Scotland Underwater: St Cats, Loch Fyne
The next in a series of blogs about Scotland Underwater from Ross Mclaren…
Loch Fyne on Scotland’s west coast is a sea loch probably most well-known for the incredible sea food that comes from it and is sold across the UK and Europe. At 70km long and with a maximum depth of around 200m, it’s also Scotland’s longest sea loch, which means… plenty of opportunity for diving.
Although maybe just pipped to the title of “Most Dived Loch in Scotland” by Loch Long just to the east, Loch Fyne is an ever-popular destination for divers throughout the country and even the UK. She may be slightly further away from the central belt and Glasgow than Loch Long, but it’s more than worth it.
Coming from Glasgow, you actually drive around the head of Loch Long, down her west bank under the shadow impressive Arrochar Alps before continuing to follow the A83 into the unbelievable Glen Croe. The views alone from the Rest and Be Thankful at the top of the Glen looking back on the road you’ve taken is worth the extra drive.
With twenty-two dives sites in the Loch (according to Finstrokes), I won’t even pretend I’ve dived them all, there is more than enough to whet the appetite of any and all divers.
Aside from Finnart (or A-Frames) on Loch Long, I don’t think there is another dive site in Scotland as popular as St Cats, on Finstrokes it’s listed as Seal Reef and some also call it St Catherines. The name might be up for discussion, but its popularity is most definitely not and once you’ve taken a wee dook underwater it’s easy to see why. With plenty of parking, and a pretty easy entry and exit point, it can be really busy during the summer months… but sadly, not just with divers! The good old Scottish midge also appears to very much appreciate the site as well and enjoys a wee buffet courtesy a la diver… you have been warned! However, the site is well worth braving our wee pests.
Now there’s two ways to dive St Cats. The “main” dive is straight forward to be honest. Once you’ve dropped beneath the surface head directly out from the shore you come to a “drop off”. It’s not a cliff per-say, but it’s a pretty obvious slope. At this point head down to around 8 to 10m and simply turn right keeping the incline on your right-hand side. This isn’t the main part of the dive, but don’t rush too fast, keep an eye out here for the odd dogfish hanging around the slope. Keep finning at about 10m and eventually you pick up the rocky reef. From this point it is totally up to yourself as to your depth. If you’re looking for a shallower dive simply keep swimming across the reef and take as long as you like looking under all the rocks, there’s plenty of life to find.
Now, I make no promises here, but the last few dive days we’ve had here has rewarded us with an absolutely magnificent lobster at the far side of the reef. Best way to find it would be to head down edge of the rocks once you first hit them to about 16 to 18m. At this point, swim straight across the reef until you come to the end of the boulders. There should be a rather large rock, with another propped up against it, and on the far side of it, at the bottom the home of Mr Lobster. But, be careful, the claws are big. If you’ve not found it by swimming straight across simply swim up and down the far side edge of the boulders and it shouldn’t be too hard to spot.
Personally, I always tend to follow the edge of the rocks down to steel wire which stretches right across the reef at about 16 to 20m, I’ve no idea what it’s from, but it makes for a really good navigation point during the dive. Most people tend to use this as the start of their zig zag exploration of the reef, but if you are looking for depth swim over the top of the wire and continue to follow the rocks down to your chosen depth. I’ve only ever been to around 40m, and although there isn’t much in the way of life, there has been fireworks anemone found at depth and even the odd cuttlefish/bobtail squid. I’m not going to lie; this is the one and only time I’ve seen one during a dive and being around 37m at the time I did wonder if I was narked. I still like a wee look down deeper just on the off chance I come across it again… cause you know, obviously it hasn’t moved in the past year or so… one can dream.
Regardless of the depth you chose the dive itself is the same. Simply zig zag your way back up the reef taking your time. The rocks are absolutely teeming in life and there’s very often the odd lobster hiding away. Once you’re done exploring simply head back to the edge of the reef, now keeping the slope on your left at about 10m again and the fin back for about the same time it took you to reach the boulders and your back to the entry point. It’s as easy as that!
Now, if you are looking for something a wee bit different there is actually a “wreck” of a speed boat in the opposite direction to the reef. Many people will give compass bearings etc. to reach it, but I’ve found the easiest way to find it is to simply swim straight out and down from the entry point and head to around 18 to 22m. From here turn left keeping the slope on your left-hand side. Have your buddy swim at around 17m and you at about 21m (if visibility allows for it) and simply start finning until you come across it. Depending on your fin strokes, you should hit the wreck after about 4 to 7mins. The detour from the “main” dive to visit the speedboat is well worth it. The “wreck” is pretty much intact, though the seats seem to have miraculously detached themselves, and is now home to scores of squat lobsters, anemones and at one time a rather large “Ling”. Sadly, at some point over the last year or so, we think, someone has used the boat as practice for lift bags and actually turned the whole thing 1800 and in the process it would appear they’ve scared off the ling, which I’ll be honest is rather infuriating! My suggestion for taking in the speedboat is to do this first, once you’re finished exploring the “wreck”, head up the slope to a shallower depth and then head back along it keeping it on your right hand side. This will take you back to the entrance, however if gas/dive plan allows you can continue along to the “main” reef and do a slightly shallower zig zag checking out the boulders once again.
St Cats/Seal Reef/St Catherine’s is probably overlooked by many of us divers who regularly dive the sea lochs. We can be guilty of passing it off as just a “good training site”. But, it does offer a lot for most divers and in fact, with it’s nice little beach and secluded parking off of the main road, also makes it good for non-diving friends and family as well. It’s often used by local clubs and groups as a small campsite for those who fancy spending the weekend.
For more from Ross, follow him on Instagram @underwater.ross and on Twitter @outdoorsross.
Palaemon Divers shortlisted for top Business Award
North West-based Dive Centre, Palaemon Divers, has been shortlisted for Leisure and Tourism Start Up of the Year with Start Up Awards 2023.
Palaemon Divers is delighted to be named a finalist in the Awards which celebrate Start Up Businesses and what they have brought to the economy within three years of their launch.
Palaemon Divers was started by Leanne Clowes in the midst of COVID lockdowns. Leanne walked out of her well paid corporate sales job with no savings after a redundancy in a previous role and spending the majority of the year before COVID to follow the dream! After the redundancy and COVID, life struck just a little differently and the pull to become a full-time dive instructor became impossible to ignore!
So with that… notice was handed in, no savings, nothing physical to start being a full time dive instructor other than personal kit at the time – oh and the fact, Leanne was actually an Assistant Instructor at the time and hadn’t attended the instruction exam at that point as there had been none going on through COVID obviously!
However, the first Instructor Exam that was happening out of COVID was booked onto – no pressure at all with no full time job, no money as a back up, mortgage and bills to pay…
Leanne started freelancing as an instructor in the North West using various outdoor locations for training, and the business snowballed and quickly gained its first physical dive centre in January 2022 along with finding their own private in-water training facility at Princes Dock in Liverpool. Since then, 100s of new people from Liverpool and further afield have been introduced to the amazing sport of scuba, and experienced the abundant life under the surface of the dock itself.
In a time of no travel to outside your area or abroad, Palaemon Divers found something new and exciting to introduce the city of Liverpool to those who spend five days a week in the office looking down at the dock and not really being able to appreciate what the dock actually means to Liverpool!
It became apparent during 2022, that although Liverpool was fantastic, more growth was on the cards which came in the form of a second location, Palaemon Divers – Warrington. The second dive centre is an ex micro brewery in Warrington with a central location close to the M6, M62 and M56, spread over two floors which includes a classroom, workshop, compressor and a floor dedicated to retail.
The efforts in building this business have not gone unnoticed with the shortlist for Startup Awards, and also another shortlist which will be announced in the next month.
For more, email or visit:
Gear Review: Quilted Polar Hat from Otter Watersports (Watch Video)
In a video shot exclusively for Scubaverse.com, Jeff Goodman reviews the Quilted Polar Hat from leading drysuit manufacturer Otter Watersports.
For more information, visit www.otterwatersports.uk.
WIN a c-monsta Wetsuit Hanger!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with c-monsta to give away one of their wetsuit hangers as a prize!...
WIN a Sharkskin Performance 40L Duffle Bag!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Liquid Sports to give away a Sharkskin Performance 40L Duffle Bag as...
Win a Vasili Lights Fish Lantern!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with Vasili Lights to give away one of their beautiful Fish Lanterns! Inspired...
WIN a Beuchat Maxlux S Mask and Spy Snorkel!!!
For this week’s competition, we’ve teamed up with our good friends at Beuchat to give away Maxlux S Mask and Spy Snorkel!...
News1 month ago
Ultimate Raja Ampat – The Last Paradise (Part 3 of 3)
News2 months ago
New book by diver aims to inspire teens to protect sharks and the ocean
News1 week ago
Diving with… Ben Williams and Kay Van Leuven, Sunchaser Scuba, British Virgin Islands
News2 months ago
Take Better Underwater Pictures and Make a Difference
Dive Training Blogs3 weeks ago
Divers making the Oceans more diverse
News1 month ago
Ultimate Raja Ampat – The Last Paradise (Part 1 of 3)
Gear News2 months ago
Mares launch new Sirius dive computer
News2 months ago
Deptherapy to complete mission with groundbreaking IDP