BASED in the Highlands, Calum Maclean is a filmmaker, TV presenter and obsessive outdoor swimmer who routinely seeks out wild – and usually freezing – stretches of water in which to get his next swim fix. Ahead of his appearance at the Peebles Outdoor Film Festival in January, Rich Rowe from the Eastgate Theatre caught up with Calum to find out more...

Q. What do you love most about swimming outside?

A. The guaranteed buzz. Cold water can leave you on quite a high – you feel like you’ve achieved something, even after a short dip.

Q. When (and where) was your first swim outdoors?

A. It must have been in the Isle of Skye, possibly off the small skerries in Loch Eishort.

Q. Sea, loch, or river … or does it not matter?

A. I love all three, and my favourite is usually the one I’ve been away from for too long. I’m currently missing long sea swims, which I hope to get back to.

Q. Swim shorts or budgie smugglers?

A. Swim shorts (also known as jammers).

Q. At what point do you reach for a wetsuit?

A. I’ll swim anything without a wetsuit …just not for long. Even in summer I’ll usually wear the wetsuit for longer distances – anything more than 40 minutes-ish.

Q. Does the thought of swimming in a heated indoor pool fill you with terror?

A. When I dream, it’s of open water – my nightmares involve turning at the end of a length. In all honesty, I’ve grown to enjoy pools, but only because I know it’ll make me a better outdoor swimmer. But I refuse to learn tumble-turns.

Q. A Gaelic speaker, you recently presented a series about wild swimming for BBC Alba. What was that like?

A, Hard work. For some reason, it was decided Dhan Uisge (Wild Swim) should be filmed in winter. Great, but filming TV usually involves two/three takes of the same shot to cover the action … so, 45 minutes in ice-bound Lochindorb – but I still loved it. It’s a privilege to do what you love and share that with people.

Q. What’s the most challenging stretch of water you’ve taken a dip in?

A. It would have to be at Sanna Bay, Ardnamurchan. It was quite a choppy day with strong currents and we were filming for Dhan Uisge. As I did a piece to camera from the sea, the current almost whipped us out and around a skerry.

Q. You have a love of searching out new swim spots. Any recently discovered gems?

A. Feshiebridge in the Cairngorms has a couple of beautiful, clear pools just by the road, but if you mountain bike upstream for about an hour or so, there’s a deep, dark waterfall pool to cool off in.

Q. Have you ever swum in the River Tweed? If not, we can recommend a few spots.

A. Never – I’m very excited for my first ever swim in the River Tweed and anywhere else exciting nearby, suggestions welcome.

Q. We can’t wait to have you with us in Peebles. What can audiences expect?

A. Stories of swimming, irreverence and some laughs. I’ll give my take on outdoor swimming, places I’ve been and the question that always follows outdoor swimmers: why? It’s a night for anyone who has an interest in the Scottish outdoors, outdoor swimming and never taking themselves too seriously.

An ambassador for The Outdoor Swimming Society, Calum Maclean is one of the headline speakers at the 2019 Peebles Outdoor Film Festival, held at the Eastgate Theatre, from January 25-27.

See him in the Cold Comforts session, at 6.30pm on Saturday, January 26. Tickets available from the box office on 01721 725777, or online at