Outdoor Swim Review: Bayble Beach, Isle of Lewis (Iain)

I watched the Gaelic news and discovered there is a Gaelic pronunciation of “coronavirus” – it is “coróinvíreas.” But they haven’t changed “self-isolate” they pronounce it as “self-isolate.” it is surprising nobody has invented that Gaelic term as there is nothing more self isolating than a wet and windy day in Lewis.

My first school in Lewis was Point Primary. I don’t remember much about it as I was only there for a year before moving to the larger Primary in Stornoway.

Babyle beach is just along the road from my first School.

The School had been knocked down and replaced by a new building so I wasn’t able to see anything that would jog my memory about my time there.

It was whilst living down here that Andrew and I got two sheep as pets. They were called Donald and Shona.

A sheep is not a particularly good pet. It does not respond to commands. Donald would not fetch, sit or wait. He would only eat grass and baa’d occasionally. Shona was no better. She never once responded to her name and showed complete indifference to us as owners.

One day we came home and the sheep were gone. Mum said they ‘d gone to a better place where they’d be happier. In later life she admitted the better place was my uncles’ belly! He chopped them up to eat them.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There is a car park next to the beach (by the pier)

Water quality: The water was clear and I could see a good distance under the water.

Swim Quality: 12.3C in June. You can swim from one beach to another just a few hundred meters away along the coast. The Pier blocks the worst of the waves. It was flat calm during my visit.

Other People: There was one couple sitting on the beach having their breakfast. Which was impressive as it wasn’t that warm a day and there was light rain.

Would I go back: Yes. Nice spot for a swim and easy to access.

Outdoor Swim Review: Lake Of Montieth (Iain)

The name Lake of Menteith is a mistake by a cartographer. It was originally called Laich o Menteith, where “laich” simply means “low place”.

Which is very apt because when I went the water was very low.

It is not the only lake in Scotland (as I thought) there are also lakes in Fife (Raith Lake) and Sutherland (Lake Louise)

I took advantage of some nice weather to pay a visit to the lake. I wasn’t the only one with that idea. the place was mobbed. Finding somewhere to park was very difficult but luckily I managed to get a spot close enough to walk to the water easily.

The water level was low and I could easily walk out 30m without going under. There wasn’t anyone else swimming but there was a number of boats and fishermen about.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There is a car park on the B road by the east of the lake. It is currently closed due to lockdown (June 2020) but may by open when you are reading this.

Water quality: The water was low and the lake is shallow. I’d check carefully for blue green algae before swimming. It was fine in early summer when I visited but I prefer deeper water to be safe.

Swim Quality: Hot! 20C in the water. I could have had a bath in it.

Other People: Fishermen and some kayakers. It seemed a popular busy place. I prefer quieter spots.

Would I go back: No. It was fine for a one off swim but I would only go back if I was passing by for another reason (ie post biking or running)

Outdoor Swim Review: Loch Chon (Iain)

Last year I went to the Scottish Winter Swimming Championship. It was a great event full of nice people and good energy.

I vowed I would do it this year. I trained for it until Xmas and by swimming outdoors regularly I had become comfortable in 8C water.

Since then I’ve not had a chance to swim outdoors (for various reasons – see previous blogs)

The event is this weekend (7th March) so I decided I should test whether I could do it?. The answer was a very clear no! The water temperature was 3.6C. I struggled to get my face in the water. My hands and feet were ok but my body tensed up too much whenever my face got close to the cold water.

It took me 5 minutes to do 100m!

My face didn’ look great after the cold water. I hope this was because of the cold water and that I don’t look this rough all the time!

I realise it would be stupid to do the event. If it takes me that long to do 50m in a wet-suit then I wouldn’t stand a chance without it. I’ll aim for next year instead.

The training hasn’t gone to waste. Previously, I struggled to go in the water when the water temperature dropped below 13C but I can now get in at 3.6C.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There was plenty of space in the car park and the water was just a 2 minute walk away. (https://goo.gl/maps/gvBbjcmostRTnj9W6)

Water quality: It seemed OK but I’d have to go back in Summer. I didn’t spend long enough swimming to decided whether the water was good or not.

Swim Quality: Baltic! I’m please I went in but I was even more pleased to get out

Other People: It was quiet but a couple of cars were there. Folk were admiring the view of the Loch.

Would I go back: Yes. It looks like a nice pl;ace to swim. I’ll be back!

Outdoor Swim Review: Hebrides – Braighe Beach (Iain)

Recently I was browsing Instagram and I spotted this photo from the Isle of Lewis. It shows a couple walking a dog on a nice beach. It’s a nice pic.

Something about the pic seemed familiar but I couldn’t work out what. I looked at it more closely and realized that the couple in the photo are my Mum and Dad. They were walking on one of their favorite beaches – the Braighe. I doubt either of them have ever heard of Instagram or know that the photo even exists.

Braighe is an apt name for the beach as it means sandy strand in Gaelic. The sandy side of the beach is a fine sandy strand between two parts of the island.

You can swim on either side but normally the west side is calmer as it faces a protected bay.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: There are three car parks available. The middle one has toilets. It is only a 10 minute drive from Stornoway to the beach.

Water quality: The water quality is crystal clear and perfect for swimming although on a wild day it can get a bit sea weedy on the bay side.

Swim Quality: Cold. In December the temperature was 7C. I had a short swim in a circle. In the summer I’ve been here and swam the length of the beach.

Other People: Not a soul.

Would I go back: Yes. Its the easiest place to get to have a sea swim that is near my parent’s home in Stornoway. Normally one side of the beach will protected from any bad weather.

Outdoor Swim Review: Hebrides – Reef Beach (Iain)

Next month Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, will attempt to swim 1km of a lake of melting Antarctic ice ( https://lewispughfoundation.org/east-antarctica-2020/ )

To train for the brutally cold endeavour he could have chosen anywhere in the world –Norway or Iceland etc. He chose the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

He trained twice a day on the island. Each day he would post details of his training swims on social media and invite anyone to come and join him.

Initially he was based on the west side of the island. Its a great location for swimming. Some of the beaches are stunning. Especially when the weather is good.

Cliff beach in summer

Occasionally the weather is bad…very bad. In England, during bad weather, the MET office might issue a “danger to life” warning. In Lewis, during bad weather, you just get on with it. As my Dad said whenever I complained about the weather – it is only a bit of wind and rain.

The stunning views and bad weather makes Lewis the perfect place to train. if you can swim here you can swim anywhere!

Scottish outdoor swimmer/filmmaker Calum Maclean, me, Lewis Pugh

REVIEW

Ease of Access: Reed is 60 minutes from Stornoway. There is a parking spot beside the beach. It is a 5 minute walk from there to the sea.

Water quality: The water quality is crustal clear and perfect for swimming.

Swim Quality: Cold. In December the temperature was 7C. The beach is 1km long. I did a length of the beach and then jogged back.

Other People: Not a soul other than a few hard folk joining Lewis for a swim

I’m in the wet suit.

Would I go back: Yes. Uig is a beautiful spot. When I was younger I hated coming here because the road to it was terrible. I would get car sick. Nowadays the road is much better!

2020 (Iain)

According to the Daily Mail Astrologer my Horoscope for 2020 is.

“You’ll want to keep your vehicle in good shape for endless errands.”

Normally a horoscope has positive statement like “you will come into money” or “you will meet a tall dark strange who will give you good news”

But mine is make sure you MOT the car as you’ll be going to Tesco’s allot. What a fun year for me!

I prefer the Daily Record’s horoscope which claims I should

“Look out for a Taurus, who is super-sexy. Your dream partner!

I googled “sexy Taurus” and it suggested Uma Thurman, Adele or The Rock.

Uma Thurman or The Rock would both make good partners but I don’t think my wife would forgive me if I didn’t shack up with Adele. My wife loves Adele!

I once bought my wife two Adele tickets for her birthday. The tickets were very expensive but I as least with two tickets I would see Adele as well.

My wife took one look at the tickets and immediately said. “I can’t wait to tell Mairi about this.” Mairi is her best friend. I worriedly asked “Why do you need to tell her?”

“Because she loves Adele and will want to come with me!”

I never got to see Adele.

Other than Marrying Adele my sporting goals for the year is the same as every previous year. Stay fit and healthy and do some fun races

So far my plan is

February

Kirkintilloch 12.5K ( https://www.entrycentral.com/kirkintilloch125k )

Glentress Trail Race ( https://www.highterrainevents.co.uk/glentress-trail-race )

March

Scottish Winter Swimming Championship ( https://swimwilduk.com/events/scottish-winter-swimming-championships )

John Muir Ultra ( https://foxtrailscotland.co.uk/races/ultra/ )

May

Etape Caledonia ( https://www.etapecaledonia.co.uk/ )

Stornoway Half Marathon ( https://srac.org.uk/half/ )

June

Celtman ( https://cxtri.com/ )

July

Wasdale half X ( https://triathlonx.co.uk/index.php/half-x )

October

Dramathon ( https://www.thedramathon.com/ )

I also aim to do the Gullane Triathlon. I’ve said this every year for the last five years but every time I try to do it something comes up that gets in the way.

Hopefully this year Ill finally do it!

My main reason for wanting to do the race isn’t sporting but is instead culinary. The Old Course Inn in Gullane ( http://www.oldclubhouse.com/ ) does the best Nachos in Scotland. I’m always looking for an excuse to visit and have some!

mmm Nachos

Outdoor Swim Review: Gullane Beach (Iain)

If you are familiar with UK politics then you might have heard of the West Lothian Question.

It is a phrase coined by the West Lothian MP Tam Dalyell asking why Scottish MPs can vote on laws that will only impact England.

There is also a East Lothian question. One which is less political but equally contentious. How should you pronounce Gullane? Should it be Gillan, Gullan, Goolan or Gull-ane?

A former Gullane minister took the trouble to write to the Scotsman newspaper’s letters page to explain how it should be pronounced.

“A good many years ago now the BBC wrote to me to ask how the name ought to be pronounced.

“I told them that, though most of the old folk pronounced it Goolan, the other version Gillane had prevailed and that it would be now impossible to re-establish Goolan.

“The one thing to avoid was the tripper vulgarisation of Gullane. It had nothing to do with seagulls.”

Darn! I pronounce it like sea gull. Sorry Rev.

It was a very windy day when I visited. It was actually warmer in the sea than on the beach as the wind was baltic!

My photographs showing sunshine and blue skies but don’t assume that means it was warm. There was a strong cold wind! It was actually warmer in the sea than on the beach.

REVIEW

Ease of Access: Gullane is close to Edinburgh. There is a paid car park near the beach. Beach access is a short walk from the car park. It can be very busy in summer especially at weekends.

Water quality:  The water quality is tested and it always ranks highly.

Swim Quality: Cold. Water temperature was 9.3C. I managed 15 minutes of wetsuit swimming. There wasn’t anywhere to swim to so I just swam aimlessly and admired the view.

Other People: Even on a cold, grey, dreich day the beach was busy with walkers and dogs.

Would I go back: Yes. I love East lothian. The beaches here are great. Just avoid high season.

Outdoor Swim Review: Portobello Beach (Iain)

At my workplace, I sit next to a Dutchman. Last Friday, he asked me what my plans for the weekend were. I told him I was going to a Wim Hof Method workshop.

Wim is also Dutch. His nickname is The Iceman because of his ability to endure cold conditions. He has swam under the ice at the North Pole, he can sit in ice baths for 90 minutes and he ran a marathon in the Arctic Circle shirtless and shoeless. I assumed he must be very famous in Holland.

My colleague looked at me and said “Wim who????”

Wim needs to work harder on his Dutch PR.

My colleague then asked what the Wim Hof Method is?

“If I knew what his method was I wouldn’t be going on the course!” I replied.

#spoileralert (Don’t read on if you don’t want the method spoiled)

The Wim Hof Method can be summed up as “remember to breathe when you go experience cold conditions. Also try to go in cold conditions regularly”.

It was a fun class and I took away a lot of information about breathing correctly. Which is more than can be said for one attendee who, when told to breath calmly and gently, exhaled his breath so violently through his nose it was like a volcanic eruption of snot and air.

Despite the instructor reminding everyone to breathe calmly, the volcano continued his overly enthusiastic eruptions. I think he was trying to impress his partner who was also attending the course. Like a gorilla in the jungle marking their territory by huffing, puffing, and bashing their chest he was making sure she knew he was the manliest breather in the room.

When it came to the exposure to the cold we had to swim in skins in the North Sea. Unsurprisingly Wim Kong – the breathing gorilla was first to run in. I hope, like a gorilla, he didn’t piss in the water to mark his territory!

REVIEW

Ease of Access: Portabello is close to Edinburgh. Parking near the beach can be tricky but normally a space can be found in a side street

Water quality:  Murky. I was once told that it was a beach best to avoid for swimming due to nearby sewage pipers. I don’t know whether that is true or not but its always put me off.

Swim Quality: Cold. Water temperature was 12.2. I managed 10 minutes of skin swimming (without a cap) There wasn’t anywhere to swim to so I just swam aimlessly and admired the view of the town.

Other People: Even on a cold, grey, dreich day the beach was busy with walkers and dogs.

Would I go back: No. I’d rather travel a bit further and go to the beaches in East Lothian. They are sandier and more enjoyable to be at.

Warming up before swimming

Outdoor Swim Review: Carron Valley (Iain)

neoI recently purchased core buoyancy shorts for swimming. They are made of neoprene and they aid swimming by raising my hips slightly in the water. Similar to the effect of swimming in a wet suit.Higher hips mean higher legs, which means less drag therefore I can concentrate on good swimming form.  I think they are great. Andrew thinks they should be banned. He calls them floaty (or cheat) pants. My only reply to that is: I am not a pants doper! If you repeat the accusation then I’ll see you in court!

To be clear – if you even looks at me funny whilst I’m wearing my definitely not cheating pants then you will get a visit from my lawyer. Lance Armstrong said it best – “hard work, sacrifice and focus will never show up in tests.” I swim clean. End of story. Other than giving me a performance enhancement….ummm….skills enhancement the main reason I purchased them was for outdoor swimming. I wanted to swim without a wet-suit but still have some benefit of neoprene. I combine the pants with a neoprene top.
UntitledIts great for swimming as you get all the freedom of skins and all the benefit of a wet suit. Although it does make me look like a character from Little Britain.Daffydt

Carron Valley Reservoir is the closet loch to my house. I usually swim on the Fintry side as its furthest away from the fisherman who use the Loch. I’ve never seen them at this end of the loch. There’s a spot to park that’s next to the Loch that allows for an 800m swim straight across to the other side of the loch. It can be a bit choppy as the wind blows down the loch but its never too bad to swim in.55726593_167528670908225_6800533163390802350_n

REVIEW

Ease of Access: https://goo.gl/maps/vkcjfRm5cx6dYWt7A Park at the gate next to the loch. Its 10m to the waterside. 

Water quality: Warm and shallow at the edge of the loch but it can noticeably drop in temperature the further out you get. 

Swim Quality: Excellent. Lots of things to sight against. Water is choppy but that makes it more fun!

Other People: A couple of folk out walking and the odd car/cyclist going by. 

Would I go back: Yes. It’s my default swim location. 

Outdoor Swim Review: Loch Venachar (Iain)

In a scene from the comedy film Zoolander the eponymous male supermodel hero, Derek Zoolander, dresses as a merman and swims towards the camera to utter the line:

” Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.”

But in real life Merman are anything but beautiful. In contrast to mermaids, mermen are traditionally described as unattractive extremely ugly creatures with green hair, teeth and skin, narrow eyes and a red nose.

Which is also a valid description of what I look like when I’m hungover.

I learnt this “fact” after spotting two swimmers at Loch Venachar. It was a hot day. The water was perfect for swimming without a wet-suit but they were wearing multiple layers of neoprene . One of them was so covered up he looked like the gimp from Pulp Fiction.

But they were not swimmers or gimps. They were free-divers practicing their skills. They hold their breath diving 20m to the bottom of the Loch.

I looked them up on Google and discovered they do mermaid courses https://freedivers.co.uk/mermaid-course/

REVIEW

Ease of Access: I parked at the Loch Venachar cafe car park. It was just a short walk from here to the Loch side. There’s a few other car parks along the shore.

Water quality: Clear water close to shore. I could see the bottom of the Loch. Temperature (in July) was 19C

Swim Quality: Hard work. It was a bit windy. I battled waves as I swam out from shore. It made the swim more exciting.

Other People: There was a lot of folk in the cafe. They were watching from the terrace as I swam. There was also a few folk walking along the shore.

Would I go back: Yes. It was a nice spot. I’d like to try swimming to the other side of the Loch but on a less windy day.