Lorraine Kelly has revealed a love of wild swimming in the River Tay as she launched her debut novel.
The former Broughty Ferry and Tayport resident was in St Andrews on Saturday to mark the publication of ‘The Island Swimmer’.
Cold water swimming is a central theme of the novel, which is set amongst the scenic backdrop of the Orkney Islands.
The TV presenter and former journalist was in Fife to publicise the new book that explores the themes of community and family.
It’s main character, Evie joins a group of cold swimmers after she returns to her native Orkney to face past mistakes.
Documentary encounter reveals health benefits of wild swimming to Lorraine
Lorraine described how an encounter with a father who had used wild swimming to combat his grief emphasised the huge benefits of the activity.
The 64-year-old TV presenter told an audience at St Mark’s Church that she had met the dad while producing a documentary on the massacre at Dunblane Primary School in 1996.
“One of the dads had really suffered and was in a dark place,” she said.
“Being in the water gave him a lot of comfort and that’s when I realised it could be really good for your mental as well as physical health.”
The host of ‘Lorraine’ had previously taken up the activity on the Ayrshire coast.
But she felt compelled to take the plunge in the South Pole.
“The first time I properly went wild swimming was in Antarctica and we were following in (Ernest) Shackleton’s footsteps”, she said.
“I took all of my clothes off and ran in for what I would like to say was nanoseconds. It was really stupid.
“I ran out again and I couldn’t feel anything. My clothes were all inside out and I actually had ice forming on my face.
“But, I had never felt so alive. It was astonishing. Then when I came home I started to do some swimming in lochs and in Orkney.”
“It’s a lovely thing to do with friends because it’s great fun.
“And afterwards you can have a coffee with maybe some baileys in it and a cake.
“You feel like you’ve earned it and it’s a lovely bonding activity. As you get older friendships become even more important.”
Wild swimming ‘makes you feel alive’
Lorraine has also taken her wild swimming into the River Tay’s estuary, braving the waters at Broughty Ferry and Tayport.
“It makes you feel alive and it’s great for your mental health if you are maybe feeling overwhelmed sometimes”, she added..
Now living nearer London with her husband, sections of the novel were written from Zimbabwe, which is a favoured camping location for Lorraine and her family.
But, asked if she would like to return Scotland, she said: “I really would. Two weeks ago I was here and we went for a walk on the beach. I felt such a pang of homesickness.”
According to Lorraine, there are similarities between Fife and Orkney in terms of a “sense of community”.
Lorraine’s debut novel is ‘quite dark’, but also fun
Hosting ‘Lorraine’ on a near daily basis also helped the former journalist to develop ideas for the novel.
“I learn something new every day and everyday is a school day. Because of the job I do and I talk to a lot of people. There are little traits that I’ve picked up on.
“I had ideas in my head buzzing around like bees and I had to get them out. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to do that.
“There’s a lot fun in it (the novel) and there are some laughs, but it is also quite dark”, she explained.
“Everyone has a story in them, but it’s a full-time job. I was really lucky that I was given the time to write this.”
The new novelist hasn’t written off publishing a second novel and was recently unmasked as an owl on the BBC’s ‘Masked Singer’ programme.