Five things I’ve learned while dipping to Scotland

OSS Swim Champ Lindsey Cold shares what she learnt in winter '19, cycling and dipping her way to Scotland

Lindsey Cole

OSS Swim Champ Lindsey Cole began her Dipping to Scotland adventure as a way to reach the Scottish Winter Swimming Championships in early March. Six weeks later, she was still going strong: diving for sugar kelp off the Isle of Lewis; convincing a truck driver to pull up and paddle in a loch off an A-road somewhere; competing in Red Bull Neptune Steps in Glasgow; exploring Orkney and the Shetland Isles and dipping at the northernmost point of the country; slipping into New Cumnock lido before it opened for the year; and generally embracing nooks and crannies of Scotland many Scots have yet to explore.

Anyone who has followed her trip on Instagram has learned something, whether it’s swimming spots to add to their list or remembering to leave our comfort zone because it can change how we see ourselves. Here, Lindsey shares what she learned along the way.

“Wild swimming is more addictive than I’d ever anticipated. I’ve likened it to injecting my veins with unicorn blood. Whatever dull/craggy/low mood I’ve felt has totally been awash the moment I’ve dunked my head under and come back squealing with delight. It’s impossible not to smile after a quick dip. It’s so addictive that I couldn’t refuse a swim invite. I swam morning and evening most days along my journey even after cycling up to 12 hours a day. The Lake District was just too inviting that I quadruple dipped. And, I’m actually currently still pedalling around Scotland joining wild swimmers. I had a lift sorted back down south after the Scottish Cold Water Swimming Champs, but I was having such a great time, on a massive high that I decided to carry on and accepted more random swim invites regardless of their locations. There are worse addictions you can have I suppose, right?! It really is incredible for your mind, body and soul. This is what I’ve learned along the way:

  • Swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. We strip in the open air, throw our clothes into a bundle on the shore of the water and dive into the water together. Once we’re in that water we’re all the same. It’s quite magical. I am totally un-body conscious now. The more dips I did the more I realised how inconvenient trying to shade my bare bottom and bits became. It was a lot more time efficient to just get dressed however which way was quickest, and if my pasty white bottom moonied to distant strangers passing by then so be it. I didn’t care. And that winter leg fuzz just meant I could stay in the water for longer.
  • No matter how experienced you are, and how long you’re able to stay in the water, your body tells you when enough is enough. Ordinarily, I’m not a very disciplined or organised person, but by dipping every day I have learned to listen to signs when my body has been tired and cold. Sometimes I can last over 20 minutes and sometimes I can only handle three. If I’m feeling under the weather or tired, my body will tell me so. That’s the other side I like about the community: it’s not competitive at all. There’s no bragging about who can last the longest or swim the furthest or quickest.
Lindsey Cole

“We strip in the open air, throw our clothes into a bundle on the shore of the water and dive into the water together. Once we’re in that water we’re all the same. It’s quite magical. I am totally un-body conscious now.” 

  • This wonderful community of wild swimmers is one of the friendliest and welcoming I’ve ever been a part of. In the last 15 years, the longest I’ve spent in one location is 10 months. I’ve really yearned for a community and for some reason haven’t been able to successfully tap into any. It can make you feel quite lonely when you’re not a part of something. Even though I’ve very much been moving around the UK whilst dipping to Scotland, I’ve never felt more a part of a bubbly, bright, beautiful community which has accepted me with the biggest, warmest welcomes. Swimmers from one group have linked me up with another. Followers have answered any call-outs I’ve made if I’ve struggled to find connections somewhere. And the most wonderful thing is, everyone I’ve stayed with have said I’m welcome back any time. Uh, oh! Watch out what you say dearest dippers, I will return!
  • If anyone hasn’t been to Scotland then you need to get it into your travel agenda right now. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gasped, swooned or been utterly mesmerised. Scotland comes with the tagline ‘free to roam’ and there’s so much of it to wander and wonder about. I’ve had to restrain myself at times from jumping into inviting lochs that have appeared alongside my path. Scotland is a wild swimmers dream.
  • And one of the best points is that Spring has just arrived, and I didn’t even find winter was that bad because I embraced the cold water and made the use of it. I inadvertently got into wild swimming after mermaiding the Thames in November. Since then, I’ve made so many good friends all across Britain and I’ve probably had more highs and laughed more than I did in the whole of 2018. Well, that’s saying something about swimming in cold water isn’t it?!

Follow Lindsey’s ongoing adventures @stompycole

Photo: Anna Deacon (@wildswimmingphotography)
Lindsey Cole