Skip to main content
Spirit Logo
Credit: Am Baile/ The Highland Council Archaeology Unit
< Back to "A Day Full of Magic: Ghosts, Witchcraft and Legends of Fort William & Glencoe"

Beauty and Mystery

By Morag Hughes

Loch Shiel is my favourite loch. It is so beautiful, atmospheric and peaceful.

In 2004 I swam its 18 mile length from Acharacle to Glenfinnan supported by my husband and Jim Michie who ran cruises on the loch. I swam over the wreck of the Clanranald which had been the steamer on the loch before the road was built to Acharacle. Jim told the story of a lady passenger continually asking Captain Angus MacDonald questions. He got so fed up with her he told her to go to hell! Later the lady's husband went to the Captain saying she was upset and asking him to apologise. The Captain approached the lady and said, 'Are you the lady I told to go to hell, well you've not to go there at all.'

As I was swimming past St. Finnan's Isle I heard a bell ringing. As soon as I finished the swim Jim asked me if I had heard the bell. I said I had and he told me it was the bell on St Finnan's Isle. Jim seemed a bit spooked by this as there were no boats or kayaks tied up at the jetty when we passed. He said he knew the sound of the bell on the island and it was definitely it. He asked a friend who lived across from the island at the other side if he had seen anyone on the island. He had seen us passing but had not seen anyone on the island. We never found an explanation and Jim still talks about the mystery of the bell when we meet. Was it the ghost of St. Finnan urging me on? Sadly the bell was stolen last year.

It was a lovely swim from the open almost swimming pool like near the start to the narrowness almost river like part near the island. Then the hills looming on either side and the water getting a bit rougher about three quarters way up. I have swam the length of other Highland Lochs. Each have their own story and beauty but none will beat Sheil!

Looking down the length of Loch Shiel, which is flanked by steep hills covered in trees Image provided by VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins

Looking down the length of Loch Shiel

We Want to Hear From You!

Share your stories of wild swimming and outdoor activities in the Highlands and Islands

Stories are at the heart of what we do as a project and we are always looking to learn more about what the Highlands and Islands means to people who live, work, and visit here. Do you take part in an outdoor activity, like wild swimming, in the Highlands and Islands? If so, how do you feel it represents the 'Spirit of the Highlands and Islands' to you? Tell us below, we can't wait to hear from you!

Click here to share your story through our online story portal