The Freedom of Loch Swimming.
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"You feel like you are on top of the world".
Increase in Outdoor swimming.
Over the past few years it is clear that there has been a huge serge in people heading outside to the water.
People have had more opportunity to explore and it isn't surprising that this new found hobby has stuck for many.
Especially in the UK, there are so many many places to go swimming outdoors. It's popularity is still on the rise as it is accessible to all with minimal equipment costs.
Not to mention the huge number of benefits such as boosting your immune system, increasing your metabolism, improving sleep, circulation and producing a natural high that can enhance your happiness etc.
Importance of indoor Swimming Pools.
Don't get me wrong, being able to have the opportunity to swim in an indoor swimming pool is not one we should take for granted. Many of us learnt and continue to learn how to swim in an indoor pool, in a controlled and safe manner before heading outdoors.
We should continue to support indoor swimming pools to allow everyone the opportunity to keep swimming no matter what.
Head to your local indoor pool for a swim and find out how you can support it as an individual.
Why outdoor swimming?
I know that for many, swimming outside is so much more enjoyable. Finding a large body of water without the chemicals, "slow, medium, fast" lanes, not dealing people swimming too fast or slow, not touching other peoples feet and not having set times to go swimming is a game changer.
There are many places we can go swimming outdoors. The sea, rivers, lochs and tidal pools etc. They all have their pros and cons. Let's talk about a few of them and then dive into loch swimming and the freedom it brings.
The water: The Sea & Rivers.
Let's talk about the water itself.
As humans, we all have our own preferences.
What is great about the sea is that you can swim out a little and then swim adjacent to the beach so that you are never that far away from dry land or being able to put your feet down on the bottom.
On the other hand, you will more than often have to battle large waves. Many enjoy this but be careful if you get panicky with waves.
You may also encounter jellyfish, seals and dolphins. Some people love the idea of this but it is something to bare in mind when heading out. If you panic when seeing any of these than remember to focus on breathing and lay on your back to relax before swimming again. Seals and dolphins are inquisitive but won't harm you unless you are swimming at them especially if they have young. They will often come close but are just being nosey. Try to ignore them and just keep swimming in your own time and direction.
The sea will give you that beach feel with the salt in your hair and skin. Many enjoy this as it feels exfoliating and like you have been on holiday. However there is then usually sand EVERYWHERE and this makes you feel like you need a long shower to get the sand and salt off rather than feeling fresh and clean.
The rivers are great as you can head to a spot and literally stay there, do some swimming against the current, have a workout and leave the water whenever you like. You can also have the comfort of your clothes and hot water bottle etc being just on the bank next to you. Easy peasy!
You can head to different parts of the water which are slower or faster flowing. Be careful as the water flow can change rapidly if there is heavy rain and can be very powerful. Make sure to scope out the river and see what is up and downstream so that you know what you might find if you go either one way or the other.
The water tends to be clean but it totally depends where you are. A lot of the water from the rivers are getting more and more dirty so this is something to bare in mind.
The water: Lochs.
The water in lochs tend to be more refreshing as the water is usually coming straight off the hills and is more than often snow melt which can make it a lot colder.
You will find that when it is sunny, the top layer of the loch will heat up a little.
If you dive down it will get colder. Once you leave the loch, you will probably feel refreshed and clean.
When getting dressed again and walking back to your cars, you may feel like you have just had a refreshing shower especially if it a loch located up high in the mountains.
If you prefer not having to hike or bike to the remote lochs then there are plenty lochs that are more easily accessible and often have toilets, shower and changing facilities etc though you may have to pay to use these.
The more popular and lower down lochs tend to be a bit more crowded and more likely to have blue-green algae in the hotter summer days. This is because they are typically more shallow and hold the warmth in the water (more at the edges) which allow more algae to grow. This can make it unsafe to swim so be aware of this.
But in general, lochs tend to be colder, more open and wide with flat water rather than lots of waves making it feel more calming, fresh and it easier to swim comfortably.
Why is swimming in Lochs so freeing?
Again it depends where you are but lochs tend to give the greatest sense of freedom.
The lower lochs can be great for specific training for swimming or triathlons etc as many have buoys for distance so you can practice sighting, mass starts, swimming next to people and more often have showers and changing facilities which can be very useful for training purposes.
If you don't want busy lochs and prefer more freedom keep reading...
If you are wanting to get to a more secluded loch, you may have to hike a little further away or up into the mountains so you will have to be prepared with your kit. In my opinion it is worth the extra effort required to get there. It is also worth noting that down below at the car park the weather may be fantastic but as soon as you start hiking, especially up into the mountains, the weather can change in a blink of an eye so make sure to be prepared physically and mentally for that.
Here are some of the things I advice to take with you:
Map, compass, bag/backpack, phone, lots of warm clothing, a towel and/or changing robe, hot water bottle, a flask, hat, gloves, warm socks and plenty of food.
Also always bring people with you and tell others where and when you are going just in case you get lost or something happens and you cannot get signal to call for help.
See below for an app to help locate you.
If the loch is in a valley and it is windy that day, there can be some waves but for the most part, you tend to find the water will be flat meaning you can go onto your back and float there and fully relax. Your swimming will feel more relaxed as you are not fighting against the waves.
In my opinion, the higher up the loch is the more freeing it feels. Higher up, the colder it is and is less likely to have any algae, weeds, fish or other people. You can swim in your own private natural swimming pool!
If you have never done loch swimming up in the mountains, I would recommend going in the warmer summer months with a larger group of you. Find a loch that is more easily accessible so that it is safer for you all yet you can still experience this sense of freedom. Then you can start getting higher into the mountains.
See bellow for a list of lochs in Scotland I recommend from personal experience.
The more loch swimming you do, you will realise that every loch is different.
A different sense of character and mood. You could be the only people for miles but you feel a connection to your surroundings.
Just you, the water and the open air. No cars, no other people (apart from those you are with of course). When your ears are in the water you hear nothing but silence, you can look up to see surrounding cliffs, the heather, the little spots of snow and the sense of total freedom from everything else. It feels like you are in a different world.
You forget about everything else that is going on in life and can simply focus on you and how your body feels. Sometimes you will switch off and think and feel nothing, just like meditation.
This feeling is incredible.
You feel like you are on top of the world.
Now, get out exploring and feel it for yourself!
Here are a list of some of the Lochs that I have done in Scotland that are more accessible:
-Dubh Loch (Up past Loch Muick).
-Loch Kinord (Bird nesting area).
-Knockburn Loch (pay to use facilities).
-Loch an Eilein.
Here is a list of some Lochs that involve more walking and hiking up higher in the mountains:
- Loch Brandy.
- Loch Etchachan.
- Loch Avon.
- Loch Nan Eun.
- An Gorm Loch.
- Choire Lochan.
- Loch A Choir Ghranda.
- Fuar Loch Mor.
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Thank you very much for reading our blog post. We hope it helps you for your next cold water swimming trip.
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Hello I’m planning on doing the NC500 in September and would like to do a couple of outdoor swimming. Could you recommend any that I could do?