Highland swimmers raise funds and achieve new open water first

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Two Highland swimmers recently took to the open water to achieve a new first for the area when they swam from Achiltibuie to Ullapool in the north west Highlands.

The route saw them in the water for over 9 hours swimming 14 miles through cold open seas.

Norman Todd from Ullapool and Colin Macleod from Stornoway took on the epic swim.

Norman Todd from Ullapool and Colin Macleod from Stornoway took on the epic swim.

Norman Todd (45) from Ullapool and Colin MacLeod (45) from Stornoway met earlier in the year at an 8 mile memorial swim in Loch Broom.

Deciding to look for another challenge, they opted for the coast between the two communities which had never been done previously.

They also used the swim to support and raise awareness of a local marine project called the Living Seas Project.

Both the start and end beaches selected had previously been cleaned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Living Seas Project, and the swimmers want to support effort to keep the coast and sea free from litter.

Colin had previously taken part in a number of swims including one to the Shiant Islands off Harris and even as a member of a relay team that swam to St Kilda. He was in training every day in the build up to the swim.

Norman who works offshore had to limit his exercise at work to the gym, as swimming off gas platforms, is understandably not allowed.

The pair also decided to use the swim as a fund raiser for another Living Seas Project, the ‘Dolphin Snorkellers’ program which has been training school children how to snorkel at Ullapool swimming pool then taking them out into the sea to experience real snorkelling and seeing the marine life and environment for themselves.

Norman, who had to leave for work on his rig hours after completing the marathon swim, said: “The coast of Scotland is an extremely rich environment and encouraging people that live and visit here to get out and appreciate it is a goal of ours.

“The swim was a challenge and really took it out of us both, but hopefully it will attract attention to the amazing waters we have and the potential for others to take the plunge and get out there to enjoy.”

A fishing boat, leisure craft and kayaker accompanied the swimmers throughout their journey, not only supporting the pair with liquids and nutritional bars and drinks, but also keeping a watchful eye out for fishing boats, ferries and even naval craft currently taking part in Joint Warrior – the UK’s largest military sea exercise.

They were also joined by a number of small craft, rowing skiffs and yachts, escorting them from their send off from members of the community at Achiltibuie at 11am, to a reception of over 100 people sounding horns, flashing lights, playing bagpipes and cheering them in to Ullapool Harbour in the dark after 8pm.

Noel Hawkins from the Living Seas Project was aboard one of the support vessels.

“Watching the lads push themselves to such a limit was amazing. Even trained swimmers are pushing their boundaries over such a distance and time, but the welcome at Ullapool was brilliant and really helped the guys ashore,” he described.

“The fundraising has currently raised almost £3,000 which will go a long way to help purchase wetsuits and equipment enabling us to get even more kids into the sea and learning not only to enjoy it, but hopefully, to appreciate it too and grow up helping to conserve and protect it.”

A live satellite system called ‘Yellow Brick’ allowed the pair to transmit their position throughout the swim, and messages of support on social media were received from all over Britain and even France, America and Australia.

More information about the swim and the dolphin snorkelers they are supporting can be found: here

If you would like to support their fundraising effort go to: website