Scot swims Loch Lomond with no wetsuit to say thanks to ‘selfless’ rescuers

AN EXPERIENCED wild swimmer who was heartbroken by the drownings in Loch Lomond in July set herself an incredible challenge to show gratitude to the selfless volunteers who keep people safe in Scotland’s waters and to raise much-needed funds to ensure that they can continue their vital work.

Earlier this month, Nicola Mather from Edinburgh fulfilled a longstanding dream when she became one of just a few dozen swimmers to swim the entire length of Loch Lomond – a total of 21.6 miles – without a wetsuit, and has she so far raised more than £1,600 for Loch Lomond Rescue Boat. 

Starting at 5.10am on August 10, the challenge took nearly 16 and a half hours to complete where she was in water for the whole time.

“I moved to Scotland 12 years ago and I’ve been swimming outdoors for a number of years in places like Portobello and the reservoirs around Edinburgh and I’ve done marathons and six or eight hour swims, but I’ve always wanted to have a go at Loch Lomond,” she said, “My friend Chris runs a swim group called Inchbaggers and does full safety covered supported swims and I’ve been swimming round the islands with her.

“She’s supported a lot of swimmers over the years and she knows the Loch and the conditions so I felt very safe with her. When I heard about the drownings in Loch Lomond I was so upset, it was just a horrific time I couldn’t believe it I felt sick to my stomach.

“I felt so awful for everyone involved and their friends and family, but also the rescuers. 

“I just wanted to do something constructive and I couldn’t think of anyone better to raise money for than a local charity on the Loch who have very difficult things at a time when they are extremely busy and just something to say thank you to them.

“As a swimmer and somebody that uses the water, I think it is just so selfless what they do.”

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Mrs Mather, 48, began her swim in Balloch after walking down the Duncan Mills slipway and had the support and motivation of Chris, her husband Elliot who helped to keep her fed, kayaker Rich and friend Diana along the way.

To keep herself motivated through the sensory deprivation she tapped into “a playlist” in her head of an eclectic mix of music from ‘Donald, Where’s Your Troosers?’ to 60s disco, 80s rock and 90s indie music.

The hardest point, she added, was around 12 hours into the swim which was the longest she had done when she was both physically and mentally drained from the feat.

She completed the feat at Ardlui at 9.37pm where she crawled out of the water to be congratulated by her supporters and people who had spotted her from the campsite near the loch – as well as a welcome party of midges.

“I couldn’t quite believe that I had done it,” Mrs Mather added, “We went to the Ardlui hotel after and people were so lovely, they saw me bundled up in clothes and came to ask questions while I was warming up with a cup of tea. People were so supportive, it was brilliant.”

HeraldScotland: After more than 16 hours, she crawled out of the waterAfter more than 16 hours, she crawled out of the water

Speaking about the benefits of wild swimming, Mrs Mather said she finds the experience “very grounding” and since taking up the activity has found a great community of people who get to experience the beauty of the country in a unique way.

“Lots of people have discovered it,” she said, “I think when I first started people thought I was a bit strange, but now so many people are out enjoying it and it’s really fantastic.

“I’ve raised more than £1,600 and the rescue boat has sent some lovely messages to say thank you but I’d like to raise as much as possible for them, it really makes a huge difference to the work that they do.”

Loch Lomond Rescue Boat’s President, Calum Stevens said: “All the volunteers at the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat are overwhelmed by Nicola’s accomplishment fundraising for the boat. 

“To swim the length of the Loch without a wetsuit is a truly incredible feat and we are honoured that she has chosen us as her charity of choice for her fundraising. 

“As Nicola points out we have had a very busy and difficult summer with many callouts and sadly fatalities on the Loch. 

“As a volunteer charity organisation, fundraisers like Nicola are key to our continued operation on the Loch, we rely on donations to pay for fuel, kit and operational costs. Once again, a huge thank you from all of us at the Loch Lomond Rescue Boat and an amazing swim indeed.”

Those wishing to donate to Mrs Mather’s fundraiser can do so on the Virgin Money Giving page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/NicolaGraham2

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992