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Clachtoll, Sutherland (Credit: Airborne Lens)
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Swimming Free

By Elizabeth Shiach

Swimming Free Journey Stone
Image provided by Elizabeth Shiach

Since, as a child, I took my first independent swimming strokes at Clachtoll Beach, Sutherland, swimming as been part of my being.

Confined to beaches and the pool as a child, then into adulthood I plunged into mountain lochs and burns after a day’s hillwalking. This extended to swims in remote beaches and islands as I took up sea kayaking. Then COVID arrived! I soon discovered the joys of swimming in small stretches of water I can reach walking from my home.

I revelled in the freedom and the primal joy of plunging into cold water. It was through swimming I came to terms with my brother’s death, and my inability to see him beforehand or attend his funeral. It became where I found release, joy and above all had fun! Swimming is now essential to my well being.

This winter, at times, I broke thin ice on the loch as I took to the water. I like the feel of the water on my skin so only resort to the wetsuit in extreme conditions. On reflection it’s become a bit of an obsession. I love going into a remote hill loch or one of the many beaches that fringe our Highland shores.... I look for the blue on the map when planning days out on the hill. So that’s why my journey stone is a swimmer!

Many thanks to Elizabeth Shiach for sharing with us the story behind her journey stone, created as part of the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands.


Prior to the beginning of the stitching of each tapestry panel, each stitcher of the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands was tasked with telling their interpretation of the 'Spirit of the Highlands and Islands' within a blank outline of a stone. The possibilities were truly endless - is it represented in the land? The people? A historical site? A favourite memory?

In any case, each journey stone represents the connection between of each individual stitcher, their story, and their own sense, or 'spirit', of place. Discover more of the stories behind the journey stones of the Tapestry of the Highlands and Islands here.