This article is intended to provide the already qualified Scuba diver with information which will help to plan dives in the waters of the United Kingdom, whether as a local resident or a visitor. Information is provided without prejudice, and is not guaranteed accurate or complete. Use it at your own risk.
Although wet suits are used by many divers, and the coastal waters of the west coast are kept relatively warm for their latitude by the Gulf stream, dry suits are recommended for most sites.
The UK has a large number of dive sites, both inland and coastal, and many of these are wreck dives. The inland dives include a number of lakes, quarries and caves.
Chesil Cove is a shoreline shoreline dive site in Dorset, England.
The most southerly part of the 18-mile (29 km) long Chesil Beach
Access: Shore dive
Most dives will not exceed 10 to 15m.
Topography: Beach shoreline
Ecology: South coast marine life, including nudibranch, dogfish, spider crabs, lobster, cuttle fish, pipefish and John Dory.
Features: Although there have been several shipwrecks in the cove, there is not much diveable wreckage near the shore
Special skills required: No special skills recommended, the site is popular for diver training.
The Eddystone, (also known as Eddystone Rocks) is an offshore rocky reef dive site in Cornwall
A seaswept group of rocks some 9 miles (14 kilometres) south west of Rame Head
Access: Day boat.
Topography: Gneissic outcrop of the Cornubian batholith supporting one of the world’s iconic lighthouses.
Hazards: Can get very rough.
The Farne Islands is an offshore dive site in a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland, England
Topography: There are between 15 and 20 islands and several tidal rocks from 2.5 to 7.5 km from the mainland, The main islands in the Inner Group are Inner Farne, Knoxes Reef and the East and West Wideopens, which are all connected at very low tide, and the Megstone a bit further away. The Outer Group, beyond Staple Sound, comprises Staple Island, the Brownsman, North and South Wamses, Big Harcar and the Longstone. The Farnes are Dolerite outcrops, which forms resistant columns, giving the islands their steep cliffs, and the stacks scattered around the sea around the islands. Many of the small islands are bare rock, but the larger islands have a layer of soil supporting vegetation. The strata slope slightly down to the north, so the highest cliffs are to the south and some beaches to the north.
Ecology: Birds and seals. Some sites may provide an opportunity to combine diving and bird watching — at the Pinnacles, Guillemots may be seen fishing at safety stop depth.
Wreck of the Danish steamer Chris Christenson, close to the reef off the south tip of Longstone, Outer Farnes in about 30-35m at N55°38.397′ W001°36.182′
Wreck of the German SS Abessinia, at Knifestone, Outer Farnes, at N55°38.9′ W001°36.12′, in 9-20m of water.
Wreck of the British cargo and passenger steamer Brittania, on the Callers, Outer Farnes.
Wreck of the French steamship St Andre at Staple island.
Special skills required: There are sites suitable for all levels of diver.
It is usually possible to dive at the Farnes regardless of wind direction, as there is always shelter somewhere.
Fort Bovisand is a shoreline dive site in Bovisand harbour in Devon
A fort built at to defend the entrance of Plymouth Sound, at the narrows opposite the east end of Plymouth Breakwater.
Since mid 2008, Fort Bovisand has been the base of Discovery Divers
- Hand Deeps is an offshore dive site in Cornwall
an area of the English Channel 8 nm south-west of Rame Head
Access: Boat dive only
Directions: 3.5 nm north-west of the Eddystone.
Maximum depth at the site is 55 m and minimum depth is Top of pinnacles between 7 and 19 m.
Visibility is likely to be Frequent good visibility
Topography: The pinnacles are within a rectangle about 1 nm north-south and 0.5 nm west-east, and are shown on Admiralty Chart 1613. The central pinnacle rises from more than 40 m to 7 m.
Ecology: Anemone-covered walls make it a popular dive site.
It is named for a group of 5 pinnacles which rise from the seabed to between 7 and 19 m from the surface.
- Hillsea Point Rock is a dive site
a group of seven or eight pinnacles in the English Channel 0.5 nm south-east of Hillsea Point, Devon. see Admiralty Chart 1613
Access: Boat dive only
Maximum depth at the site is 25 m on the sea bed and minimum depth is 2 m depth at the top.
Topography: One of the pinnacles is split from top to bottom from north to south. The gap is narrow at the top, increasing to a 15 m long swim-through about 1 m wide at 23 m depth.
- Holy Island is a dive site in an island on the western side of the larger Isle of Anglesey, North Wales
The Manacles is an offshore rocky reef dive site in A group of rocks off The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall close to Porthoustock
Directions: The rocks extend about 1 nm east and south east of Manacle Point
Topography: There are many submerged rocks and several groups of rocks that break the surface, although some are tidal. The Middle Manacles in the north consist of Maen Chynoweth or Morah, Chyronos, Maen Gerrick and the Gwinges, the eastern group has Vase Rock and Pen Vin, the large group in the centre include the Minstrel Rock, Carn-dhu, Maen Voes (the Voices) and the Quants and Maen Land is in the south-west.
Features: Many of the well-known wrecks are in the central group where depths are less than 6 metres over an area of about 300 m by 200 m. These wrecks include:
HMS Primrose, an 18-gun Cruizer class brig-sloop.
Greek steamer Spyridon Vagliano
The John, sank on the Maen Land.
A popular spot for diving due to the shipwrecks around them. The name is derived from the Cornish meyn eglos (church stones).
- Martin’s Haven is a dive site in A small bay in Pembrokeshire, Wales, on the Dale Peninsula.
Ecology: Grey Seals can be seen basking on the rocks.
Martin’s Haven is in the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve and is popular for scuba diving.
Scapa Flow is a dive site in a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, United Kingdom, sheltered by the islands of Mainland, Graemsay, Burray, South Ronaldsay and Hoy.
Access: As of 2010, at least twelve “live aboard” boats—mostly converted trawlers with bunk rooms in their former holds—take recreational divers out to the main sites, primarily from the main harbour at Stromness.
Maximum depth at the site is The wrecks are mostly at bottom depths of 35 to 50 m..
Visibility is likely to be very variable, from 2 to 20 m, and water temperature The water is cold
Topography: Scapa flow has an area of about 312 km2. It has a sand bottom with maximum depth of about 60 m, but mostly about 30 m, and is one of the great natural harbours of the world.
Features: There are very few sites which can offer such an abundance of large, historic wrecks lying in close proximity and shallow, relatively benign diving conditions. The wreckage of the remaining seven ships of the German fleet and some other sites such as the blockships is regularly listed in dive magazines and internet forums among the top dive sites in the UK, Europe, and even the world.
The wrecks include:
The three sister battleships of the König class, the SMS König, SMS Kronprinz and SMS Markgraf lie upside down with around 25m of water over them. They are impressive dives, because of their large size.
The four light cruisers SMS Dresden, SMS Karlsruhe, SMS Brummer, and SMS Cöln lie on their sides with around 16–20 metres of water over them. With the exception of the shallower Karlsruhe, they have been less heavily salvaged than the battleships and are much more accessible for divers.
Additional sites of interest include the destroyer V 83, which was raised and used as a working boat during salvage operations, and later abandoned; the Churchill blockships, such as the Tabarka, the Gobernador Bories, and the Doyle in Burra Sound; the U-boat UB 116; and the trawler James Barrie.
Hazards: It is possible to enter a wreck inadvertently in poor visibility and light. This could be disastrous if you can’t find your way out again.
Recommended equipment: A surface marker buoy will provide a guideline to the surface in conditions of poor visibility, which mitigates the risk of getting lost inside a wreck after unintentionally entering in the dark.
Permits: Divers must first obtain a permit from the Island Harbour Authorities, which is available through diving shops and centres. Divers are permitted to enter the wrecks, but not to retrieve artefacts located within 100 metres of any wreck. However, broken pieces of ships’ pottery and glass bottles have been washed into shallow waters and onto beaches.
The wrecks of HMS Royal Oak and the dreadnought HMS Vanguard, which exploded at anchor during the First World War, are war graves protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. Only divers of the British armed forces are permitted to visit them.Scapa Flow was the United Kingdom’s main naval base during World War I and World War II, but was closed in 1956.
The Isles of Scilly is a dive site in an archipelago off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula
Directions: about 45 km off Land’s End.
Topography: The archipelago consists of five inhabited islands and about 140 small rocky islets. They are all early Permian granite of the Cornubian batholith.
- St. Abbs, (also known as historically known as Coldingham Shore) is a dive site in a small fishing village located on the south east coast of Scotland, in the Berwickshire area of Scottish Borders
Access: Shore diving to a depth of about 15 metres is possible from the rocks on the outside of the harbour wall.
Visibility is likely to be The sea around the village is unusually clear, in contrast to the more silt-laden coastal waters further to the north or south.
Features: The double archway at “Cathedral Rock” is just 50 metres from the shore.
Special skills required: This is a popular site for trainees to do initial sea dives.
These clear waters and the spectacular underwater scenery resulted in Britain’s first Voluntary Marine Reserve being established at St. Abbs. Several small, nearby rocky islands, such as “Big Green Carr”, “Broad Craig” and “Little Carr” are near to the harbour and easily can be circumnavigated underwater.
Swanage Pier is a dive site in at the southern end of Swanage Bay near Swanage, a small town in the south east of Dorset, England.
Access: Shore dive with easy access from adjacent car parks
Maximum depth at the site is About 5 m.
Ecology: Used for marine identification and underwater photography courses due to the wide range of marine life found under the pier.
Features: The Victorian pier is over 100 years old.
Special skills required: No special skills recommended. The pier is a popular training site for new and qualified divers.
One of the few sheltered sea diving sites on the south coast