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May 13, 2017
The popularity of wild swimming has grown over the past few years and on the 6th of May this year an open water swim across the Sound of Mull was the great finale to a series of four swims for 2017 organised by Highland Water Swim. Our own Rachel Ball, manager of Ross of Mull Bunkhouse took part in the swim, with her friends Marianne and Kristen.
Highland Water Swim describes itself as simply a group of friends keen to get in the water, which invites anybody to join them. All they ask for is a small donation towards their chosen charity "Children with Cancer UK". This rather understates the influence they are now having in helping people experience the joys of swimming in the wild. Established in 2015, their organised events to raise awareness of the enjoyment that can be had from the sport have become very popular. So far they have raised £3685 towards their £5000 charity target.
The swim across the Sound of Mull, starting at Fishnish on Mull and swimming to Lochaline on Ardnamurchan was very challenging, both in terms of the organisation required and the obstacles faced by the swimmers, from strong tides in a busy shipping channel to the coldness of the water. Luckily, on the day the weather conditions for the swim were perfect; warm and sunny with little wind. Nevertheless the majority of swimmers were in wet suits and as they gathered at Lochaline for the safety briefing, there was much nervous chat about the preparedness required for such an adventurous swim of 2.6 km over a channel 90 metres deep. The water temperature was 8 degrees and some hardened and acclimatised swimmers wore only swim suits as the group of at least 45 swimmers boarded the Lochaline – Fishnish Ferry at 9.40am.
The swim timing was very much influenced by the tides and at 10.30am the swimmers entered the water slightly faster than expected as the Fishnish slipway was indeed very slippy which caused a fairly inelegant entry into the water on rear ends for many swimmers.
Once in the water, swimmers were supported by a fleet of kayaks, all volunteers, as they headed back towards Lochaline to the local beach identified as the landing site. As it happened the tide was so strong, the majority of swimmers ended up around 1 km further down the coast. However, once reunited, everyone agreed it was one of the best outdoor swim events to have taken place in Scotland.
To help get in training for the event, Rachel swam in Loch Pottie, which can be seen from the bunkhouse and in fact the Ross of Mull and Iona is a great location for wild swimming. Here are some suggestions from the Wild Swimming website wildswim.com/#isle-of-mull-to-iona. By the way, for all wild swimmers out there, Ross of Mull Bunkhouse is well set up for outdoor enthusiasts, including a drying area for your kit – well - it would be wouldn’t it!