58 miles between remote Western Isles
58 miles between remote Western Isles

Date: Wednesday 17th February 2016

Is there a swim adventure on your doorstep? Last year Colin Macleod and six other 'everyday' swimmers set out to swim the 'mad and dangerous' 58 miles between remote islands in the Outer Hebrides. And they made it.

In 2014, Colin Macleod and six other “everyday” swimmers challenged themselves to swim 58 miles across the North Atlantic Ocean from St Kilda, a remote archipeligo to the west of the Outer Hebrides, to Hushinish on the Isle of Harris. 

The team were forced to abandon their first attempt, in 2014, after swimming 24 miles in 6ft waves. The second attempt, in 2015, began at 4.15am from the Village Bay pier on the island of Hirta – St Kilda’s biggest island. Colin was first in the water - swimmer positions were decided by  picking numbers out of a hat, with each swimming in 45 minute shifts. “I couldn’t see anything swimming out of Village Bay when I started, “ says Colin. “It was only when the bioluminescence started, that my mind was taken away from other things that were lurking about.”

“It was only when the bioluminescence started, that my mind was taken away from other things that were lurking about.”

However, there was plenty of marine activity lurking about. Dolphins, seals, Lions Maine jellyfish and a 25ft Minke Whale joined the swimmers as they battled choppy waters and changing tides.

“ We were guided and supported by our support boat Mv Cuma, skippered by Murdo Macdonald, “ says Colin. “Then we had support kayakers Pj Maclachlan, Allan Macdonald and Dave Clement. The kayakers would guide the swimmer in the right direction and the skipper would be plotting the course.”

Towards the end of the swim as the group neared the Island of Scarp the tide turned forcing the swimmers to change their approach. “It became too hard to get through the strong current, so we made a decision to shorten the swimming shifts to 15 minute bursts to get us to the finish line,” says Colin. “It worked a treat and we were soon in sight of friends and family waiting to greet us.”

In total the adventure took them 35 hours to complete. Angus Murray, John Dyer, Christina Mackenzie, Eddie Smith, Eilidh Whiteford and Mark Maciver were the other swimmers and Colin is the first to rate the unique team effort, from the team swimming in the water to the support crew’s cooking skills. The adventure has since been mentioned in The Scottish Parliament, The Houses of Parliament and the team have received personal letters of thanks from Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles. They raised £22,000 for charity. 

  • Sometimes described as the islands at the edge of the world’, the archipelago of St Kilda is the remotest part of the British Isles. “You have to visit! There are regular summer boat trips,” says Colin. “The Western Isles really is a swimmers paradise with cracking beaches, Lochs and nearby off shore islands to swim to.”
  • Visit the OSS Wild Swim Map for more on the St Kilda Swim 
  • For more information about Colin’s adventure visit www.stkildaswim.co.uk 
  • The St Kilda swim team have been nominated for a National Adventure Award. Please vote for them before 15th March.  

Photo: St Kilda Team at Hushinish