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Clear water, abandoned submarines and pink footed geese

Swim 3

Kate Greenwood was born in Galashiels, Scotland, raised from three years old in Yorkshire, found herself in London for 30 years and eventually escaped back to Scotland. She was raised to swim in rivers (the Wharfe at Appletreewick, for example), open air pools (Otley) and the sea, so open water swimming is not new. She started taking part in organised events about 10 years ago, putting on a wetsuit for the first time for the Great Scottish Swim in 2011. Now living just 10 minutes from Portobello Beach, one of her favourite things is to start the day with a sneaky swim in her local waters. She also likes to explore new swimming spots and share what she finds. So, where did Kate swim today?


Where did Kate swim today?

It was bloody brilliant. Today woke me up again to the sheer joy of being in the water. I felt powerful, strong and quicker than I have been in ages. I loved it. Today my swimming experience was a turning point in what has been a strange year. I had felt like I had lost my edge, my confidence, my speed and I had felt more fear than I had in ages. I needed a goal to aim at and a team mate to push me. Swimrun training in this magical place was exactly what I needed.

This is one of my favourite places to visit not just for swimming, but running and walking too. The beaches along this 3-kilometre stretch remind me of a mixture between the west coast of Scotland and Cape Cod in the US with stretches of wide open sand but outcrops of rock to scramble and skip over. It has sand dunes clothed in ever delicate machair bordering the nature reserve housing precious wildlife such as pink footed geese that come from Iceland in the autumn. There is also a herd of roe deer and if you’re lucky enough you can occasionally see one of them as you pass by one of the two courses of the well known golf club that run right through the middle of the area. On the longest and sandiest of the beaches, at very low tide, the remains of two midget submarines that were used for training in the second world war can be spotted, left to rot when they were no longer useful.

The shorter bay is about one kilometre across and curves around to rocky outcrops at each end. The water is clear and the bottom sandy so you get that particular feeling only swimmers get, the waves pushing at you, the taste of salt in your mouth, the colour of the sun reflecting through the water. I honestly felt exhilarated…although at one point I did wonder if I was too happy and maybe a wee bit too cold…but no I was just loving it. Then I got to wade out and run along the beach looking out at the waves, looking forward to my next swim leg, jumping over the barnacle covered rocks. I felt like a child again. I just didn’t care when people looked at us like we were a bit odd as we were running along the beach in wetsuits roped together, although in these parts, people always say hello.

If you get the chance, come here for a swim but don’t bring too many people. I love the coast of East Lothian, especially the part from Aberlady to Gullane where I was swimming, just the way it is.


I want to swim there too

From Edinburgh you can get the 124 bus from both Edinburgh or North Berwick and if you are driving it is on the A198. There is a small car park at the start of the nature reserve which is about a mile away from the dunes just after the village of Aberlady if you are driving south or if you keep going to Gullane there is the ticketed Gullane Bents car park overlooking the bay.

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Cover Dec18

Issue 21 December 2018

  • Ross Edgley's Great British Swim
  • Tonic of the Sea - the joys of wild swimming
  • 9 tips to cope with injury
  • Christmas gift guide
  • December Dipathon - cold water challenge!

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