A Week of Wild Swimming
When the sun shines in Scotland you have to make the most of it, so when the sun came out in July we finished work early and set off for a wild swim. It was too good an opportunity to miss. As it turned out it was the start of a settled spell, so over the next week it became a wild swimming in Stirlingshire tour.
I am a member of a number of Facebook groups for wild and outdoor swimmers and Loch Lubnaig came highly rated, albeit with the caveat that you have to get there early to park. As we were going in the afternoon we decided to park a bit further away at Kilmahog and walk along to the west side of the Loch. This proved to be a very good move, because:
a) it was a beautiful walk in partially along the old railway line and partly through lovely woods beside the River Ledi and Ledi Falls;
b) the car parks (which are pay and display) and beaches on the east side by the road were indeed busy and we practically got the shoreline on the west to ourselves; and
c) there were plenty of bilberries, wild strawberries and raspberries on the walk which we picked and took home for tea!
On getting to the Loch we climbed over a fence just before the holiday chalets to reach the shore close to the mouth of the Loch. You would be sensible to follow a well defined path a bit sooner than we did as the way we took down to the water was overgrown. Aim for the rocky shoreline/beach and it is a nice easy entry to the water - we always wear swim shoes to help us over the rocks. Once in the water it was stunning - a real idyll and with the blue skies, mountains and holiday chalets we could have been in the Alps. With all the sunseekers on the opposite shore and people out paddle boarding and swimming I called it the Costa Del Scotland!
A word of warning: the loch floor falls away very sharply, so this is not really a place for bringing children for a paddle. We are cautious wild swimmers and always swim parallel to the shore so that we can easily turn in and get within our depth. Much as it did not look far, I was not tempted to swim across to the other shore.
This was a seriously good swim spot and we will certainly be returning.
Three days later and we had planned to meet up with the family for a barbeque and a bit of a swim. This time we decided to head to Loch Venachar, another loch close to Callander. We had our bbq at the Little Druim Wood car park and then walked the food off with a short walk from the car park. As we couldn't access the loch from there we moved the cars a few hundred meters back up the road to one of the two lochside car parks. As you would expect it was very popular by the loch, but there was plenty of space on the shore for all.
This loch felt much cooller, but probably because it is not as sheltered, there was quite a breeze blowing. It was also a nice shallow entry to the water, but as often happens with the shallower entrance it was quite muddy and our feet were sinking into the mud. Despite this we all enjoyed are swim (except Osha, who thought we were all mad).
Peter travelled south on the Sunday, leaving me home alone and messing about the river near where we live. I have previously swum in a rather nice pool between the Balfron Bridge and Endrick Bridge and so I headed off there in the heat. Occasionally there have been a couple of others swimming there, but in general we have had the pool to ourselves. I have had lovely close encounters with herons and mallards when swimming in this stretch of river.
There is something about river swimming which I love - it is so peaceful just stroking along under the trees at the same level as the damselflies etc.
Carron Valley Reservoir
A couple of days later and our son Matthew picked me up for a family evening dip, which I think just counts as wild swimming in Stirlingshire - the reservoir is on the county border. We parked east of the Todholes car park and climbed through a gap in the fence to reach the entry point that was suitable for the kayaks as well as swimming.
As I waded in for a swim I was alerted by Catherine to a bird flying over - an osprey (yesssss!) which was fishing. A dream evening for me! Apparently it had been there fishing all afternoon. As you can see from the photos Osha was very happy in the canoe where she didn't have to get her feet wet!
This was such a good swim spot that I returned with Peter after our walk around Sauchie Crags. Sadly by this time some people had been there camping and set fire to the tent and belongings and just left it by the shore, rather spoiling what is otherwise a lovely place to go.
There are plenty of places for wild swimming in Stirlingshire with so many lochs and rivers, just not so many days suitable for doing it!