Brave physio completes first swim around St Kilda

Liane Llewellyn, right, and safety kayak escort Eila Wilkinson enjoy a well-earned dram
Liane Llewellyn, right, and safety kayak escort Eila Wilkinson enjoy a well-earned dram
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Just reaching the most remote islands ever inhabited in Scotland is challenge enough for many visitors with wild weather often cancelling trips into the notoriously rough North Atlantic.

But Liane Llewellyn not only got to St Kilda by boat – but braved heavy swells, aggressive seabirds and basking sharks to swim around the rugged main isle of Hirta.

The 34-year-old physiotherapist from Yorkshire, who had a kayak escort for safety, finished the eight-mile circuit in just over four hours and shunned a wetsuit, despite water temperatures of barely 12 or 13C.

And half an hour after completing what is thought to be a record achievement, Ms Llewellyn got into a kayak to paddle round as well.

She is an experienced long- distance swimmer, having completed the cross channel challenge between England and France, but had never swum around an island.

Her one woman extreme “duathlon” in the remote archipelago was a last-minute idea “just for fun”, suggested by UK adventure kayaker Nigel Dennis who was leading a group paddling tour in the Scottish islands which Ms Llewellyn was on.

Speaking afterwards she said: “It was fabulous. I don’t think anyone else would be mad enough to do it. I was quite nervous about how cold it would be, although I’m used to swimming without a wetsuit, but when I turned the first corner it was magical. There were gannets everywhere and puffins.

“There was also a basking shark but I didn’t see it until I went round again by kayak, I’d probably have been a bit scared if I had spotted it when I was swimming.

“We’d checked the tidal information but at one point there was a lot of flow against me but I got through it.”

Mr Dennis, who in 1980 was one of the first men to kayak round Great Britain, leads paddling trips worldwide in remote locations including Antarctica.

He said: “It’s a fantastic thing to achieve and I’m happy to have helped Liane. St Kilda is in the middle of nowhere so it picks up a lot of swells which can rebound off the cliffs. We monitored the conditions carefully and she is a fast swimmer, which helps her to keep warm.”

The British Long Distance Swimming Association is considering registering the swim. Zoe Sadler, its honorary recorder, said: “I have checked our records which go back many years and there is nothing to suggest that anyone has swum around St Kilda before.”