .

Greater Manchester

Trafford Sub-Aqua Club

Urmston Leisure Centre
Bowfell Road
Flixton
[email protected]

BS-AC Club meets every Wednesday. From 9pm til 10pm at Urmston Leisure Centre on Bowfell Road in Flixton.

Greater Manchester

Landshark Divers

Irlam and Cadishead Leisure Centre
Liverpool Road
Irlam
manchester
M44 6BR
Tel: 07963301125
[email protected]

BSAC Club meets Thursday evenings at Irlam and Cadishead Leisure Centre from 19:30pm-20:30pm then Irlam Steel Works Club, Liverpool Rd, irlam, Manchester M44 6APIrlam Steel Works Club, Liverpool rd, irlam, Manchester M44 6AP, Thursday evenings from 20:40pm -22:30pm from 20:40pm -22:30pm.

Manchester

Aquatech Divers

1 Reddish Lane
Debdale
Manchester
M18 7JH
Tel: 0161 2235102
[email protected]

Stockport

Abyss Dive Centre

Mamtor House
Goyt Mill
Shepley Lane
Stockport
SK6 7HX
Tel: 0161 427 1616
[email protected]

Merseyside

Liverpool Scuba Diving Club

Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park
Longview Drive
Huyton
L36 6EG.
[email protected]
Tel: Bob Tarry on 01244 378700

The club meets and trains every Tuesday at Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park. After 9.00pm the members adjourn to the Clockface Pub in Prescot (54 Derby Street, Prescot, Merseyside L34 3LL)

Merseyside

Merseyside Sub-Aqua Club

Merseyside Sub-Aqua Club - Branch 5
Club House
1 Riverview Road
Wallasey
CH44 6PX
[email protected]

Family diving club based on the banks of the River Mersey on the Wirral peninsula. Welcome divers of all abilities, agencies and their families. Club Night: Thursday 7:00pm. Pool Training: Thursday 7:30pm. Socialising in Clubhouse after the Pool 8.30pm onwards.

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow Diving Centre

Tel: (0)1856 751492
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

Halton Charters

3 Ness Road
Stromness
Orkney
KW16 3DL
Tel: (0)1856 851532
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow Diving Holidays

Lerquoy
Outertown
Stromness
Orkney
Scotland
KW16 3JP
Tel: (0)1856 851110
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

The Diving Cellar

The Diving Cellar
4 Victoria Street
Stromness
Orkney
Scotland
KW16 3AA
Tel: (0)1856 850055
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

Sunrise Charters

Carradale
Weyland Bay
Kirkwall
Orkney
KW15 1TD
Tel: (0)1856 874425
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow Diving and John's Charters

John Thornton
Polrudden House
Peerie Sea Loan
Kirkwall
Orkney
Scotland
KW15 1UH
Telephone (0)1856 874761
Mobile 07850 246831
E-mail: [email protected]

Scapa Flow

Scapa Flow Charters

Scapa Flow Charters
5 Church Road
Stromness
Orkney
KW16 3BA
Tel: 07774407093
E-mail: [email protected]

Glamorgan

Ocean Quest

Ocean Quest
Porthcawl
Glamorgan
Wales
Tel: 01656 783310
,[email protected]
Ocean Quest provide training, travel, educational programmes and equipment hire and sales covering a range of activities including diving.

Pembrokeshire

Celtic Diving

Celtic Diving
Fishguard Harbour
Pembrokeshire
West Wales
Tel: 07816 640684
[email protected]
Hard boat charter packages with accommodation. Wandrin’ Star is 48ft and the largest diving charter hard boat operating in Pembrokeshire. She offers ample deck space for twelve divers plus their kit.

Reviews: 5 Star Rating: Recommended (1)

"Loads of sites for all abilities, deep wrecks 40+ - also plenty of shallower wrecks and reefs. Boat: Wandrin' Star with accommodation package, works out at £ 150 per diver for a weekend if you have pax 12 Have been before and will be going again. Very good value for money. Lovely boat, knowledgable skipper, great accommodation. "
Catfish, 2015

UK Accommodation

bedandbreakfasts.co.uk/scuba.asp
Bed and Breakfast near diving centres


Further Reading

Dive Scapa Flow
Lawson Wood.
On Midsummers Day in 1919, a German Admiral ordered the German High Seas Fleet to be scuttled. Seventy-four German ships had been anchored at the Orkney Islands of Scotland. They were sunk to prevent them being divided up amongst the allies. These and other shipwrecks have helped make Scapa Flow into one of the most popular dive sites in Europe.
Read our review of Dive Scapa Flow...
Wrecks & Reefs of Southeast Scotland: 100 Dives from the Forth Road Bridge to Eyemouth
by Mike Clark
Dive Scotland's Greatest Wrecks
by Rod Macdonald
Covers 10 of the best wreck dives in Scotland: Hispania, Rondo, Breda, HMS Port Napier, Wallachia, Akka, San Tiburco, Fram, Köln and Kronprinz Wilhelm.
UK Dive Guide: Diving Guide to England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales
by Patrick Shier
Mostly covering the south of England, and just dives above 18 m.
Discover UK Diving: An Introduction & Personal Guide to UK Scuba Diving
by Will Appleyard
Well presented book but just covers the south of England.
Great British Marine Animals
by Paul Naylor
Organised as an identification guide, what makes this book so special is the commentary on the behaviour of the animals featured. And the 350 delightful photographs. Unlike some guides, there are no blurred or cloudy images here. Every photo makes it into the book on its own merit.
Read our review of Great British Marine Animals...
Scottish Wrecks and Reefs
by Tim Nicholson
Beautiful pictures of the Hispania, Breda, Thesis, Rondo, Brummer, Karslruhe, Dresden, James Barrie, Kronprinz Wilhelm, Am Balg, Calve Island, Loch Sunart and other Scottish dive sites.
The Wreck Site
Large online database about wrecks in Britain and around the world.

References
1 The State of Nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories RSPB 2013


Your Comments

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