There is something magical (and a little bit spooky) about the drive to Loch Arkaig. After a sharp turn away from the exposed shores of Loch Lochy, the narrow road meanders through The Dark Mile, a long line of beech trees that completely cut out any light. We drive through a tunnel of towering, interwoven trees and past crumbling stone walls completely covered in spongy green moss. As we emerge into daylight again we are greeted by the bewitching sight of Eas Chia-aig waterfall, cascading down the steep valley and framed by the golden colours of autumn.
Loch A’an is huge: three miles long and thirty metres deep. In the winter the surface of the loch freezes over completely. In the summer the shallow waters around the edge glow turquoise, while the glacial depths in the middle of the loch shine a deeper, darker blue.
Arriving at Loch Etchachan the clouds are rolling in thick and fast, obscuring the views in every direction. Within minutes I find myself engulfed in a world of white mist and blurred shapes. The surrounding mountains melt away and I can only see a small portion of the loch directly in front of me.
Descending from the summit of Braeriach, my stomach churns with excitement as I peer down to catch my first glimpse of Loch Coire an Lochain. A few more steps and there it is, a dark, glistening body of water emerging from the steep-sided coire in front of me. I stop for a minute and drink in the spectacular view, watching the patterns of light and wind dance across the surface of the water below.
‘Hi, Alice, do you fancy a sunrise swim tomorrow?’ I glance down and see the message from Euan on my screen. I double-check what time sunrise will be tomorrow. ‘YES!’ I reply, ‘See you at 4:15 am.’
'Emma and I are going to dip every day in December to raise money for charity’ said my friend Karen through chattering teeth after a chilly loch swim in late November, ‘are you going to join us?’ There wasn’t much to think about really - I enjoy swimming in cold water; I love raising money for charity; I can never resist a challenge – ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘absolutely!’