Year round outdoor swimming and what it means to me

Swimming

Cold Water Swimming

I have been cold water swimming all year round for many years now, partly inspired by my neighbour Walter who lived next door to me in Cornwall when I was in my twenties and swam every day without fail! Back then swimming in winter was seen as slightly crazy and even when I started doing it up in Scotland it was a very unusual hobby. However it has very become popular over the last couple of years, as more and more people have come to realise that immersing your body in really cold water against your own will can be very empowering, and it releases so many endorphins that it gives a proper high!

Lucy Swimming

I am not someone who makes decisions easily but somehow I manage to force myself to take my clothes off on a cold beach/lochside and walk into cold water (around 7-8  degrees C in the sea in winter, colder in lochs) when all the voices in my head are telling me this is not a good idea! You just have to kindly ignore those voices, and the knowledge that you will feel better afterwards pushes you on.

I thought I had an interest in group swimming and I entered a few events but I realised that I have not; I swim for the peace and for the quiet experience.

A Snowy Swim - Kentallen

I had seen these trees sticking out into the sea on a spit of land so often from the main road, but I was always on my way to somewhere else, and parking is difficult, so I never stopped to explore. However this snowy day was the day I finally made it there. I often expect scenes to be beautiful (living on the West Coast of Scotland, most places are), but if I'm very lucky I get to see them looking at their very best. Andy and I had to approach the beach along a narrow road with a low wall between us and the sea. The sky had been quite bright but snow clouds approached from the west and the dark grey reflected on the calm water and highlighted the snow on the beach. We sprackled down a bank to get a good vantage point, then walked round to the beach itself. There were sheep in the field on the curve of the hill, and a Black Guillemot was quietly fishing on its own (we thought it was an otter for a few seconds).

Snow Swimming

We sat on the pebbles just by the shoreline, not wanting to disturb the snow, and we drank coffee and ate chocolate and then I put on my swimming costume and had a quick dip in the sea. I always resist going in on a cold day like this, feeling like it is foolish, especially when I am wearing many layers and still not feeling warm, but I had my costume with me anyway, and once I saw how clear the water was, and knowing how good I would feel if I went in, I couldn't resist. It was shockingly cold and over so quickly but I tried to stay in that present moment, knowing that it could well be a swim I would never forget.

A Remote Island Swim - St Kilda

Swimming off St Kilda

It was a cold May day when my Dad, his wife Lynda (who took this photo of me) and I finally visited St Kilda. We had wanted to go for so long but the logistics were not easy, especially as Dad and Lynda live in London! I booked the boat which departed from Uig on Skye weeks in advance, Dad and Lynda drove up to me in Oban, picked me up and we drove up to Skye. Even then we knew the trip was weather dependent. It did go ahead but we were warned that if the wind was too strong when we arrived we may not be able to land.

Everything worked out and we did the usual tourist things - walking up Conachair, the hill behind the village, marvelling at the hard lives the St Kildans must have endured, dodging the Skuas, buying souvenirs in the Post Office and Shop. I had packed my swimming stuff because very high on my list of priorities was having a swim in Village Bay. I almost didn't do it because St Kilda is not the quiet deserted place you imagine - there are military personnel there buzzing about and they directly overlook the beach. However I knew it might be a once in a lifetime chance so I got changed in the public toilet and dashed into the sea with Lynda looking on. There was nothing particularly memorable about the actual swim - the sea is the sea, but it was the experience of entering and being in the water off this almost mythical island which added another layer to the already quite overwhelming emotions I feel when I finally get to visit a place that I have wanted to see from my own perspective, not through the lens of another person. I had never expected a helicopter to come in to land while I was looking across to the island of Dùn though!

When we were back on the boat heading to Uig I chatted to another woman who said she had also half thought of swimming there but had decided against it. It's strange thinking that could so easily have been me. Sometimes you just have to get something into your head and follow it through, even though there may be a lot of reasons not to!

An Idyllic Swim - Balnahard Bay, Colonsay

Balnahard

Caroline, Jon and I cycled from Kiloran to Balnahard Bay on the most beautiful of Scottish summer days. The sea was at its most welcoming; calm, turquoise,  clear and not too cold. I had brought my swimming cap and prescription goggles with me and I took my GoPro  and filmed the miniature sandy mountain ranges below me, and the goose pimples on my skin. Afterwards we ate carrot cake and waited till the sun had rewarmed us.

Lucy Swimming

A Loch Swim

Another cycle/swim. A local loch hidden in plain sight. I was the only one there on a tiny beach surrounded by trees. I decided to swim the circumference of the loch, but it was much bigger than I thought so I turned back and played with my GoPro trying to capture the beauty of the place and how content I felt being there. Peppermint tea and a packet of cheese and onion crisps to sustain me before cycling home.

Loch Swim

A Hill Swim - Fraochaidh

Ah, swimming in a loch on a hill is one of life's great joys, especially when the loch is warmed by the late summer sun and the nearby hills Sgorr Dhonuill and Sgorr Dhearg are reflected in the water. Even better when the hill is a Corbett and you are on your way down from the summit and the stags are roaring in the distance. I swam to the end - it looks like an infinity pool - and when I swam back the sun was on my face and I tasted the water and it was delicious.

Fraochaidh

The Art of Wild Swimming Scotland

I am in a book on swimming!

The Art of Wild Swimming

Art of Wild Swimming
Me as a centrefold!!

You can buy it here »

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