82 – The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

I am so determined to swim that I begin the day with my costume under my clothes. I have dreamed about the turquoise water and ever-rising cascades since I was given Kate Rew’s ‘Wild Swim’ and I can’t believe I’m finally here. But when we pull up – early to avoid the worst of the crowds – we’re told that the rain has caused the river to rise and it’s currently not safe to cross. We can’t get to the famed pools. Resolving to try again later, we go off for the day, trying to ignore the smell of mildew and sea that’s coming from me – caused by my swimming costume that I put on in such optimistic preparation.

We drive to Elgol and back through the Cuillins, hoping it will stay dry and the water will lower. When we return the car park is almost empty and the sky is darkening. Down by the river, which is still high enough to put the stepping stones a good few inches under water, a handful of people cluster on the bank trying to work out where to cross. There are people on the other side, so we know it’s possible, and after plodging up and down we decide the submerged stepping stones are indeed the best place to cross. The water flows fast but it’s shallow, and with care it’s easy to cross. Then we walk up the valley as the light begins to fade.

When they come into view, the pools aren’t turquoise. More a mottled green, the muteness of the landscape around and the greyness of the sky reflected back to us. They also aren’t really pools anymore, more a series of rushing waterfalls. I can imagine that in glorious sunshine they would shimmer with the spectacular colours they are legendary for. As it is, after such a build up, they are a little….underwhelming.

Still, I have my pond-smelling costume on, so we find a sheltered pool (though a somewhat shallow one) and I get in. The water in the main channel is separated from me by a rock ridge, and I’m glad of the protection as it seethes and surges on its downwards journey. My bit isn’t quite deep enough to really swim, so I pull myself around with my hands on the rock for a bit, before climbing out and getting dressed. Not quite what I had been building myself up for, but still a cold swim in clear water surrounded by mountains. There are worse places to swim.

I’m raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/swimbonnieswim

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