You may recall that last year I wrote a blog about Loch Bagging in Scotland.. mostly pondering how long it might take to ‘bag’ a swim the 350 lochs ‘of a notable size’ or a dip in one of the 31,000 freshwater lochs and lochans (any size!)… well, I’m pleased to report that following our trip back to the Highlands earlier this year, I can now add to the tally….
Loch Lochy and the genuine, kind and thoughtful swimmers form the Lochaber Loons welcomed me again like old friends, although this year on a wet and cloudy, atmospheric day very unlike the sunny swims I’ve enjoyed the previous 2 years! As I arrived, I was met with smiles and a cheerie chorus of ‘is it really a year already?!?’ Indeed it felt like just the other day but since my last visit one has had a baby, one is expecting one, a beautiful new house is appearing lochside and there has been some fabulously creative sewing leading to a fantastic hot water bottle retention device which I think I may well have to duplicate (all credits duly given to the original designer Anja!). Some new faces as well as some now familiar ones welcomed me into their group and into the water… Thank you so so much ladies, I cannot begin to explain how much this Scottish swim family means to me!
Unfortunately on day 1 of our break… a back injury scuppered our plans for a serious group walking holiday but thankfully our fabulous hosts – Dani & Cam at Distant Hills Guest House in Spean Bridge helped us to find alternative, doable walks which didn’t involve steep ascent or scrambling and sure enough, water! The rivers were a touch too full and fast flowing to get into (though I suspect my kayaking friends from the water park would see them in an entirely different light!) but one of our walks involved a most excellent loch with a beach no less!
Our walk led us up a gentle and wide easy to follow track. Yay…. no navigating required, which is quite frankly a huge relief as my map reading skills are pretty pants. And eventually we reached one end of Lochan na h-Earba which apparently featured frequently in the ‘Monarch of the Glen’ series as well as in scenes from Outlander… but of course, why wouldn’t it?? It’s quite simply a most stunning setting, even on a crazy weather day… wind, rain, sun, rain, more wind, more rain, sun.. you get the idea! We had been warned not to expect much of a ‘beach’ following a summer of rain, but we were in for a real treat…. And while Jo was busy taking photos and checking out the scenery, The sun was trying to look like it might stay out a while so I was already reaching for my goggles and wading in!
The temperature was notably colder than the waters of the Water Park where I have swum all summer and it felt decidedly cold by comparison but the initial ‘oh my, oh my, oh my’ soon passed and the sheer joy of swimming outside with a backdrop of huge hills and sunshine took it’s place and a most excellent swim was swum. The water here, mirroring the landscape is the most amazing colour and wonderfully clear. A gradual sandy entry helped with a relatively graceful entry and exit (rather than falling in and out with crashing waves) although it wasn’t a long and loitering swim. It was however, well worth every minute, and there’s always time for a bit of floating… enjoying the peace and quiet, the sounds of the water and life in and around us and of course, the blue sky whilst it lasted! And to add to the fun and the challenge of getting in, swimming, getting out, dried and warmed up during a sunny spell before the heavens opened again to soak everything!
The weather and a very troublesome back put paid to some potential swims further afield that week but thankfully an awesome time was had with more walking, porcupine hail, a hot tub and some fab food at Russell’s Restaurant in Smiddy House, Spean Bridge and the lovely company of those actually doing the walks in our walking group.
It seems impossible to be in this glorious part of Scotland and not get into the water as often as possible… there is a plan afoot to tackle the Ben and add a dip in the Halfway Lochan (Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe) when backs, legs, time, weather and determination and grit allow… watch this space!
With our week drawing to a close, the prospect of going home hung heavy and there were tears as we said goodbye to our lovely friends and the lovely waters of the Western Highlands but paddling in Loch Lomond helped to break up a long drive home, recce some safe entry/exit points for our next trip and put some ‘end of holiday’ demons to rest.
Current Loch bagging count (2020 – 2022) now stands as
Loch Lomond 3 (if paddling counts!)
Loch Lochy 3
Lochan na h-Earba 1
Lochan a Choire 2
Loch Etive 2
Loch Ness 1
Loch Oich 1
Loch Moidart 1
Safe to say, I think we need more trips to Scotland if I’m going to reach the 350 target in my lifetime! But that won’t be a hardship - We will be back!