Highland loch makes a splash as UK's top wild swimming destination
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One of the Highlands' most renowned tourist draws has been named the UK’s most popular wild swimming destination in new research.
World-famous Loch Ness, spanning 23 miles of the Great Glen fault, was also deemed a clean and safe location for what has become an increasingly popular activity during lockdown.
The study by Finest Filters, a firm specialising in water filtration, analysed Instagram posts and hashtags to identify the top 20 most popular UK spots for wild swimming.
They then compared the results using interactive maps developed by The UK Rivers Trust and Surfers Against Sewage, a marine conservation charity, to determine if the water is safe to swim in.
It found that a quarter of those destinations aren’t safe for swimmers given pollution from sewage and other sources.
The report said: “The legendary Loch Ness in Scotland achieved first place with 420,169 associated hashtags.
“Lake Windermere in the Lake District came second with 112,931 and the picturesque Faerie Pools in the Isle of Skye came third with 87,387.
Of the 20 most popular locations, the River Ouse in Yorkshire, the River Derwent in Derbyshire, Port Meadow in Oxford, the Serpentine Lido in Cambridgeshire and Grantchester Meadows in Cambridge do not meet water quality standards set out by the EU water framework directive.
The report added: “This is due in large part to how the UK handles it’s sewage.
“According to a report published by the WWF, there are more than 18,000 sewer overflows across England and Wales, with roughly 90% of them emptying directly into rivers, which has a huge impact on the local environment and public health.
In 2019, The Environment Agency outlined its predictions that by 2021, 19% of rivers could pass the basic standard of health.
However, a recent Panorama report cast serious doubts on the UK Government’s ability to achieve this target.
Reflecting on the results Adam Green, marketing director at Finest Filters, said: “If lockdowns have taught us anything, it’s how important spending time out in nature is for our health and wellbeing.
“But if these results are any indication, we are falling short in ensuring that natural water spots remain clean and healthy, which can have severe consequences on the health of local populations and ecologies.
“Now more than ever, we need to take steps to safeguard the health of UK waters for the good of the nation.
“For anyone looking to jump into UK waters this summer, I highly recommend doing research before heading out.
“There are some great resources that are available to help you stay safe and up to date with the latest information.”