Cold Water Swimming: A Year-Round Adventure

Get inspired to try something new with this beautiful guest blog on the discovery and joys of cold water swimming from journalist and wild swimmer, Nic Goddard...

The Beginning
My wild swimming adventures began during the very warm summer of 2019, which coincided with the start of menopausal hot flushes and interviewing a wild swimming coach for my job writing for the local newspaper.

I am originally from the south coast of England but moved to the Scottish Highlands in 2012. Being close to the sea has always been important to me, although I previously only got in the water for summer time paddles or to rescue my children from ‘chase the waves’ games which had gone wrong when they were small, and found themselves knocked over in the shallows or with wellies full of water!

Nic Goddard - Wild swimming, Scotland

Now I live close to Loch Sunart - a salty sea loch some 19 miles long in the west highlands - and driving alongside the loch on a hot day, it felt as though it was calling to me with its clear blue water and promise of cool depths. Just one taster session with that wild swimming coach to reassure me and I was hooked.

Within weeks I was swimming every day, within months I had shed the wetsuit I had started my swims in and was entering the loch in all seasons and all temperatures barefoot, wearing just a swimsuit.

Wild Swimming - nic Goddard, Scotland. Silhouette against the sun stepping into cold water from the shore

A Perfect Solution
Like so many women of a certain age, I have found cold water swimming to be the perfect solution to staying active when I am almost always too hot and often need a wee! But there is more to my five years of wild swimming than being a physical part of my day. I have made friends through my swimming; I was new to the area and have connected to fellow water users of various ages and genders, from kayakers and canoeists, sailors and fishing enthusiasts, paddle boarders and every type of swimmer from hardcore ice-milers to shrieking neoprene clad dippers, and everyone in between.

In the main though, I prefer to swim alone. I have walked into my salty sea loch in every frame of mind imaginable - angry, sad, happy, playful, serious, desperate for some alone time and headspace, eager to connect with the wild. The loch always delivers just what I need. Sometimes it cradles me, the seaweed strokes me, the water caresses me and washes away my woes. At other times it offers me a challenge, bringing waves to toss me about, splash at my face and remind me of my place in the world.

Nic Goddard - Wild swimming, Scotland

The loch is mercurial, offering me a feeling of perspective when the world on land feels overwhelming and reminding me of my smallness, my humanity and my transient time on earth, or by turn, giving me the gift of feeling mighty and powerful, able to propel myself through the waves and reminding me how strong and useful my body is. Wearing just a swimsuit I feel the most powerful and able I ever have, giving me a love for my physical self that I had never possessed previously.

Returning to the same spot most days keeps me entirely in tune with nature - the moon controlling the tides, the changing of the seasons, the comings and goings of the wild. I heard the first cuckoo of spring and the first roaring stag of the autumn, I saw the first and the last swallow of the season at the loch. The colours change on the trees and the moors around the loch, snow caps the tops of the mountains and then melts away - to be felt in the chill of the water temperature as it enters the loch through countless rivers - bringing the cold and the fresher water.

I regularly spot birds flying low across the water, wading on the shore, standing in the shallows, bobbing about on the loch with me: heron, cormorant, oystercatcher, curlew, goose, ducks, gulls … I learn their names, their calls, their behaviours. In the summertime fish jump and jellyfish arrive. I have swam with otters and seals, silently communicating and sharing the water. I have arrived at the loch shore with a hammer to break the ice to get in, staying just long enough in the water for the cold shock thrill to kick in. I have stayed in for well over an hour, swimming long distances and lingering on the shore afterwards, not quite ready to return to the real world.

Every single swim is different, every single one meeting some need in me, often one I didn’t even know existed until it was met. I have often stood on the shore, or even slightly submerged in the water, questioning whether I want to get in or not. I have never yet left the water without feeling so glad and grateful I got in.

Nic Goddard - Wild Swiiming, submerged like a mermaid

Be Encouraged
I have encouraged many people to try outdoor swimming - most of us are able to find a loch, lake, river, sea or other body of water to get into, if not daily, then regularly. You can access cold water therapy any time in your own bath or shower to see if that works for you. There is no particular kit required: I swim in one of my (rather large) collection of second hand swimsuits collected from ebay or charity shops. I don't wear a hat, or gloves, or shoes or goggles although many of my fellow swimmers do. You need water, a safe entry and exit in and out, a hot drink for afterwards, plenty of layers of warm, dry clothes to put on, an awareness of fellow water users and visibility aids (a tow float or brightly coloured swim hat) if there are others around to ensure they can spot you.

You also need advice on safety considerations such as tides, water quality and submerged dangers if you are somewhere you don’t know well. There are many online groups, social media pages and other ways to connect with local swimmers: for company, top tips on locations and safety. There are also guide books suggesting swimming spots and you can often make contact with a wild swimming guide who can take you to the best places in unfamiliar areas. Safety is the primary concern at all times and listening to your own body about your limits is the best advice I can offer to any swimmer.

Post Swim Care
As a daily swimmer in salt water, I have to shower and wash my hair post-swim, so a mild shampoo is essential to ensure I don’t end up with straw-like hair. Balmonds Shampoo and Body Wash is my ideal shower companion, offering a gentle daily wash for every bit of me.

Whilst I find the salt water is excellent as a natural exfoliator during the winter, the extreme changes in temperature between cold water and a warm shower give me dry skin patches on my legs. Balmonds Bath and Body Oil is a perfect solution to this, and I apply it whilst still damp from my post-swim shower to lock in moisture and soothe my skin.

During the very cold weather, I do also suffer with chilblains, particularly on my fingers. Skin Salvation is a great balm to give an intensive moisturising boost to my sore, itchy fingers.

 Find more tips, resources, locations and benefits below:
Wild Swimming for Beginners
The Rivers Trust - Wild Swimming
The Outdoor Swimming Society


Nic Goddard

 I’m Nic Goddard, a freelance writer and editor living in the Scottish Highlands with my husband, our adult children (and often their partners), our two cats and an assortment of chickens. I adore our noisy, busy house nestled in the ancient oak woodlands of the Ardnamurchan peninsula, but also value my quiet time outdoors connecting to the wild and being close to nature, particularly in my daily wild swims in the sea loch close to our house.


Post Swim Skincare Recommendations:


cold water therapy health & wellness hobbies lifestyle mature skin mental health mental wellness outdoor activities outdoor skin wellbeing wild swimming

← Older Post Newer Post →


Join to get special offers, free giveaways, and once-in-a-lifetime deals.