Loch Lomond to play host to Scotland’s first ice swimming races

Wetsuits are banned, temperatures must be below 5C but ice swimming is increasingly popular. Picture: Getty
Wetsuits are banned, temperatures must be below 5C but ice swimming is increasingly popular. Picture: Getty
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A surge in long distance winter swimming across Scotland sounds far madder than any Loony Dook.

But the nation’s first ice swimming championships has just booked up with 80 people from around the world preparing to take the plunge at Loch Lomond next Saturday.

The inaugural event, where wetsuits are banned and temperatures must be below 5C, will see a hardcore group of swimmers leave the bonny banks of the loch in just their trunks or swimsuits to plough 1km through the cold waters.

It follows Scotland’s first ice mile challenge on Saturday near Glasgow where places filled up before Christmas.

The traditional goody bags which competitors receive at outdoor sports events will include a warming whisky miniature for the Loch Lomond race event, while a mobile sauna will be on hand for swimmers to thaw out afterwards.

Most of the swimmers are women in their 50s, including organiser and established long distance swimmer Pauline Barker.

She said: “There is a real interest in this, especially from women of my age.

“I like to make a fuss of my swimmers because it is quite extreme so we’ve got a bagpiper who will lead the swimmers to the loch and some girls doing Highland dancing.”

Acknowledging that it will be “quite chilly” she stressed that health and safety were of paramount importance with two ambulances, two doctors, a nurse and four paramedics on hand throughout the day.

Numbers are more than double the entries for the inaugural UK ice swimming championships which were held in Southampton last year.

While a group of around 30 will do the swim on Saturday, the remainder will take part in an ice gala with a range of shorter distances. Ice swimming championships – which originated in South Africa – are classed as races where the water is 5C or below, so while there may not always be ice it is not unlikely.

It is the latest in a growing trend for wild swimming across the country.

The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park authority has reported record numbers of people taking the plunge in its 22 lochs during the summer, including increasing numbers swimming the entire 21 miles of its most famous loch.