My Favourite Places: Lisa Montague
When I first met Lisa Montague of Blackfish Swimwear and heard the story about why she had given up a career in interior design to design and manufacture a range of swimwear, I was drawn in. Not only is her business a labour of love, she has created something that resonates with other women who swim. She talks a bit about Blackfish Swimwear, before sharing her favourite places to swim.
Lisa says: I love swimming not just for aerobic fitness and muscle tone but also the Zen quality of zoning out: it’s just me and the lapping of the water in my ears, good for the body and the mind. But I got into it by accident, quite literally, after a car accident. As I left hospital with my newly rebuilt legs the surgeons only had a few parting words of advice. “No more running and no skiing. We don’t think we can fix them again!” So I took up swimming. Then for Christmas one year I was given a full body Olympic swimsuit. As soon as I put it on I was blown away. I felt fantastic, sporty, aware of my posture and my muscles, and when I swam the muscle awareness improved my technique and muscle tone. When you turn up at the pool feeling like a sportswoman you swim like you mean it! But Olympic swimsuits are not made for training, so when it fell apart I thought that surely it was possible to design some cool stylish swimwear? Swimwear that has the benefits of this sort of technically advanced swim kit for all women, not just elite athletes? And that’s how Blackfish Swimwear was born.
One of my most recent unusual places to swim has to be the venue for our last photo shoot with Sharon Cooper. The house was a little bit of California in Yorkshire! It had its own private pool which is perfect for a photo shoot and makes for a luxurious solitary early morning swim – great fun.
Ham Tin, Hong Kong
Simply the most romantic beach in the world. My husband proposed here! There’s nowhere to stay only wild camping. It’s an epic journey. You take the Metro to the end of the line, and then it’s one hour by bus, half hour by boat and a good couple of hours hike over the mountain unless you own a yacht! When the boat day-trippers leave you’ll find it’s just you and the stars and a secluded romantic beach for a night-time swim… unforgettable!
One of my best friends lives here so we try and make it over every summer. It’s a great reminder that you don’t have to go abroad to find a fabulous beach. You reach the beach over a beautiful boardwalk and down the soft rolling sand dunes. The surf is great for body boarding and the tide goes out for miles leaving dense, hard sand and in the summer stiflingly hot sand dunes to leap over. Memories of endless days of childhood heaven.
I have a massive weakness for coffee so I love Italy apart from all its other wonders you just can’t buy a bad coffee anywhere. Capri is a beautiful spot with a long history of 1950s Hollywood glamour with the likes of Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. We are currently designing some new high performance swimsuits in collaboration with Swimlab, a swim coaching company which offers swimming holidays in Capri and many other places. Their holidays have magical swim routes combined with great food and culture. Just perfect!
Watergate Bay, Cornwall
Watergate Bay is a beautiful stretch of beach to hang out at. The surfing championships are held here at the end of April so you can imagine the swell. The Watergate Bay Hotel sits right on the beach and has an incredible 25-metre infinity pool that looks out over the beach. If you don’t manage to stay here, book a day visit to their pool and spa, it is a super special place for a swim!
Talpe, Sri Lanka
I’ve been to Sri Lanka twice before without the children and I’m planning on going again this Christmas with the kids! I love it. It’s full of magic, ancient ruins, amazing beaches and incredible food. The sexiest place to swim has to be the pool at the Twenty Three Palm in Talpe near Unawatuna. It’s an old Dutch colonial villa that opens out onto sprawling lawns. There are implausibly tall palm trees that lead onto the beach. With the ocean just beyond the grass, late night swims and the rolling sound of surf I just can’t tire of this place!
I love living in Hitchin and one of the highlights is that we are lucky enough to have both an indoor and an outdoor pool. The countdown usually starts sometime in April for the lido opening towards the end of May. It’s a local listed building that dates back to the 1930s and with its palm trees it feels like a lovely touch of the tropical in the centre of town.
Agios Pavlos, Crete
Agios Pavlos is a truly sensuous bay accessed via winding hilltop roads with sheer drops, so not for the anxious passenger! There is a remote yoga retreat hotel overlooking the bay and the ocean is teeming with tiny fish for hours of snorkelling. If you’ve got a lot of energy and a couple of hours to spare you can swim round the rocky headland to a long stretch of beach called Sandyhills. Or you can take the hill path to the beach, which whilst flat at the bottom is a glorious sand slide from the top!