Made up of four countries; England Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the UK (United Kingdom) isn’t normally the first place you think of when it comes to a scuba diving holiday.
However, while the weather may be bleak, and the water may be cold, there are some pretty incredible finds under the waves of this part of the world.
What can you expect from this guide?
We recognize that although everyone would love to visit a great dive destination like the UK, it can be a little daunting finding first-hand information online, that gives you enough of that ease of mind to make you comfortable enough to plan your trip.
Planning and organizing a big dive trip, far from home, and finding accurate information on where to dive, where to stay, what dive shops to use, what seasons to visit, costs, attractions you should see on land, and more, makes it a bit stressful.
But it doesn’t have to be.
As fellow scuba travelers, we feel your pain when it comes to getting reliable information to organize our dive trips, so we have put together this guide to help with any information you will need!
If you still have questions about scuba diving in the UK, feel free to ask them in the comments below, or shoot us an email!
The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving UK
With four countries spread across two main land masses, there is a lot to see and do in the UK when it comes to scuba diving.
But don’t worry, we’re going to break it down for you and highlight the best parts.
Scuba Diving Spots in England
A marine sanctuary, Lundy Island is home to a rich variety of wildlife. The biggest draw here is the local seal colony. It’s a breeding colony, you if you are lucky you will get to see some fluffy pups.
The seals here are known for their playfulness and have been caught nibbling on diver’s fins in an attempt to play. There is no dive outfitter on the island, so you will have to use one from Clovelly.
The area is also home to a couple wreck sites. Due to weather conditions, scuba diving in Lundy Island is only available from May to October.
Cornwall & Plymouth
Cornwall is one of the top dive destinations in the UK. Plenty of coastline and easy access makes it a great pick for vacationers looking to combine their diving with some sight-seeing.
As with many other dive sites across the UK, Cornwall is home to several impressive shipwrecks that divers are able to explore. There are also plenty of seals and, during the summer months, you may see basking sharks, killer whales, and dolphins.
Only an hour away from Cornwall is Plymouth, another great dive destination known for its impressive wrecks. The James Eagan Lane and HMS Scylla are two all-time favourites.
The Farne Islands are made up of about 30 or so small islands off the coast of Northumberland.
It’s home to plenty of birds and marine life, including seals of which there are somewhere between 4000-5000 spread across the islands.
The Farne Islands offer scenic diving but are best known for the wrecks. The area is known to be a dangerous ship passageway, meaning there is plenty in the depths for avid wreck enthusiasts to explore.
The Jurassic Coast of this part of England is a popular UNESCO World Heritage site. However, as beautiful as it is aboveground, there is lots to discover underwater as well.
Sharks, seals, shipwrecks, and more can be seen in the numerous dive sites along this coastline. Lyme Bay is a popular spot for wreck enthusiasts as the remains of many WWI and WWII ships and German U-boats lie on the sea bottom.
Another great site is Swanage Pier; perfect for beginners and novice divers.
Isle of Man
Clear waters with plenty of marine life make the Isle of Man a popular dive destination in the UK.
The best area to go is the Calf of Man, in the south-west of the island.
Rocky topography, tons of marine life, and some mysterious wrecks make it an intriguing dive destination.
Scuba Diving Spots in Scotland
St. Kilda is fast becoming one of the top scuba diving spots in the UK.
Ancient volcanic activity means the area is covered in cave networks and tunnels; some of the best in the world.
The waters here are quite clear and the area has a reputation for being home to ‘the finest collection of marine life in the UK’.
Loch Fyne is Scotland’s second largest sea loch. Because it is protected, diving is available year round.
Plenty of small critters, anemones, and the occasional basking shark can be found here.
Despite the silty waters, visibility here is usually quite good unless after a heavy rainfall.
Isle of Mull
The Isle of Mull is known for its unpolluted waters that attract tons of wildlife including basking sharks, minke whales, and dolphins.
There are a few wrecks here and lots of options for novice divers.
Scotland’s Summer Isles are considered to be one of the area’s best kept secrets when it comes to scuba diving in the UK.
There are 15 wrecks and tons of reefs and shoals. Caves, vertical walls, and lots of marine life make it a great pick.
The Shetlands are one of the most picturesque diving sites in Ireland.
Cliff walls covered in colorful anemones make it a favourite for underwater photographers.
Plus, there is no sediment, which means that dive sites across the Shetlands always offer clear visibility.
The Orkney Islands are known for their war history, and the scuttling of the German fleet is one of the most interesting stories both in terms of local history but also for divers.
At the end of WWI in Scapa Flow, the admiral ordered his fleet to scuttle their own ships to prevent their enemies from getting the German military materials.
Many of these ships still lie on the seabed waiting for adventurous scuba divers to explore them.
Scuba Diving Spots in Wales
A gorgeous coastline dotted with more than 350 wrecks and plenty of drift dive opportunities that are suitable for divers of all levels.
One of the biggest draws of Pembrokeshire is that it is home to one of only 3 marine nature reserves in the UK: The Skomer Marine Natural Reserve.
Tons of marine life both above and below the waves. Keep an eye out for playful seals and dolphins.
Located in north-west Wales, Anglesey has miles of coastline filled with exciting dive sites. The area is known for its reefs and its wrecks.
The wrecks here are especially popular with new and novice divers as they are pretty safe to explore.
Scuba Diving Spots in Northern Ireland
The North Coast
Wrecks, reefs, and drop-offs are what the north coast of Northern Ireland’s dive sites are known for.
Diver’s will need to keep an eye on currents and water conditions to access the many of the dive sites, but it’s worth it.
Beautiful corals, plenty of reef fish, and great visibility make Northern Ireland’s dive sites a must for scuba diving the UK. Keep your eye out for dolphins and basking sharks.
A great place for wreck diving, Strangford Lough, located on the east coast of Northern Ireland (not too far from Belfast) is home to about 15 dive sites.
What makes this area truly special is that it is a popular pupping spot for basking sharks.
Basking sharks are most often seen between the months of May to September.
For each location we will tell you what they are best known for, and if decide you want to check it out, click the link and you will be directed to a more thorough guide about that specific location, with all the information you will need.
This awesome scuba video by PADI, highlights many of the best underwater attractions of Scapa Flow, Scotland!
Frequently asked questions about UK
When it comes to scuba diving, and even traveling, in the UK, there tends to be a lot of questions. We’ve tried to cover the most asked about topics in this guide to help you plan your dream trip to the UK.
If we missed something, or if you have a question, just pop it in the comments and we will answer right away.
How much does it cost to dive in the UK?
When it comes to scuba diving in the UK, there are a few things you will need to take into consideration regarding the costs.
First and foremost, scuba diving in Europe does tend to be much pricier than in other parts of the world, such as Southeast Asia.
Secondly, the British Pound is stronger than the dollar, thirdly, you will likely have to rent appropriate gear (unless you are a regular cold water diver).
Of course costs will differ depending on the destination and dive shop. Please don’t let pricing be the determining factor when considering a dive outfitter.
Other aspects such as safety, quality of equipment, dive instructors/guides, and reputation should always be a priority. Make sure to read reviews and research the dive fitters you intend to use ahead of time.
With that in mind, here are some average estimates of scuba diving costs in the UK. The range is quite large as some places also include dry suit training with their certification due to cold water temperatures.
- 2 Fun Dives: 100-200 GDP (depends on shore dives vs boat dives)
- PADI Open Water Certification: 400-600 GDP
- PADI Advanced Open Water Certification: 400-600 GDP
- PADI Rescue and EFR Course: 500-600 GDP
They also do Divemaster internships if you’re interested in a awesome experience, as well as instructor development. Prices for diving and courses vary, but you get the idea of what to expect.
What is the best time to visit the UK?
Let’s be honest, the UK isn’t really known for having great weather. It’s often overcast and grey with plenty of rain and wind. Some areas in the Scottish Highlands will get snow, and a truly hot sunny day anywhere is very rare.
With that in mind it makes sense that the best time of year to visit is during the summer months. When it’s a bit warmer and drier. Of course, this is when the majority of tourists tend to visit the UK which can mean an increase in prices in everything from airfare to accommodation, and of course plenty of crowds.
To help avoid this, we suggest trying to visit on the shoulder season (spring or autumn).
In terms of scuba diving, the waters of the UK are the warmest from June to October, hovering between 55F-60F.
Not surprisingly, this is the most common scuba diving season in the UK, especially since it’s when you are most likely to see some of the UK’s coolest marine species.
What Critters Should I Look for in the UK?
The UK may not have tropical coral reefs, but the waters around these four countries are teeming with marine life. From the big stuff to teeny tiny macro critters.
While there isn’t anything particularly unique to scuba diving the UK, here are a few things that are definitely worth getting excited about.
- Basking Sharks: Quite common in dive sites across the UK. The high season for them is May to September.
- Seals: Common along the coastlines of the UK. They tend to be quite friendly and curious.
- Whales: Minke whales and killer whales can occasionally be seen off the coastal areas of the UK.
- Mola Mola: Keep an eye out for this rare find in the open water during the summer months.
- Dolphins: Bottle nose dolphins and common dolphins are common across the UK.
What is the Visa Situation for Americans?
American passport holders traveling to the UK do not need a visa. Travelers can stay up to six months in the UK for travel purpose.
You may, however, be asked to show proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay and/or proof of exit (i.e. a return ticket).
The UK is not part of the Schengen area, so you can spend the maximum amount of time in the UK, if you wish, then move on to another country in Europe.
If you are not an American citizen, please do your research ahead of time to confirm your visa requirements.
What Areas Should I Stay in?
The UK may not be big compared to the United States, but it’s big enough that you will need to move around. Especially if you plan on combining your scuba diving with some inland city visits and sight-seeing.
Your best bet is to stay as close to your diving outfitter as possible while diving to save on travel time. Then, if you choose, pick a couple of cities or other spots to spend a few nights and explore.
When it comes to your city stays and sight-seeing, many of the bigger cities offer some great day trip opportunities; perfect for those who don’t want to spend their whole vacation packing up and moving.
Keep in mind that some places may book up quickly, especially if you are traveling on weekends of during holiday time. It’s always best to book in advance, both in terms of diving accommodation and sight-seeing, to help ensure you get quality accommodation in a good location at a reasonable price.
How Do I Get to the UK
Travellers from the United States will have to fly into the UK. There are a few international airports depends on which country you want to fly into, however, when it comes to the most routes and likely the cheapest routes, your best bet is normally to fly into London, England.
London has two main international airports: Heathrow and Gatwick. It’s worth looking at both to compare pricing.
If you want to start in Scotland, the cheapest flights will be to either Glasgow or Edinburgh and if you are looking to start in Northern Ireland check flights to Belfast or even Dublin which is only a couple hour drive away.
How do I get Around the UK?
Getting around the UK is pretty easy, with many travel options. If you are short on time, or don’t want to waste your time travelling, you will want to look into the local flights.
There are several airports across the UK and airfare can be purchased at a low cost if booked well in advance. However, if you are bringing your own scuba gear with you, it could get quite expensive in terms of baggage fees.
The second option is to rely on public transit; busses and trains. There are local options in the cities as well as options that will take you to the different countries (expect for Northern Ireland, since it is across the Irish Sea).
Your third option is to rent a car. This will allow you the most freedom and is a great option if you plan on travelling throughout the UK, or even just throughout one of the UK’s countries.
Note that in the UK, they drive on the left side of the road and manual cars are far more common than automatic cars.
What is the Food like in the UK?
To say what kind of food does the UK have is, in a way, generalizing a bit too much. After all, we need to remember that the UK is made up of four different countries.
That being said, there are lots of similarities within the dishes. Though, each country (and some specific areas) all have their local dishes.
Typical food in this area of the world consists of hearty meat and potato style dishes. There is also lots of seafood, especially on the coastal areas.
Common traditions among all countries including your Sunday roast dinner (often roast beef served with vegetables) and afternoon tea. Tea can be just a cup of tea with a scone or biscuits (cookies) or cake, or, for special occasions, high tea which is a tray including finger sandwiches, scones, and mini desserts.
Scones are often served with jam preserves or lemon curd and clotted cream and butter.
If you plan on visiting Scotland you should also try haggis, which is probably the most well-known dish in the country.
It’s often served with a popular Scottish side fish, neeps and tatties (potatoes and turnips). Of course when visiting Scotland, you can’t forget about the shortbread.
When it comes to Wales, keep your eye out for Welshcakes (not to be confused with scones), rarebit which is jokingly referred to as ‘posh cheese on toast’, and Welsh cawl which is a stew-like soup.
For Northern Ireland, think Beef and Guinness pie, Irish Stew, and full Irish breakfast (often called Ulster breakfast in Northern Ireland) which consist of grilled tomatoes, black pudding, fried egg, sausages and back bacon.
As for England, you’ll see lots of steak and kidney pies, scotch eggs, Yorkshire puddings (especially with roast dinners), Shepherd’s Pie, and bread pudding.
If you are in the Cornwall area, be sure to also try a true Cornish pasty; a beef and vegetable filled pastry.
Whatever country you visit in the UK; you can bet that their food will fill you up and you won’t leave the table hungry.
What Other Things Should I see and Do in the UK?
The easy answer? Tons. Whether you are interested in countryside and nature or history and city life, there’s plenty to choose from. We’ve broken up our top recommendations based by country below.
London: The capital of England is big, busy, and pricey, but it’s absolutely worth a visit. Wave to the Queen at Buckingham Palace, window shop at Harrods, chase your Harry Potter dreams at King’s Cross Station, check out the food markets and more. You could easily spend days here exploring everything London has to offer. It also makes a good base to go see Stonehenge, along with other day trips.
Cotswolds: If cute cottages and fairytale villages are your thing, then the Cotswolds is a must during your visit to the UK. The region stretches nearly 800 square miles across five different counties and offer fun shops, galleries, festivals, and of course endless photo opportunities.
Lake District: Lakes, hills, forests, and scenic views make the Lake District one of the most picturesque areas of England. It’s perfect for outdoor lovers who are interested in cycling, walking, and just being outside. The weather can be a bit unpredictable though so bring lots of layers!
Oxford: Best known for its world-renown college, Oxford is a gorgeous city along the River Thames. Marvel at the architecture, visit the museums, and stroll along the river in this charming city.
Bath: Natural hot springs, the Roman Baths, a stunning abbey, and Georgian architecture make Bath a popular pick for travellers to England.
Edinburgh: The capital of Scotland is one of the most captivating medieval cities in the world. The city is steeped in history along with a number of ghost, murder, witch, and dark fairy tales. Walk the Royal Mile, hike Arthur’s Seat (an extinct volcano), drink in the city’s pubs, and follow in JK Rowling’s footsteps as you find some of the places that inspired her Harry Potter series.
Loch Ness: Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster? Then how about visiting this world-famous lake and seeing if you can catch a glimpse of her for yourself? The area around Loch Ness is very scenic with plenty of smaller towns and villages and outdoor activities.
Isle of Skye: One of the most magical places in Scotland, the Isle of Skye is filled with beautiful scenic views, myths and legends, and hiking trails. Spend a night or two in the adorable town of Portree while you explore the area.
Glasgow: Glasgow is a vibrant city with plenty of museums and galleries and a great nightlife. Head’s up though, the local accent here is very strong!
Snowdonia: The best known national park in Wales made up of hundreds of lakes, rolling hills, and Mount Snowdown which offers views across to Ireland. Explore the park’s hiking and walking trails or experience the fastest zipline in the world.
Cardiff: The capital of Wales and the largest city in the country, Cardiff offers a fun mix of medieval history and castles along with museums, galleries, shops, and plenty of entertainment options.
Conwy: A walled city in Northern Wales, Conwy is home to one of the most impressive castles in the entire country. Also nearby is Llandudno, a gorgeous seaside region and popular holiday destination.
Belfast: The capital of Northern Ireland is full of interesting history. From the building of the ill-fated Titanic to the ethno-national conflict known as The Troubles in the late 20th century. The city has a bit of a gritty exterior, but the people are warm and welcoming and there’s quite a lot to see and do.
Giant’s Causeway: One of the most scenic and top visited spots on the island of Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway is a natural attraction made up of more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. They say this unusual natural phenomenon occurred because of volcanic activity, but local legends say it’s actually because of fighting giants.
Derry: Derry, or Londonderry, is famed for its 17th century walls, is filled with markets, old buildings, and museums to explore. It’s also known for its Halloween celebrations, claiming to be home to the scariest Halloween party in Europe.
What underwater cameras will I need?
One thing is for sure, you are definitely going to want to get as many photo or video memories during your epic dive trip to Bali. We put together a big list of the Best Dive Cameras for 2018, which will give you an idea for whats out there.
On that list we put together, you will find the best options, based on person experience, for every budget or need. So check that out.
More UK Travel Information
The UK, or United Kingdom, is made up of four different countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Note that the UK is different from Great Britain which only includes three of the four countries; England, Scotland, and Wales.
English is commonly spoken across all countries; however, some countries also have their own languages. In Wales the second official language is Welsh.
In Scotland, they also speak Scots and Scottish Gaelic, and in Northern Ireland there are two additional languages; Irish and a local variety of Scots called Ulster Scots. Accents also differ across each country and within the countries themselves.
The currency used across the UK is the British Pound Sterling (GBP). However, each of the country produces its own notes.
Travellers should know that some places outside of Northern Ireland may not accept GBP bills and coins from Northern Ireland. So, if possible, try to get your currency from England which is widely accepted across the four countries.
Between all four countries, there are 31 UNESCO World Heritage Sites across the UK. Twenty-six of these are cultural, four are natural, and one is mixed.
Stonehenge is probably the best known UNESCO World Heritage site in the UK though the cities of Edinburgh and Bath, along with the Tower of London, are all quite popular to visit as well.
More UK scuba and travel resources
Have you been to UK? Want to write for us? We are always looking for more articles and guides and stories about UK, so hit us up with your ideas at Justin@artofscubadiving.com
More articles coming soon!
United Kingdom Geography
The United Kingdom is a state made up of the historic countries of England, Wales and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland is an island nation in northwestern Europe.
It is known as the home of both modern parliamentary democracy and the Industrial Revolution. Also, it is a constitutional monarchy comprising much of the British Isles.
The United Kingdom remains an economic and military power with great political and cultural influence around the globe.
The total land area in United Kingdom is approximately 242,495 square kilometers, and with roughly 65.7 million inhabitants.
Capital city of United Kingdom: London
Best times to visit United Kingdom: For the most part, summer (early June to mid-September) should be fairly warm, quite dry and the best time to visit the UK if you are after consistent weather and an outdoor holiday. Seasonal attractions ought to be open, but not as hectic as high summer. It completely depends on what you hope to get out of the holiday, and also where in the UK you plan on visiting. For example, the South West of England is lovely all year round and tends to be slightly warmer if you’re going off to the peak.
How to get to United Kingdom: Flights from most countries will fly right into London Heathrow as that’s the major hub for U.K. And even Europe.
Visa requirements for United Kingdom: U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourist or business travel to the United Kingdom for a stay up to 6 months.
Currency of United Kingdom: The currency in United Kingdom is the Pound Sterling
Official Language of United Kingdom: English is the official language of United Kingdom
UNESCO World Heritage sites in United Kingdom
- Blaenavon Industrial Landscape (2000)
- Blenheim Palace (1987)
- Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church (1988)
- Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd (1986)
- City of Bath (1987)
- Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape (2006)
- Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
- Dorset and East Devon Coast (2001)
- Durham Castle and Cathedral (1986)
- The Forth Bridge (2015)
- Frontiers of the Roman Empire (1987)
- Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast (1986)
- Gough and Inaccessible Islands (1995)
- Heart of Neolithic Orkney (1999)
- Henderson Island (1988)
- Historic Town of St George and Related Fortifications, Bermuda (2000)
- Ironbridge Gorge (1986)
- Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (2004)
- Maritime Greenwich (1997)
- New Lanark (2001)
- Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (1995)
- Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church (1987)
- Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal (2009)
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2003)
- Saltaire (2001)
- St Kilda (1986)
- Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)
- Studley Royal Park including the Ruins of Fountains Abbey (1986) )
- Tower of London (1988)
- The English Lake District (2017)
Scuba diving safety tips
Keep these rules of thumb in mind whenever you are on or by the water:
- Think safety at all times. Planning reduces risk and gives you more worry-free fun.
- Bring the necessary equipment. It should be in good condition and easily accessible.
- Respect the sea and the weather. Only go out with your boat when it is safe.
- Follow the rules of the sea, and make sure you know what they are.
- Wear life jackets or other flotation devices.
- Make sure you are rested and sober. Do not drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Be considerate, and remember that safety, the environment, and the well-being of everybody is a common responsibility.