FEATURES,  Readers' Swims

Sweeping views, menacing swans and a rich history

Image: © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

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?

So it’s two weeks before my Swimrun ‘race’ and my team mate and I have decided to do one last decent training session. And where is the best place to do it? Here of course. I am very confident that many, many people will instantly recognise it. Having been swimming here for years now, it is still one of my favourite places ever. There is something special about being at water level in the middle of a vast space (although still within safe distance of the shoreline) and being able to see the uninterrupted sky and mountains around you, but you already know I feel like this.

Today was about final preparations for the upcoming swimrun. With a very early start our first exercise was to decide where to ‘hide’ our food bag. Once done, a few kilometres of running warmed us up nicely. Then, with a few quizzical looks and some “you are brave” comments we walked into the water, avoiding the beautiful but menacing-looking swans. I’ve watched the videos!

Avoiding the water vessel route, which I have to say can be difficult when your goggles are fogging and you had forgotten to replace them in time for ‘race’ day (baby shampoo notwithstanding), we set off across the water towards a very well known, permanently moored boat. Having done that a couple of times, marvelled at the views across the water and dealt with a few spectator questions, we climbed out, grabbed our food bag and ran back to the car, shivering, to get changed… into our changing robes. We must have looked a right pair but at least we had remembered to unclip our swimrun rope!

This is the home of an annual event for thousands of swimmers setting off in waves past the ‘Maid’ to come back in to ‘The Shore’ in which we all get to share some of that excited, slightly nervous camaraderie of swimmers. But it is also a magical place steeped in history and romanticised in a haunting ballad about an outlaw and cattle rustler come folk hero who joined the ‘rising’ of 1689 and used a cave on the banks as a hide out. And this is merely a flavour. It is the first place most visitors to Scotland come to and boasts the most southerly munro. If you have not yet swum here, you should.

I want to swim there too

It is of course Loch Lomond where Kate was swimming. For information on getting there, take a look at the Love Loch Lomond website, although what this website doesn’t mention is if you are that way inclined or indeed wealthy enough, you can get a sea plane ‘experience’ whilst there!

Otherwise, it only takes about 40 minutes to drive from Glasgow on the A82 to Balloch where there is a lot of free parking at Loch Lomond Shores. There is also a train station at Balloch. The water’s edge is a few minutes walk from either.

There are many ‘beaches’ you can use to access the water either to the left of the Maid when facing the water or on the eastern shore where a trail follows alongside. The main safety consideration is boat traffic. There are a lot of different kinds of vessels on the water and it can get busy. Use a tow float to enhance your visibility and try to familiarise yourself with the routes they use and general directions they travel before you get in. It is always safer to stay closer to the shoreline if you are not sure.

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Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.