Swimtrek Holiday in the Inner Hebrides – September 2004

As promised from my opening blog, now I write about an epic swimming holiday. Trekking to the Inner Hebrides was in itself a journey in September 2004 to join the Swimtrek crew waiting for us on Islay. From home in then Forest Hill, London Richard and I took the train to Glasgow. Then a bus journey to Lochgilphead, where we took an overnight stay. In the morning we took the bus to Kennacraig Ferry Terminal to get the ferry to Port Askraig, on Islay. Once there we were met with the Swimtrek team. Very quickly we were tasked with our first swim of the holiday, between Islay and Jura – around 1 kilometre. This was to decide on our swimming groups based on speed and experience as well. Richard and I chose to swim in skins, without the knowledge that the sea around the Hebrides in September is very chilly although picturesque and clear. I disembarked from the water onto the pebbly beach on Jura unable to feel either my feet or my knees. I fell twice onto the pebbles so numb I could feel no pain. After that epic and lovely swim, Richard and I both opted to utilise our wetsuits for the remainder of the holiday. This was our first taster of cold-water swimming. Little did I appreciate that the memory of that exhilarating swim would live with me forever, and tantalise my soul, begging me to go forth and try that again.

Having swam onto Jura, we found ‘The Jura Hotel’ at Craighouse, and went in the sea again for good measure, a further swim. We then had our evening dinner at the Jura Hotel, and it was here I was also introduced to Jura coffee. Others may have tried whisky and such, I cannot remember. Overnight we rested, in readiness for walking over the Paps of Jura over to the West of Jura. During the following day with our challenging walk, it was deemed necessary to divert into a nearby Loch to cool off. Not really thinking, I ploughed through long grass and bracken to jump into the Loch for a lovely swim. I was not the only one, but observed the water was clear but very peaty. Not thinking hard, I dressed and made my way back to the party. We walked over the remainder of our route to the shore of Loch Tarbet, finding a beach West of Glen Battick. The challenge to swim across Loch Tarbet was afforded to the strongest swimmers in the group of us, and the rest of us took the ride in the dingy across. We were privileged to watch seals swimming with those in the water.

Arriving on the other shore of Loch Tarbet, we were reunited with our belongings by our trusty warrior ship who was with us for the five day trip. Not enough can be said for our pilots skill and knowledge. Also his very quick derision on seeing a bottom sea trawler ship and how he did not appreciate the damage those did, to the sea bed as well as indeed the damage to local fisheries. It felt humble to see that first hand. We camped for the night by a disused Bothy known as Cruib Bothy. Since we were there in 2004 camping, it is understood the Bothy has now been renovated for use. We cooked by the tents and were very fortunate with the weather during our time on Jura. As I recall we had an additional swim as was customary in the sea before our rest for the night. However, in case you thought that was all dear reader, no, it was not! On inspection, my trip into the peaty loch, through the bracken had left me with unexpected present. Ticks. Thank goodness my husband Richard was on the trip as there would have been red faces indeed if someone else had helped me remove this unwanted buddies. Moral of story ? Think hard and fast before jumping in the first loch you see!! Wear long trousers not shorts. And so on. Substantial chuckles resulted on relating that story I can say. After calm had returned to our party, it was decreed that an early start would be required for some who would attempt the Gulf of Corrywreckan Whirlpool in the morning.

As those of us remaining awoke to the day, the others returned from the Gulf of Corrywreckan trip which memory serves me was successful. We then all had a challenging swim up the west coast of Jura, before then disembarking for the night’s camping and campfire food on the magical Isle of Scarba. However not to be outdone, we’d seen seals in the bay at Scarba, and I went in the sea in skins for a early evening dip. Was privileged to swim with one, although I hasten to add that the seal was a safe distance away, and clearly it was not breeding season.

We woke to our last day on this magical holiday, and we were to swim back to the Mainland. From the shore of Shuna to Craobh Haven, on the Mainland. An epic swim with clear water and our trusty boat escort pilot. After this we alighted at the beach to be given all our belongings and the delightful news that tonight we could have warm showers and home cooked food at the pub for the first time in a few days. This rounded off an utterly idyllic few days. This had been a very laid back experience, and all the swimming paced to suit my ability i.e. slow swimming. Both Richard my husband, and myself had massively enjoyed the holiday and could not wait to book on another venture. We journeyed onward home the following day by bus and then train from Glasgow Central back to London.

Map of Inner Hebrides, Swimtrek Trip in September 2004. Acknowledgements to https://bing.com and search….

In my next instalment, I will be reflecting on changes to life with a family and how you can still ensure your fix of swimming outdoors. In addition the importance of keeping up your swim stamina. Prior to this SwimTrek trip both Richard and myself had attained swimming 5km indoors as part of the Butlins/MacMillan Swimathon in both 2003 and in 2004. Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it. Please like my blogs and register to receive the next one by email. You will observe at this point in my journey that I have not yet moved onto all the benefits that swimming outdoors gives me. That will come!

For information on SwimTrek and their fabulous holidays: https://www.swimtrek.com/ .

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