Inchtavannach and Inchconnachan Islands of Loch Lomond

A pod of swimmers having a rest at the narrows

Loch Lomond in which I swim throughout the year has many islands in it. One of the joys of the early summer is going on the first swim around Inchtavannach, often in the early evening. The summer of 2018 was proving to be the best since the amazing one of 1976. If that was the reward we were given after the Beast from the East in late winter, that was fine by me. All that it took was for the clouds to clear for a few weeks, enabling the sun to beat down, and turning the normal lush green grass of the local parks to the more familiar brown to this Australian’s eyes. This was the summer that Glasgow recorded its highest ever maximum temperature of 31c (where I grew up that was the temperature after the cooling sea breeze had blown the heat away).

Enjoying the views in the narrows

A bit about Inchtavannach, which translates as Monk’s Island, as there used to be a monastery there. These days, the 70 hectare (around 170 acres) island has one farm with only a couple of residents. The swim around the island is 4 km or so. It is separated from the mainland by a narrow channel approximately 400m wide. In the winter that distance is just too far to risk for a swim, as we would wait until the water gets up to around 10c.

Swimming towards Ben Lomond

Inchconnachan sits to the east of Inchtavannach and they are separated by the narrows that are around 50m wide. It is uninhabited, its name means island of the Colquohon (a local family) and is about half the size of Inchtavannach. Its major claim to fame is that it is home to a mob of red-necked wallabies that were introduced to the island in the 1940s. A swim around both islands is around 5.5km.

Swimming down the narrows

One of my swim friends was planning a long swim in Loch Lomond in August, so he wanted to do several swims to get his fitness up. So, over the months of June and July we swum around Inchtavannach four times, and around Inchconnachan once. We would normally go in the early evening, and in June and July it is easy to start at 730pm, and still have plenty of light to finish the swim. We also started one swim at 5am, and there is something more beautiful swimming in the stillness of the dawn.

Looking north towards the top of Loch Lomond

The entry point for our swims is normally at Aldochlay, but it is also possible to swim from Luss, which would add another km or so onto the swim. For some reason we normally swim in a clockwise direction, but that would also depend upon the wind direction. I must admit the first I swam it in the reverse direction I had to be more careful with my navigation at it does look so different.

The resident Highland Coos of Inchtavannach

A clockwise swim would start with the crossing of the channel and then heading north, keeping Inchtavannach on the right, swimming towards Ben Lomond. There is something magical about the early evening light in Scotland as it hits the hills, especially on a clear day.

The Joshua Tree sitting on Inchconnachan

Around the northern point, and then swim towards the Joshua Tree that sits on Inchconnachan. Turn right up the narrows, and if you are lucky you might catch sight of the resident highland coos. Wind through the narrows, which makes you doubt you are in Scotland, with the lilies out in flower and the water smooth as glass. Then through the back bay, keeping an eye on any boats moored to the shore as they fire up their barbecues for dinner.

The lily pond in the narrows

We would often stop at the southern entry to the bay, with views southwards towards Inchmurrin and Duck Bay, as there was a nice shallow bank to rest one and eat any food or drink that we had in our tow floats. Then along the south east shore keeping off the shore to avoid the shallows, and a fence line that wades into the loch.

Time for a refreshment break, looking back towards the narrows

The southern tip of Inchtavannach would be the next sighting point, with the channel markers just offshore a useful reference point. Around the corner, and then back up the channel to Aldochlay. A wonderful way to spend an hour and a half or so, with amazing warm water (we had around 20c to 21c) to enjoy in skins, and you never tire of the vistas.

Ben Lomond looking majestic in the evening light

The swim around Inchconnachan is similar, but at the Joshua Tree you keep going around, avoiding the narrows. Coming around the eastern side of the island you swim between it and Inchmoan and aim for the shallow bank on the Inchtavannach swim.

The final part of the swim along the channel towards Aldochlay

I hope you enjoy the pictures. I cannot wait to get there again this summer, as nothing says summer in Loch Lomond like these stunning swims.

Looking over Inchmoan towards Conic Hill

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