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Loch Bagging

Most of the year (pandemics permitting) I swim at Lake 86 and Lake 32 in the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester but I always enjoy a little trip out to a new swim venue and I love exploring new waters. One of my favourite places for doing this is Scotland and particularly the Highlands where visitors are literally spoilt for choice for their next new swim location.

It was whilst we were there on holiday last week walking in the tipping rain and hail (yes, hail) that we met a man who gleefully told us he had ‘bagged’ all of the 282 munroes and was working his way round the Corbetts… It got me thinking, I wonder how many lochs (and lochans) there are ….

Apparently there are over 31,000 freshwater lochs and lochans….. though only about 350 of a ‘notable’ size (wondering what ‘notable’ means….?!?!). And then of course there are all the saltwater lochs as well!

With so many stunning lochs and Lochans to choose from it’s not hard to understand why ‘Loch Bagging’ could easily become my new pastime whilst on holiday, though I think maybe Jo might have something to say about that! That said, it could well take me a lifetime or three but then again, if I lived a little closer, 350 lochs is certainly a challenge I’d take on!

I already have my favourites, of course…

Loch Lochy is perhaps among the prettiest, though to be fair, when it’s all so stunning that you run out of adjectives very quickly, it’s hard to choose! Perhaps it was just that on the days I swam here, I had the good fortune to have the most amazing weather, glass like flat water and clear skies with an awesome view of the valley at the top of the loch. I was also super lucky to be able to join a local group of swimmers – the fantastic Lochaber Loons, who are among the kindest and loveliest swim family members I have. I’ve swum with them only twice, with almost exactly a year between swims and they have welcomed and looked after me and Jo as though we were locals who swim every week. With home made cake (still warm) laughter and smiles, they are a reminder of all that I love most about the Open Water Swim community.

The road down to the top of Loch Etive (an 11 mile single track jobby with some precarious looking ‘passing’ places en route) makes it feel like a real adventure just to get there and back, add a bit of dicing with an oncoming tractor to the picture and you’ll understand why I’m a bit greyer now than I was a fortnight ago! There’s an easier looking route at the bottom of the loch…. But I’m guessing it wouldn’t be as much fun! The teeny tiny car park at the end of the track thankfully had a space for us, I’m guessing that was something to do with the cold and rain putting people off maybe? Positively warm by comparison at 13⁰ the water is a tad more inviting, and as an added bonus the sun came out to say help just as I was getting in casting the most amazing light over the hills and glistening in the water

The little Lochan a Coire sitting at 616m (2021ft) under the watchful eye of Creag Meagaidh is probably the one I love and look forward to with a mixture of excitement and anxiety for it’s stunning backdrop of raggedy rocks and the hike up to it and back down again (about 9k round trip)…. The temp here in early October was just under 9⁰C though I suspect it gets a whole heap colder than that through the winter…. Now there’s a thought. It certainly wasn’t a long swim and as I literally fell in (note to self… watch out for the bumpy rock!) it wasn’t a graceful one either, but it was an amazing place to stop and take stock of life and do a star float. Head back, ears in the water, eyes up and body tingling with the biting cold, it’s a very effective reset button! It seemed very exposed with a howling wind coming down the top of Creag Meagaidh that I cannot imagine it ever being warm here, especially whilst being pelted by hail as I grappled to get my socks back on post swim…. Who knows, perhaps one day I’ll come in the sunshine and be proved wrong!

Every swim is special in this magical place, for a different reason. Each has a different view and even returning to the same spot on a different day / year is like a new adventure all over again, with rainbows and fairy dust, hail and glistening sunshine dancing on the water surface. What’s not to love? You simply cannot be grumpy in a Scottish loch!

So…. The running total of lochs ‘bagged’ goes a bit like this (2020 & 2021 bagging trips)

Loch Etive (twice), Loch Lomond (from 2 different sides), Loch Ness (I think Nessy was on holiday), Loch Lochy (twice), Loch Oich, Lochan a Choire (twice), Loch Moidart (watching the magical slipway to Castle Tioram to appear).

7 down …. Only another 30,993 to go! And then there's the amazing sea and Silver Sands beaches around Portnaluchaig…. But that’s another story!

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