Scotland 07/18 |Wild Swimming on Day One

We left later than we planned and headed straight up the motorway, the van packed up for a week of exploring, in no time at all we crossed the border into bonnie Scotland and our holiday officially began!

We drove for around 4 hours, the start of the journey nondescript as always but eventually heading into more mountainous terrain, the roads become increasingly meandering as they followed rivers and skirted the vast rocky bottoms of the cliffs and crags. Just in time, to stop the drive feeling too long, we made the usual left turn into what is one of my favourite glens.

Almost immediately the road narrows to a single track lane, and although built on the flat moorland between the huge peaks either side, it undulates with every twist and turn. Following the river that runs down the centre of the narrow valley, it is a fantastic drive with great scenery. The hills rise up steeply either side of the road and the river bends this way and that, closer and then swiftly further from the road, its rocky bed and banks accentuated by the hot weather and little rainfall of the previous weeks.

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We found a decent spot for the van and decided to stay put and enjoy our evening. It had been a grey and drizzly the whole way up, but by the time we got out of the van the rain had ceased and the clouds were breaking up, there were even patches of blue sky and sunshine poking through timidly. Wasting no time we left the van behind and went for a wonder to get a better look at the river, which we had never seen so low! We headed down the bank and came across a wider section with a deep pool and decided it would be perfect for a swim!

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Heading back down in our swimming stuff, one of us was gleeful and excited and the other was sceptical about the temperature of the water – considering I was practically skipping down the road 4-5 metres ahead, looking back and grinning from ear to ear it would have been easy to assign each of these correctly! Although chilly, the water wasn’t as cold as expected and all scepticism disappeared pretty quickly, this did not reduce the time it took to build up the courage for the first dunk mind you, there is always time needed to psych yourself before taking the first plunge.

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The water had a yellowish tint but was extremely clear, the rocky bottom was perfectly visible even in the deeper sections, the deepest sections however, were black (I will try not to imagine what lives down there!) The first swim allowed us to find several big flat-ish rocks just below the water level which we great to perch on and push off. One had a curve and was so smooth that it acted as a great little slide – what I didn’t realise that the curve got much steeper right next to where I was, and when showing it to Cal I had shuffled over a little too much – I slid down and was almost tipped upside down in the water. I was left with water up my nose – choking, all he could do was laugh at me (although I have to admit half of the choking was due to my own laughter!)

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The sun was moving in and out from behind the big fluffy white clouds and was lovely and warm when shining down on us. We spent our time swimming around, which took a surprisingly amount of effort against the flow of the water even though it looked calm and still, and clambering on and off the rocks. A couple of hours passed and we decided to drag ourselves away for some dinner, but not before perching on the rocks in the shallows filming some of the small fish that were swimming around. It was the perfect spot, and moment, to just chill out and enjoy the sheer beauty of the place.

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The reflections of the clouds in the blue sky rippled on the top of the water, the rocks stuck out of the surface catching the light and casting dark shadows beneath them. The hills rose up steeply either side of us and the grass was glowing green in the sunlight. The surrounding peaks were scarred with rocky gullies (where water would normally flow) and harsh looking crags, the grass growing on the tops where possible and the odd gnarled tree looking small and spindly in situ. And there we were, in the middle of it all, splashing around without a care in the world, soaking it all in – not bad for the first evening of our trip!

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The sun was shining while we enjoyed dinner and the breeze was keeping the midges at bay. As the evening wore on the cloud shadows rolled across the mountainsides and the light crawled in patches across the crags & gullies, the stream was offering its usual soundtrack, the sound of the water differing in pitch at different points. Both starting to feel sleepy, we headed out for a walk before the day drew fully to a close. We walked a short way along the road before crossing a small boggy stream and heading up, we mooched through the long grass across the uneven ground. By the flora growing we realised we should have been walking in a bog – the recent weather had dried it out completely. Delightfully, Callum found me a frog (he is an absolute expert at finding wildlife when he isn’t really paying attention), it was a decent size and had a bright golden eye, I got in close to take a picture and he jumped onto my hand and tried his hardest to stay on despite me trying to poke him off – I quite enjoyed the feeling of his cold squidgy stomach!

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Further up we found ourselves heading into one of the dried up gullies we had been looking at from below, there was the tiniest trickle of water making its way down the hill side. After a small scramble we found a big rock and sat looking out over the glen, enjoying the evening light and a chat. To the north the clouds were darkening and rolling over the edge of the peaks in a threatening manner – it looked like the bad weather would be gracing us with its presence before the night was through.

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Upon heading down and getting back into the van we realised that our off-road wander had resulted in a tick epidemic! They were tiny, but creepy nonetheless, and there were lots of them – luckily Callum was only bitten once and me not at all. After some vigilant tick squishing we chilled out until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, falling asleep to the sound of the river and wondering what tomorrow would bring!

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