Swimmers take the New Year plunge at Glenfinnan and Strontian

Swimmers take the New Year's Day plunge at Glenfinnan. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F02 GLENFINNAN SWIM 03
Swimmers take the New Year's Day plunge at Glenfinnan. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F02 GLENFINNAN SWIM 03

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Intrepid souls marked the arrival of a new year and a new decade with chilly dips at various loch locations in Lochaber, including Glenfinnan and Strontian.

Long time open water swimmer and Fort William resident Morag Hughes confirmed the number of hardy souls entering the waters of Loch Shiel as 65.

‘We were absolutely delighted with the record number of swimmers this year amazing for the size of the village,’ she told the Lochaber Times, adding that the water temperature on the day had been a bracing six degrees..

‘It was great to see a wide age group taking part and having fun. Thanks to Jane at Glenfinnan House Hotel for the hospitality afterwards and Alistair for the fire on the shore.

‘Four members of The Rebel Swimming Group swam over 250m. They are taking part in a Polar Bear Challenge, swimming November to March in a swimsuit.

‘They are raising money for The Wee Harry Potter Bridge Project and £144 was raised today at the dook.’

Three of the Rebel Swimmers taking part on New Year’s Day  only started open water swimming last year.

Two of them are doing doing the Jedi Challenge – the most arduous of all the categories in the Polar Bear winter swimming challenges – which  involves swimming 250 metres twice a month and completing 3,000 metres’ total distance each month. A total of 10 swims in water temperatures as low as five degrees are also required during the overall challenge.

The challenges run until 31 March 2020 and the aim is to complete a set number of swims and distances outdoors in the sea, river, lake or unheated lido over the winter period.

The Polar Bear Challenge is run under the clothing rules of the International Ice Swimming Association which means that the only attire allowed is one standard swimsuit (which may not extend over the shoulders or below the knees), a single swim hat, goggles, noseclips and earplugs if required.

Chilly but fun as the swimmers 'enjoy' a New Year's Day dip in the waters of Loch Shiel. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos NO F02 GLENFINNAN SWIM 02
Chilly but fun as the swimmers ‘enjoy’ a New Year’s Day dip in the waters of Loch Shiel. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, alba.photos

Wild swimmers at Strontian also saw 2020 in with a ‘loony dook’ dip in Loch Sunart at midday on January 1, writes Nic Goddard.

Joining fellow ‘dookers’ elsewhere on the peninsula, including organised dooks at Salen and Ardgour, a group of around 15 brave swimmers shook off any remnants of New Year’s Eve partying to brave the four degree temperature at Strontian jetty.

The 'loony dookers' at Strontian. NO F02 Strontian swim 01
The ‘loony dookers’ at Strontian.

To add a sense of ceremony to the proceedings Strontian resident and wild swimming coach Laura McConnachie played Scotland the Brave on bagpipes, accompanied by Debra Green on the bodhran drum beating a march, both clad in wetsuits and following the swimmers in once they had put down their instruments.

The swimmers comprised of locals and a couple of visitors to the area, with all enjoying a swim out to a boat moored in the loch and back before some of them took their wetsuits off and went back in for a second dip – several of them leapt off the jetty.

Observed by a crowd of less intrepid folk and Mollie the dog who could not be persuaded into the loch completely but was happy to get her paws wet standing on the jetty.

Swimmers emerge from Loch Sunart on New Year’s Day.

There were swimmers of all ages from teens to retirees with a wide range of swimming ability from competing triathletes to an adventurous beginning swimmer wearing L-plates.

The group retired to the Bothy Bar in Strontian for soup and mulled wine to warm back up with donations to Marie Curie collected by the bar.

The Strontian Splashers meet every Sunday at midday at Strontian jetty for swimming with all welcome to join in for a dip.