As mentioned in previous posts, I have joined a social group of swimmers called the Wild West Swimmers. This group is fortunate to have numerous lochs and waterways to swim in near Glasgow in Scotland. The biggest waterway is Loch Lomond which is the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the UK.
A call went up from some intrepid swimmers in the group to do a five island swim in Loch Lomond, a distance of about 8km. For some of us this was the next step in our preparation for a 10 mile swim in late September.
I decided to join the ten other swimmers, but was worried about my level of preparation, having done one 3.5 km swim, and another 4 km swim. I thought if I was struggling to make the distance I could reduce the distance by missing an island or two.
The plan was to leave from Aldochlay at noon on a Sunday afternoon in early August, and swim in a clockwise direction around Inchtavannach, Inchconnachan, Baccinch, Inchcruin and Inchmoan and returning to our starting point.
Inchtavannach is also known as Monk’s Island and was used as a mission by St Kessog to bring christianity to Scotland in the sixth century.
Inchconnachan is also known as Colquohoun’s Island and is owned by the family who own the nearby Luss estate. There is allegedly wallabies on the island having been introduced in the 1940s, but I did not see them.
Baccinch is also known as the Island of He-Goats and was gifted to the National Trust in the 1940s.
Inchcruin is also known as Round Island, but as you can see it is far from round.
Inchmoan is also called the Island of Peat as it used to be used as a source of peat for fuel. It also has some nice sandy beaches.
So we all met up on a rainy cool day with a breeze blowing in from the south. Now this required us to have on our normal summer clothing for Scotland:
I have noticed that to go swimming in summer in Scotland requires more gear than I was used to in Australia: wetsuit, optional gloves and boots, robes, beanies, jumpers, warming liquids, a swim cap or two, a swim float and goggles; plus all the gear to get warm afterwards.
So we all got prepared, and off we went on our adventure. We quickly crossed over to Inchtavannach and then swam around to the northern sie of the island. Luckily the island was sheltering us from the breeze so it was excellent swimming conditions, though somewhat on the cool side of comfortable.
We stopped as a group on a regular basis and those with sat navs on their wrist would read out the distance covered. All I could think of was that is 2km gone, only six to go.
We skirted around the northern edge of Inchconnachan and took a break before the long leg to Buccinch. I noticed that there was a slight breeze blowing from right to left, so I tried to take this into account to navigate across. We were all spread out and only had to stop once for boat traffic. Luckily we were all wearing our floats that helped other loch users to see us, as the last thing they would expect to see in a cold loch is a bunch of idiots swimming in the middle of nowhere.
The other good thing about the floats is that they can be used to carry food and drink and at Bucinch we had some sugar sweets and drinks of water.
Then it was down to Inchcruin and when we arrived there we were halfway. It was here that we found another island to go around, so we did. This island was Ceardac which is also known as Tinker’s Island. Back then to Inchcruin as the sailing boats scooted past us in the freshening breeze. At the bottom of the island we realised that we were about to swim into the chop and wind.
Up until now I was either the slowest of the fast swimmers, or the fastest of the slowest swimmers; though at no time was I more than 100m from most of the rest of the group. However, as we swam into the chop I realised that I could suddenly keep up with the fastest swimmers.
We stuck close to shore where we could see the bottom to get the sensation of moving forward, and also to use the island to protect us somewhat.
The push from Inchcruin to Inchmoan was straight into the wind and it required some effort to get around the point. I was starting to get worried about the risk of getting cold as there was no sun to warm us up. We did have a kayaker with us just in case.
At the bottom of Inchmoan we could finally see Inchtavannach again, and we all knew we were almost there. Across to Inchtavannach and then home. By this time I was starting to get cold, but my fingers were ok, and I as glad I had decided to wear some boots on the swim.
It did not take very long to swim the last couple of hundred metres, and there was huge sense of achievement in getting out. The various devices had measured distances ranging from 9 km to 9.3 km, which just goes to show how much further you can swim if your navigation is slightly off. That was the longest swim I had ever done to date. There were lots of smiles all around.
A big thankyou for everyone in doing the swim, I did enjoy the challenge. Now what is next?