58 miles between remote Scottish Isles

Is there a swim adventure on your doorstep?

© Alamy

Last year Colin Macleod and six other ‘everyday’ swimmers set out to swim the ‘mad and dangerous’ 58 miles between the North Atlantic Ocean from St Kilda, a remote archipeligo, to the west of the Outer Hebrides, to Hushinish on the Isle of Harris. Situated 40 miles off the north-west coast of Scotland, these islands are renowned for rough sees and freezing conditions from the battering wind from across the Atlantic. They made it!

© John Dyer

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.

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.

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

© John Dyer
© John Dyer

“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.

“You have to visit! The Western Isles really is a swimmers paradise with cracking beaches, Lochs and nearby off shore islands to swim to.”

Sometimes described as the islands at the edge of the world’, the archipelago of St Kilda is the remotest part of the British Isles.

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

For more Scottish swimming inspiration check out Wild Guide Scotland, which includes over 900 secret adventures, hidden places and wild escapes. Discover secret beaches, crystal coves and tiny islands, dramatic sea stacks, caves and cliffs, and waterfalls, lochs and river swimming.

You can purchase a copy of Wild Guide Scotland from the publisher by following this link.

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Words : Colin MacLeod