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Wild wellness: Plunging into the icy waters of Loch Tay and getting sweaty in the ‘HotBox’ sauna

Hitting the water is invigorating and exhilarating!

Gayle plunges into the icy waters of Loch Tay via Taymouth Marina's slide. Picture: Kenny Smith.
Gayle plunges into the icy waters of Loch Tay via Taymouth Marina's slide. Picture: Kenny Smith.

Gayle embraces some ‘wild wellness’ at Taymouth Marina’s HotBox spa – and enjoys an icy dunk into Loch Tay.

Sitting at the top of the slide, peering down into the icy waters of Loch Tay, I experience a huge surge of anticipation.

I’m roasting hot, having just sashayed out of a sauna, and I know the contrast in temperatures is going to be a major shock.

I reluctantly let go of the handrail and screech my way down the metal chute, unable to stop myself from letting loose a few profanities.

Hitting the water is, to put it lightly, invigorating and absolutely exhilarating! And yes, utterly perishing!

Hurtling down the slide. Picture: Kenny Smith.

I remind myself this is good for me, physically and mentally, as I swim and splash around like a mad woman, before scrambling up the rustic ladder and making a beeline for warmth.

I’m at Taymouth Marina’s Wild Wellness Spa, and wow, what a fantastic concept.


Nestled on the banks of Loch Tay at Kenmore, the ‘HotBox’ sauna is fired by a crackling wood burner, lined with aspen, and boasts panoramic views across the water, and to distant hills and forests.

There’s an amazing (hot) outdoor pool – the ideal spot to unwind with a glass of beer or fizz – plus a steam room, cold water dunk buckets, and of course, the piece de resistance, the slide that plunges right into the loch.

Gayle enjoying the HotBox sauna. Picture: Kenny Smith.

I’ve signed up for a two-hour spa session, meaning I can relax in my fluffy robe and slippers on the outdoor terrace, enjoy a spot of hot and cold immersion, and gorge on cake and fresh fruit around the firepit if I fancy.

Fresh fruit, fruit-infused water, and cake are available. Picture: Kenny Smith.

It’s an absolutely blissful way to spend a Friday afternoon, and while it’s tempting to simply sit and gaze at the spectacle of Ben Lawers from the comfort of the sauna and pool, I’m keen to embrace ALL the benefits.

Enjoying the views from the hot outdoor pool.

And that’s why I chuck myself down the slide into the freezing loch three times.

I wouldn’t say you get used to it – there’s still a slight sense of trepidation – but the third plunge is certainly less of a shock than the first and second.

A slight shock to the system! Picture: Kenny Smith.

So, why do this? Well, you might feel euphoric, elated and ecstatic after it, plus you’ll likely feel really proud of yourself. I know I did.


Known as hot and cold therapy, or hydrotherapy, it’s a ritual that’s been around for centuries.

The transition from one extreme temperature to another is thought to be restorative for the mind and body, with the shift from hot to cold producing a thermal shock and releasing adrenaline.

Getting out of the water back to warmth.

Benefits range from a boosted mood and immune system to reduced swelling and inflammation, and improved pain tolerance.

Other claims include improved sleep quality, lower body fat, accelerated healing, and a longer life.

The dunk bucket is a refreshing experience. Picture: Kenny Smith.

What’s not to like! Jump on into that icy water and be glad you did!

Once my skin has gone all prune-like, and my two-hour slot is almost up, I chill out by the fire, reluctant to move from this glorious spot.

Luckily, I’m here for the night and there’s time before dinner to go for a wee stroll.

Wee stroll

I discover an overgrown track heading up the hill behind Taymouth Marina, and walk for an hour, passing ruins and fields full of sheep and cute lambs.

After a quick change of clothes – my hair is still dripping wet from my spa session – I head along to the Ferryman’s Inn, a dog-friendly gastro-bar run by the resort.

Pizza heaven

I’d heard great things about the pizzas on offer here, so that’s exactly what I order – a delicious pepperoni and chilli honey one at that.

It’s more than enough but greedy guts here can’t resist dessert – an obscenely rich chocolate mousse. Yum.

The atmosphere is chilled out, and when diners start to thin out, I head outside with a glass of wine and sit chatting to some of the friendly staff by a fire on the lochside, which is bliss.

Fluffy white towels are in abundance at the spa. Picture: Kenny Smith.

My bed for the night is in one of the marina’s one-bedroom apartments, and before hitting the sack, I enjoy a session in the private hot tub.

Great sleep

All that fresh air, fine food and pampering results in a fantastic sleep, and I wake up the following morning, ready to take on Schiehallion… until I realise the fog is so thick that it would be pointless to climb the iconic Munro.

Instead, I stride up nearby Kenmore Hill, which, at 515m, is much less of a challenge. However, any potential views are obscured by the obstinate mist.

Nevertheless, it’s a decent workout, and when the sky clears and the sun pops out, albeit briefly, I sit down on a rock and gaze in awe at the beauty around me.

What a refreshing, rejuvenating start to a weekend in Highland Perthshire!

Signpost leading to the loch. Picture: Kenny Smith.
  • The Wild Wellness sessions at Taymouth Marina Lochside Spa Resort can be booked for private sessions or mixed groups. Fresh towels, cakes, a selection of fresh fruit and fruit-infused water, are included in the two-hour spa session. Slippers and robes are also available for a surcharge.
  • Watersports sessions are also on offer at Taymouth Marina, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, and water trampolining. The resort also hires mountain bikes.