A few of us had decided to enter the Highland Open Water Swim event at Resipole in late April 2018. This swim was advertised as a mile swim across a sea loch called Loch Sunart, with swimmers escorted across by boat to the far shore and a swim back. A fairly accurate description of what transpired. I like to support the Highland Open Water Swims when I can, as they raise money for good causes, and they swim in some amazing locations.
Resipole is located 200 km north of Glasgow, a three hour drive, on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, with the only access a single track road once you get the ferry across the Coran narrows. The peninsula is renowned as one of the more isolated parts of the UK, and also has the distinction of being the westernmost part of the UK mainland. To get there the drive from Glasgow takes you up past Loch Lomond, through Glencoe (that spooky spectacular valley), then on the Corran ferry for a short 400 metre ride across Loch Linnhe, before driving through Strontian (gave its name to the element strontium). It is a very lovely drive as you skirt the sea lochs, keeping your eyes out for deer and sheep grazing by the side of the road.
As the swim was scheduled to start early on the Saturday morning, I decided to stay overnight in the village of Corran. Despite been only 400 metres across from the very busy A82 road, it was a very quiet and beautiful place to spend a stunning evening watching the sky change colour as I looked up the Great Glen towards Ben Nevis, Fort William, and the start of the Caledonian Canal. There was still a hint of winter in the air though, with the hills around Glencoe still graced with patches of snow.
I left the hotel after a hearty Scottish breakfast and drove down to the registration point at Resipole campsite, where several of my friends had stayed in their vans the previous night. It was an idyllic spot, facing Loch Sunart, a sea loch that runs west to east. The registration process was quick and easy.
We gathered for our briefing at the finish point of the race: the slipway near the campsite. We were to be ferried across to the southern side of the loch and our job was to swim back to the slipway. The distance was around a mile, but if the tide started to run, or the wind picked up it would be a longer swim. For this event, as the water was only 8c I had decided to wear all my neoprene: yes the wetsuit, gloves, boots and hat. Most competitors did likewise, but there was a few swimmers doing it in skins, and they had my admiration. The day was cool at 12c, and the wind was to forecast to pick up during the race creating a push from right to left.
We waited our turn to be whisked across in the ribs and support craft. It is a fun way to start an event, been driven to an isolated point, dropped off and told to wait for all swimmers to assemble. The skins swimmers had the honour of been the last to arrive, which is a sensible safety precaution in these conditions.
The sun was nice and warm in our sheltered spot. I looked back to the campsite and tried to pick out some features of distinctive hills and buildings to sight off. I could see the wind was slowly picking up strength, so I decided to head to the right of the slipway to allow for the movement of the water to push me to the finish point.
I must admit it was a very odd start to a race as we clambered down off the rocks and through the kelp and weed to commence our swim. Then I remembered that while this was an event, it was not actually a race, and more of an experience to enjoy a swim in the wilds of Scotland. As I swam away from shore I kept my eyes on my sighting point, and glided past several swimmers and watchful kayakers.
The swim was enjoyable, and it was great to have the taste of salt water again. As we got further into the loch, the side push became more obvious, but it was fairly consistent which made navigation easier. Fairly soon I could see that there were only a few swimmers in front of me, of which one was the windmill arms of Mr V as he headed to another first place. For me though, it was not so much about racing, but more about enjoying the opportunity to swim in a place like this. So I was very surprised to see that I came third when I arrived at the finishing point. After we arrived, we chatted and waited for our other friends to finish the event, and they all had huge smiles in their faces.
A thoroughly enjoyable event, that made me want to enter more of the swims this group run. If you want to do some swims in amazing places on the west coast of Scotland, then do yourself a favour and make the effort and look up Highland Open Water Swim in your search engine. The water safety do a vey good job, and the support crew are friendly and make the event memorable. I would thoroughly recommend doing one of their many events.