I found Loch Lubnaig on the wild swim map on the drive up, before I even knew it was less than half an hour from where we were staying. And when we pull up to the easy to find car park, you can see why. There’s a long gravely beach area edged with a few sparsely scattered tall trees and the water is clear enough to show the coffee coloured rocks at the bottom for a good few feet. There’s a coach in the car park, and the shore is dotted with camera toting tourists. It feels a bit exposing to go wading in right here. We walk up a bit, past a camping sign and a handful of tents, and push through some thick bushes that dip their lower limbs in the water to find a slightly more private section. The road is closer here, with lorries thundering past what feels like directly overhead. It’s strangely anachronistic when juxtaposed with the mountains and the flat lake surface.
It’s cold – really cold – perhaps because it’s later in the day and the sun is behind the hill, no more than a memory to the water. It’s screamingly cold when it comes up over my shoulders, but that kind of icy grip can’t sustain itself and it falls away soon, leaving behind a sharp outline at the edges. I can feel where every bit of me ends and the water starts, and a few inches into me stays silvery frosty, even when the insides warm up.
The road is noisy, but when I kick away from it it settles into background hum. Mountains and trees, forests and peaks surround me again, and the water is turning black as the light trickles away. A white house nestles in a cleft of the cliff looking out over the water. It must be an amazing view to wake up to every day.
The sky still holds some of the day’s light, even though the sun is firmly a thing of the past. The water glimmers between black and deep green, always flickering with white at the edges, the ripples and lines that hold together the substance – like the pen line on a Japanese illustration. The cold of the water brings out the hidden aches in my body and my wrist burns as if I’ve twisted it. I don’t remember hurting it, but the cold wedges itself into those gaps and pushes out the pains you barely register at a normal temperature. Now, in the water, my bones settling together and jamming against each other, it hurts to rotate it. I make sure not to stray too far from the shore most of the time anyway, but I kick back in slowly, enjoying the view and the sensation all the more for knowing it’s coming to an end.
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