I fancied an open water swim up in Aberdeen when I was up visiting my Dad and step Mum this time. And although they live by the sea, I prefer to swim in fresh water, so I had a look for a few places nearby to Stonehaven.
I did try swimming in the sea near Stonehaven harbour last time I was here, but the salt water isn’t my favourite. And it as pretty sure I’d be able to find some fresh water places to swim. (Pic below was me last time after a swim in the sea).
I found could swim in the River Dee at points, and Potarch and I found some other fresh water lochs. But then I came across Knockburn Loch. At first I didn’t realise it was a watersports place, but when I looked into it, I realised it would be an ideal place for me to swim safely and have my parents nearby to watch and to have a coffee in the cafe on site too.
It’s only 11 miles from where they live, but due to the roads, it took half an hour to get there. It gets used for, and was getting set up for a triathlon on Sunday, but the Saturday we went it was nice and quiet, with a few swimmers going in and out on the Saturday morning time slot of 9-12.
It’s a wee bit out in the middle of no where, with single track roads leading to it, with not many passing places, but the road wasn’t too busy and we didn’t have any issues.
We got there at about 10 and I checked in. I’d paid the £10 non member fee for it online, and checked in at reception. There’s changing rooms, lockers, hot showers and a toilet not far from the loch and parking, and it caters well for all sorts of activities (see the website link below).
Around 1020am I got in the water, and my parents went for a wee walk along the loch. It was a nice enough day, not too warm at about 14’C, but fine enough. I was in for about an hour, and in that hour it looked like it was starting to be overcast and not so nice. Then by the time I got out the weather was ok.
The water felt as cold as any other loch, but once I was in I was warmed up in no time.
As I swam, my parents went into the cafe for coffees and a cake (they do bacon rolls etc). I did one lap to get my bearings, and it was about 750m. Then I put my training flippers on and did another lap. Then I took them off and finished with two more laps.
I was practicing a slightly different way of breathing, and sighting, which was made easy with the big large bouy like things in the water to aim for. I also tried my new speedo goggles (the same as the ones I wear in the pool, but these ones are black and mirrored). They were great, much better than my mask and I was able to see a lot better, especially my watch and how far I was swimming.
My new attempt at breathing was to breath on 3 strokes, then on 4, do breathing to the same side, then on 3 again, then on 4. And sighting when I wanted to. It took a bit of getting used to, but I think that’ll be good to do when I’m swimming at loch morlich in a few weeks time. I’ll practice it some in the pool too. I think it might help me go a little bit faster, but we’ll see.
At Knockburn, I needed up swimming 3,000m in just over an hour. The fins helped me swim a little faster for 750m, but overall I felt strong and fit. My average heart rate was 145 max 172… but I felt good throughout.
As I swam, a few groups and individuals got in and out. And it was nice to have my Dad and step mum there to watch for some time and to know they were warm in the cage or my car when they weren’t watching.
I got out and had some of my stuff left at the entry / exit point. It was all left at my risk, but it was all there when I came back to it (a bag with a towel, clothes, shoes etc in it).
I walked the short distance to the changing rooms and wasn’t going to shower, but a lady said the showers were brilliant, so I got my wetsuit off and went in them and had a good wash in my costume. It was so warm after the cold loch and a chance to rinse my wetsuit out too.
As I was getting changed a large group of about 10 school girls and some mums came in, maybe they had a lesson. It was a bit tight, but enough room for all. And the changing rooms were nice and clean too.
When I got back to the car I was treated with a warm black coffee and a mars bar from my step mum, then I drove us back to Stonehaven for some lunch.
All in all a great wee morning, and although £10 might seem a bit steep for a swim in a loch, you get what you pay for and it’s a great site and venue.
After I’d warmed up and has some lunch, I had a nice afternoon chatting with my Dad, then later on I was treated to a lovely tasty steak and pudding after it too. (I like my steak rare!)… at Stacks in Muchalls. Yum. I think I maybe earned it with my swim.
It was a good day to remember anyway, and a nice different day out for my parents too.
See below for a mini review of knockburn sports loch (for swimming).
– – – – –
Location: near Strachan / Aberdeenshire, AB31 6LL
It’s a wee bit out in the middle of no where, but it’s easy to find. Watch out for not much mobile service when you get there, but there is WiFi in the cafe if you really need it.
Access: For all sorts, bookable vis the website.
Price: £10 to swim for a weekend day swim pass (9-12), through the summer months (good for visitors like me). There’s also an annual pass that can be purchased, for regular members.
Parking: Free, and plenty of it.
General: the loch is man made and around 750-800m as a lap of it. You’re advised to swim anti-clockwise, and there are some bouys and other bits in the water so you can practice sighting. As it’s man made there ground seems to be of mud, rather than anything else. I did swim into some reeds at one point, but it’s easy to stay on track because if the bouys.
Website: Here’s a link to the open water swimming section of their website.
Overall, I really enjoyed the whole experience. It was great scenery, and great facilities, and the car park is handy for everything. The cafe was nice too. It was all a little expensive, but you pay for what you get and I’d do it again. Particularly for the safety, and the warm showers and changing room, lockers and toilets for before and after the swim. There’s lots to do, not just swimming, but trails, cycling and football and all sorts of water sports. I’d highly recommend it.