Diary of a wandering swimmer - Clova returns

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Kate Gillwood 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 a few 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. Now that lockdowns have eased, she's exploring again with her campervan, Clova.


The Swim

Probably like most of you I was excited to be able to choose to swim somewhere new once the restrictions lifted and of course it involved a trip in good old Clova. I have to say ‘jumping in and driving off’ is not really in our family make up. We now have a puppy Rudi, so I am blaming him. I have high hopes that I will be able to share stories of swimming with my dog, but I fear that may just be a fantasy, given he doesn’t even like going out in the rain!

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Rudi enjoying the river view

Anyway, we eventually got ourselves into Clova and set off. I was in my happy place, barely enough underwear for the week but all the swimming gear I could possibly have needed.

We arrived at the campsite that sits in the glen at the head of Loch Lubnaig in the Trossacks. The river ambles past, but it teases with its apparent calmness. Once in, I realised there was a real pull, to the point where I was able to use it as an endless pool. I wasn’t keen on disturbing the ducks resting on the surface or waddling about on the stony beach, so I didn’t overdo it. It was refreshing to breathe out and take in the surrounding hills, which always look so good from water level.

And we moved on, as you do in a camper van.

I was excited to finally manage to meet a new ‘Instagram friend’, something I’ve not experienced before. We had planned to swim here for a long time: after I had seen blue70_girlfriday’s post it would have been rude not to. We met in the small car park having navigated a single track bumpy road, in the pouring rain, and waited for the clouds to pass.

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My hosts for the day

The clouds passed, and we navigated (I yet again without flip flops) the stony beach into the cool, choppy water. It is a wider, flatter glen surrounded by lower hills, woods and coconut scented gorse at this, my favourite time of year.

At over three and a half miles long this loch is a very good swimming spot, popular with locals. It is surrounded by walks in the woods and a 16-mile circuit, part of which is the Great Trossachs Path. It is also linked with National Cycle route no.7 so all in all is a haven for many open air activities. Queen Victoria graced the south shore at Invertrossachs House in 1869. The loch now hosts open water events so keep an eye out for those but what really surprised me when I looked to my right was that this loch is now used as a compensation reservoir with an outlet dam.

It was exciting to experience meeting up with people I had only connected with online because of swimming. This is one of the things about outdoor swimming I am proud to be part of.

(The top picture is my new swimmy friend blue70_girlfriday)


The Location

We stayed at the Immervoulin caravan & camping park at the eastern side of the Trossachs, which was nice and quiet (partly due to it being midweek) so we were able to peacefully enjoy the view. We also experienced it as a very LGBT friendly place to stay which is always a consideration. The river Balvaig I swam in runs alongside the campsite and offers either a swim, SUP or kayak down into Loch Lubnaig. The nearest town is Callander and the A84 runs along the loch and campsite up the Strathyre village.

Loch Venachar was the other swim location which you can get to from Callander via the A81 then a right hand turn onto the Invertrossachs Road which you stay on all the way to the small car park on your right. Don’t let the fact that it is a dead end road put you off.

The Trossachs has a wealth of beautiful places to swim and I highly recommend a visit with your goggles.


Contact me

If you have any suggestions of places I could swim email me on k.gillwood4@gmail.com or find me on Instagram @kategillwood4

Please also take a look at my new website: www.swimfreedom.co.uk


Read more about my swims

01 Cover September3

Issue 53 September 2021

  • The Climate Swim – Reporting from Lewis Pugh's 10-day training camp in Iceland ahead of his 'Final Stand'
  • A River Fit To Swim In? – Ella Foote explains how to identify a river clean enough for a dip
  • Carnage and Beauty – Olympic bronze medalist Cassie Patten gives some tips on feeding and nutrition
  • My Swim Story – How Verity Green became the first deaf British woman to swim the English Channel
  • History – The strange and lucrative history of marathon swimmers appearing on cigarette cards
  • 10 Year Anniversary – Founder of Outdoor Swimmer magazine Simon Griffiths on 10 years of publishing

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