No photos to share, but the beauty, peace and pleasure of my swim in Loch Moy yesterday with Morag, another Wild Highlander, is etched in my mind. We swam for the sheer pleasure of swimming and exploring outdoors.
The loch is surrounded by woodland and we had a short walk through the trees to reach the shore. The sound of the nearby A9 trunk road was still audible but soon was lost to us as we entered the silky smooth water and stroked towards the islands and Moy Hall. As with many of the Highland lochs, the waters are a deep peaty black and made our arms appear ghostly white despite being fairly tanned from the recent weeks of strong sun and outdoor swims. The swim comprised some stretches of sustained front crawl interspersed with some chatty breaststroke and some freestyle twirls to take in the scenery and just delight in the feel of the warm water and the sun on our backs.
Loch Moy has an interesting history (information from the Gazetteer for Scotland) as the main island in the centre of the loch was once inhabited by the chiefs of clan Mackintosh and is said to have had a castle dating from around 1337 and inhabited until 1665. The island is also reputed to have had a garrison of 400 men and been witness to several clan battles in the area (hard to believe such a small island, about 3-400m in length and less in width, could accommodate such a population). The ruins of the castle are apparently still to be found although Morag and I saw no sign of any ruins, not roads nor buildings nor castle, that are supposed to be present during our sojourn onto the island to visit the obelisk.
The obelisk, a 70ft high needle-like construction of granite block in the centre of the island, was reputedly erected in 1824 in honour of Sir Aeneas Mackintosh, the 23rd clan chief who died in 1820. The two of us, having worn wetshoes to protect our feet from the stones when entering/exiting the loch, were able to navigate the vegetation of the island and walk around the obelisk. A brass plaque is to be found high up on one side of the structure, but the script is too small to be read from the ground. A tree sprouts from the highest point of the structure and another tree seems to have gained a root hold a few metres above ground level. Both are visibly forcing the granite blocks apart and decay is inevitable. We saw no signs of the deer resident on the island, but there was plenty of long vegetation and trees for them to hide within. We largely avoided the nettles, but each caught a sting on the legs as we returned down the bank to the water. I then yelped as my feet sank into some deep soft sediment and I was forced to flop forwards to escape. It all added to sense of the adventure.
I mentioned islands, plural. The second island, maybe 100m from the main island, is a clutch of boulders about 3m across and jutting barely a couple of feet clear of the water. Apparently this island was used as a prison with the captive being chained to a stone in the centre. A gallows reportedly stood on the island until the end of the last century and the prisoners were either set free or executed within 24 hours. Hard to believe those few rocks have such a macabre past.
As we swam back towards the shore whence we began our journey there was still time to appreciate the shafts of sunlight dancing on my skin through the water and keep a watch out for the resident ospreys.
As ever, the swim was at an end all too soon.