Loch Dunvegan to Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. Hours of planning, pre swim with Alice. Worried about the weather, who would turn up, the cold, big seas...... what was the worry?
Calm conditions and a little fat robin to set it all off who immediately adopted us as his new mates. Grey skies, very slight breeze but calm seas - perfect. The eight intrepid adventurers who were not here to see who could finish first but to enjoy the spectacular scenery and wildlife. My home pool! A briefing in the castle carpark, transport to the start and into the water. Temperature about 12 degrees however this was irrelevant when there was so much to see and share the water with. Immediately we were bombed by three flying geese all honking madly at us. And then the seals, first one head popped up then two then three.
We were each individual pied pipers with this following of seals, some braver than others but none the less inquisitive and wanting to know who these strange creatures were swimming in THEIR pool. And what a joy, as we swam along, they got closer and closer, not sure just how close they wanted to be but they just wanted to be with us. So close in fact that - oh no, seal attack. Alice had her wet socks pinched straight off her feet by an over zealous seal, well that's the story we will stick with. Actually, Hilary swimming past felt something strange and went to explore only to find a wetsock floating around in the water. The seal attack sounds much more exciting though. Hilary and Hannah in swimming costumes whilst the rest of us light weights were in wetsuits. As safety cover I was concerned whether Hilary was getting cold. However this amazing women just swam, bimbled along, took photographs all with a big smile on her face throughout. If this is hypothermia - I want some of that!!
Steve asked me how seals communicate - he should have known better than to ask me - mobile phone of course!! As the castle drew nearer the strokes got slower because actually we didn't want it to end, all the while aware that we were amidst the most stunning backdrop with centuries of history and still the seals followed us. Into the pool in front of the castle and they followed us right to the end. These lovely creatures were all awarded a red OSS swimming hat for completing the distance of just over a mile. We were followed by a group of about a dozen right to the very end - I guess we were the mornings entertainment for them and they loved it. And so did we!! No one actually wanted to get out despite the cold water and actually almost needed to be dragged out (Mark and Hilary).
As we finished the swim, Mark was swimming back out of the castle pool and duck diving to the bottom only to be copied by a number of seals who couldn't believe their luck that their entertainment was coming back out to play. However we eventually managed to drag him out to get warm and dry. What a day!! Alice synchronised swimming display despite the seal attack on her socks. Steve just swimming off to the right when I distinctly told him to swim left, Hilary who has probably taken about 1000 photos, feels no cold and all with a big smile on her face and Mark who simply refused to get out of the water. All brilliant fun and in the best spirit of outdoor swimming. The British Isles - simply the best swimming pool in the world and with the craziest and most lovely people. Well done to all that completed the swim.
Thank you to OSS for supporting us, thank you to the staff at Dunvegan Castle especially Lynne who sorted out the finish for us along with Colin and Stuart and Ruth, thank you also to the supporters and NWSSS members who helped to transport both swimmers and clothing to various points along the way and also to Colin Woodbridge for your photos from the roadside and waters edge. I have always said it is simply the best swimming pool in the world and today just proved it. And I know that they wont read this ( well maybe they will) but to the beautiful seals of Loch Dunvegan who made every stroke so special by being with us every stroke of the way. What a day!! Already planning for next year...........