A wild swimming adventure on the Isle of Skye: Storming a Castle, Seal Whispering and Seaweed Wigs

3  years ago the Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS) launched an OSS Adventure Series, “A series of social swims offered to OSS members, by other OSS members. They’re free, they’re wild – and they’ll take others to places (geographical, mental or physical) that they’ve never been before.”  And they were right…

Lampay Island, Isle of Skye. OSS Adventure Swim with the NWSSSG. Photo Credit: Gill Williams

Enjoying being taken to another place on the Lampay Island, Isle of Skye. OSS Adventure Swim. Photo: Gill Williams

NWSSSG Elite Commando Squad. Photo Credit: Gill Williams

NWSSSG Elite Commando Squad storming Dunvegan Castle. Photo: Gill Williams

Spaces on the swims were allocated by way of a ballot.

I had been chatting to a fellow Solent Swim Challenge swimmer, saying how I dreamt of swimming up in the isles of Scotland ‘one day’ and he forwarded the details of the Isle of Skye OSS Adventure Swim, organized by the wonderful Gill Williams, founder of the incredibly friendly North West Skye Sunday Splash Group (NWSSSG).

My heart leapt; it was time to stop talking about ‘one day’ and just do it. So I entered the ballot, and to my delight, was given a place!

Very excited to be in Scotland!

Very excited to be in Scotland!

The weekend did not disappoint. Within an hour of my arriving at Gill’s place we were out the door with our trail kit on, with RhumRhum the dog leading the charge along the cliff tops, and looking out over a bay that regularly plays host to basking sharks!

Spot the basking shark!

Spot the basking shark!

And so the weekend continued: swimming in seas and lochs, exploring underwater forests, talking to seals and birds, seaweed wigs, pink and orange sunsets, good food, good wine, wonderful art, warm hearts and laughter; so much laughter!

On the saturday we swam off the Ardmore Peninsula, on the sunday we completed our circumnavigation of Lampay Island and in the evening we went for a bracing dip off the jetty at Waternish. Then, on Monday morning, an elite commando squad of NWSSSG and OSS Adventure ladies stormed Dunvegan Castle…

Lampay Island Circumnavigation

Quite excited about the swim

Quite excited about the swim

Cormorants on Lampay Island

Cormorants!

Swimming!

Swimming!

Post swim cuppa with the intrepid Rosie!

Post swim cuppa with the intrepid Rosie!

Seal Whispering

Over the OSS Adventure weekend we swam with a lot of seals. It was ever so slightly exciting. This is me talking to one at Lampay Island. To confirm, the narration is me, not David Attenborough, which would be an easy mistake to make.

Storming Dunvegan Castle with the NWSSSG

In the shadows of the dawn light, cloaked in seaweed wig camouflage, an elite commando swimming squad approached Dunvegan castle… I have never laughed so much on a swim before. An absolute joy, and four seals even came to join us! Thank you ladies!

NWSSSG elite commando squad selfie: Photo: Gill Williams

NWSSSG elite commando squad selfie: Photo: Gill Williams

NWSSSG surveilance. Photo credit: Gill Williams

NWSSSG surveilance. Photo: Gill Williams

Dawn raid on Dunvegan Castle with the NWSSSG commando squad

Dawn raid on Dunvegan Castle with the NWSSSG commando squad

Camouflage - you ain't seen me right...?!

Camouflage – you ain’t seen me right…?! Photo: Gill Williams

A big thank you to Gill and Ian for being such wonderful and inspiring hosts and to all the NWSSSG swimmers who made us feel so welcome. I can’t wait for our next adventure!

芙蓉出水: (fúróng chūshuǐ) Out of the water a lotus rises.

Get in touch:

A Lotus Rises is the swimming blog for women who love open water; from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming. We’re building a swimming collective on a mission to increase the visibility, access and participation of women in swimming and we’d love you to be a part of it. 

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and Instagram, – please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Note: This blog was first published in 2014.

Mont Blanc Cross: 23.9km, + 1500m and a lot of jelly babies

For the last three years I have entered the Mont Blanc Cross or Mont Blanc Marathon, and each year, because of injury or other commitments, I have been unable to make it to the start line. This year I decided: no matter what, I would be there.

The MB Cross is part  of a weekend of trail running events in the Chamonix valley: from 10k to a Marathon, to 80km and a vertical km. It’s a truly inspiring weekend. This short clip gives a good feel to the extraordinary atmosphere and exciting terrain involved.

People congregate in Chamonix town centre to cheer runners off on their challenges and welcome them home, as, many hours later, they run back through Chamonix’s streets, exhausted, elated, and, in the case of this years marathon runners, covered in mud and soaked through from a day spent running in torrential rain, hail and snow!

The atmosphere is pretty extraordinary. I marvelled at the elite runners skipping across the finish line and my heart swelled with emotion as the realisation of the magnitude of their achievement passed across the faces of those later on in the pack.

The wonderful Emelie Forsberg, winner of the 80km, who followed that up with competing in the vertical km a couple of hours later - super trail running lotus!

The wonderful Emelie Forsberg, winner of the 80km, who followed that up with competing in the vertical km a couple of hours later – super trail running lotus!

 

Crowds line the streets in Chamonix welcoming back the Marathon runners

Crowds line the streets in Chamonix welcoming back the Marathon runners

 

Sue Roberts warming up after completing the Mont Blanc Marathon - 26 miles, +2700m climb in horrendous conditions - hail, torrential rain, snow - her first endurance mountain marathon! Super Lotus!

Sue Roberts warming up after completing the Mont Blanc Marathon – 26 miles, +2700m climb in horrendous conditions – hail, torrential rain, snow – her first marathon – her first endurance mountain marathon – exactly – inspiring super Lotus!

The CTS Flete run at the end of May reassured me I could cover the half marathon distance. But the thing about the MB Cross is that it has some added tricks up it’s sleeve: 1500m of climb up mountain trails, or 1700m as it turned out.  “We’re running up there!” said my friend Lizzy excitedly at the start line, whilst pointing up to the finish at Planpraz sitting roughly a 1000m above us.

When you live in Chamonix your benchmarks of  distance, altitude etc change a bit. Climbs like that can quite quickly become a normal part of your training schedule. Back in South East London, that is not the case. I glanced up at Planpraz and quickly decided the best option was to ignore its existence until absolutely necessary and concentrate on the relatively kind and undulating first 10km of the course!

Life had been hectic the last few months, training time has been limited and swimming has taken priority. I’m not sure if this was the best plan, but as my legs aren’t comfortable on tarmac I decided to avoid runs of more than about 40mins and stuck to hill reps and intervals in the local park. It wasn’t the final months of preparation I had intended, but life rarely follows the pattern you think it will, and I hedged my bets that it would be enough to get me around the course…

I loved it!

Trail Running - it makes you happy!

Trail Running – it makes you happy!

Swimming got my lungs through the uphill, and yes my calves were cramping in the final stages, but the views were stunning and to be back in the mountains, running along the trails, dancing over rocks and picking the quickest downhill path was as smile inducing as it’s always been!

Trail running!

Trail running!

The finish was particularly entertaining with a new route for 2014, up a steep grassy hill. For me, best approached by switching my brain off and smiling at the cheeky-ness of the race organisers for adding in this final hurdle…

A fantastic course that takes you through breathtaking landscape and surrounded by utterly inspiring people. After three years of trying to get to the start line, it was pretty special to get to the finish!

Finishpic