Do you take your swimming goggles for a walk?

This is a question you won’t often ask yourself. Although stranger things do happen I suppose. My mum used to take her cats for a walk (yes, all 4 of them) and it was always a thought that made me smile, the somehow odd idea that felines needed a lead to leave their home.

One of my guilty pleasures in the outdoors is removing my shoes and socks and dipping my feet in the water. Usually sore and sweaty, the wave of relief that bubbles around my toes makes my whole body refreshed and ready to go again, even after a long day.

I decided to take that idea a step further. A few years ago I was at a talk given by Calum Maclean about wild swimming at the Peebles Mountain Festival. A very funny guy, he’d pulled his broadcasting skills and love of outdoor swimming together to create some short films of his adventures. His Scottish Temperature Guide film is a hoot, you can find it here: https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/calum-macleans-scottish-temperature-guide/

I’ve spent plenty of time in the water when kayaking, at the beach or dipping my feet on long walks. But building a trip around a swim in a wild and remote highland area, just like Calum, was not something I’d done before. And in the current climate, where swimming in your local council pool is a bit of a no-no, the idea of some socially distant swimming in a wild place really appealed. After some thought, I remembered Loch Kander. And packed my goggles in my walking bag.

I’d first spotted this loch when walking some of the Glenshee hills. Coming down Cairn an Turc on the way to Cairn of Claise, you spot the rocky edge of the corrie and it was a pretty stunning view, looking down into the corrie and the loch below. A perfect opportunity to go back to the loch, explore a new area and maybe have a dip at the same time.

I’ve made a couple of trips up Glen Callater as far as Lochcallater Lodge and Callater Stables bothy before.

The bothy is still closed at the moment due to the pandemic. I carried on along the path that is known as Jock’s Road on the edge of Loch Callater.

Alien feet?

After passing Loch Callater, you can see Corrie Loch Kander coming into view to the right of the waterfall.

The cliffs of Corrie Loch Kander looming behind the corrie entrance.

As the walk continued this massive waterfall had been getting bigger and bigger in my view so I took a wee trip up the hill to see just how powerful it was. Frogs and caterpillars were everywhere.

The last part of my outward journey took me towards the loch. But even this close, there was no sign of it yet.

But when they came into view, the corrie and the loch were absolutely stunning. High cliffs to the south and west didn’t prevent the strong, swirling breeze. This did make me wonder if getting my kit off, even in summer, was a good idea….

Some signs of recent rockfalls on the right.

The breeze was calmer near the corrie floor so I took of my walking gear, put on my swimming goggles and after 10km I was really looking forward to getting into the water. I think the smile tells you I enjoyed it. To me it felt a bit chilly to start with, and the water felt warmer as time went on. Calum Maclean would describe it, I think, as “no bad”. Definitely not roasting.

I don’t take many selfies, but I thought it was the only way to prove I actually got in! The coldest bit of the day was the drying off in the cool corrie breeze.

Looking back down Glen Callater towards home.

Seven hours after I left the Auchallater car park, I was back at the van. Feeling pretty clean actually after my mid-walk bath. I took my GoPro along so take a look at the film below. I’m not naked, that would be unpleasant for most people, other than my wife. And will I do this again? Will I take my swimming goggles to other baltic (cold, not Eastern European) lochs and waterways for a walk? Probably. But I need a wetsuit.

Grid Square Journeys no. 3 – NN 7941 (Meall a’ Choire Chreagaich and a Swim!)

For the third of my Grid Square Journeys, I needed to do some tweaking. I’ve used the same number of steps since I was first taught to navigate properly by Rich. But either old age or maybe too many injuries has meant my stride has started to change.

The last two squares has seen me finish short of my goal, so after a bit of thought and some measuring, I’ve added 6 double steps to each one hundred metres. I’ve altered my timing too and you can see at the bottom my new stats.

So here was the plan, up to the top of Glen Quoich, in the hills between there and Kenmore. Far from dirty camping and cramped honeypot parking. Meall a’ Choire Chreagaich, a small peak to walk round, with a wee loch and not too much height, looked great. I stopped at an abandoned cottage on near the head of the glen. Good stonework and a solid roof, the sheep have made it their home.

I parked up at a road end, just a km from the start of my route. Note the lack of another soul or car. Bliss!

The weather was a mix of showers and brightness, with only a tiny point of blue sky seen all day. The going was fine, lots of heather. I could see the munros of Glen Lyon and Loch Tay, as well as Schiehallion, although the tops were shrouded in cloud. Lunch was the chunkiest cheese sandwich I think I’ve ever had.

And how did I do?

Distance-wise, I think the new steps made a difference to my overall accuracy and each section measured about right. Timing was more accurate too. My bearing was a little off on the northern and southern sections, although not by far. I’m aware that the long distances invoked, a full km, mean any mistake is exaggerated the longer the section.

It’s looks like a square, so maybe I shouldn’t be too harsh on myself. Here’s the stats.

After I’d finished I passed Loch Freuchie and remembered a waterfall I’d seen when before so pulled in and went exploring. The falls are 2km from the road and about 15m high so the noise of the water as I approached grew more deafening.

Definitely time for a dip. Not so much swimming, more bobbing, as a friend described it.

Wet Walking

When it’s 25oC, where’s should you walk?…

Sauntered from Prestonpans to North Berwick along the John Muir Way and Costa del East Lothian today with Adventure Man. The last 4km was competed walking barefoot in the sea. Now that doesn’t happen in the hills.

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