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I'm high above Scotland's Outer Hebrides, at the beginning of something of a personal odyssey. First stop is the Isle of Barra. With the tides out at Traigh Mhor, the only beach in the world used as a runway for scheduled flights. Barra is one of more than 100 islands in the Outer Hebrides, but it's not long before I'm on the ferry to neighbouring Eriskay.
This is an extraordinary part of the world. The rock formations and the landscape, and especially the water. Everywhere you look there's sea or loch. From Eriskay, it's onto South Uist, famous for the white sand beaches that run virtually unbroken up the island's west coast. But as I head north, there's beauty everywhere.
The scenery is so good. You keep wanting to take your eyes off the road. The road takes me on to North Uist. From around the eighth century, Vikings raided and then settled these Western Isles. The word "Uist" itself may be derived from an old Norse name meaning a dwelling. But habitation here dates back much further. This Neolithic burial chamber is around 5,000 years old. This is the kind of place where one car passing through feels like a real intrusion. Tomorrow, though, I'm going even further north.
Somewhere in there, there's a very special body of water. I'm getting closer to my final destination on the Isle of Harris. Here we are. There's the gate. So from here on, it's walking. That's two hours of walking. This is an area for golden eagles, which I'm hoping to get a closer glimpse. Up there, I think, is the Sron Uladal and just around the corner, if I'm not mistaken, will be the loch.
This is Loch Langabhat. It's at the heart of some of the most dramatic landscape in Scotland, a place I've been drawn to ever since I heard of it. But I didn't come all this way just to admire the view. I've come for a swim. Look at that. Nice, easy entry to the water. Yeah, this will do nicely. Whose idea was this? It's taken me a day and a half to get here from Edinburgh. With the water temperature at 10 degrees, I'll only stay in for about 10 minutes at best. What am I doing? Insanity, I tell you. I've been wild swimming since I was a child, back when it was just called swimming. I do it for fun, but they say it can improve your mood, your blood circulation, and your immune system.
While swimming has its risks, you have to choose your spots carefully. And walk, don't jump, into cold water. You need to take care. But it's worth it. For a few intense minutes, and leave everything behind, and live in the moment. It's a great feeling. And across the UK, the number of people swimming in open waters is soaring. Nature in the raw. That's what it is. Nature in the raw. Not so bad, really. Not so bad.
So was it crazy to come all this way just for a day? Maybe. I couldn't claim that was a relaxing swim, but it was certainly invigorating. And I feel alive now. I've got every stitch of clothing in my pack on me. And I feel pretty damn good. The endorphins flooding my system make for a great natural high. If you've never taken a cold swim in a beautiful loch, it might be hard to understand the appeal. But if this is crazy, it's surely a good kind of crazy.