During our Hebridean sojourn we did several walks but this was easily the best. This what I wrote in my journal…
‘When we drew back the curtains, the mist clung to the hillside like a smudgy fingerprint. Driving to the small town or Bernaray sprays of mizzle crowded out the windscreen and we gingerly took each twist in the road while we debated our plans.
It was Sunday, and most places were closed so it would be ideal for a walk… assuming the weather wasn’t dreadful. Sun was promised later so despite the unprepossessing start we decided a walk it was to be.
It didn’t take long – everywhere seemed empty – as we crawled up a rough track towards the promised car park. The Islanders love their cliff top cemeteries and Luskentyre, a habitation of about 250 boasts two. I wonder at the attraction. Do a lot of people die out here? Do the dead prefer a bracing setting?
As odd as the propensity for burials with a sea view was the packed carpark. It was dank, dreich and crowded. We squeezed into a small space, added boots to our waterproofs and looked at the guidebook.
Follow a track to the sea across the machair, it said. ‘Macca’ as it is known is this fertile strip of sand accretion and peat that is home to the most awesome windflowers. Here, too, was a small burn and the reptilian patterns in the silty mud fascinated the Textiliste. It was easy to imagine a dinosaur resting just below the surface.
The guidebook promised turquoise seas and pearl white sand but the likelihood was we would be challenging our vocabulary for synonyms for grey today.
Onto the beach and we should have a magnificent view of Tarantsay, one of many small islands hereabouts. It loomed out of the murk like a somnambulent Kracken, a foggy shawl wrapped across its shoulders.
The sand though was indeed pure and it went on forever. Yellows, creams and whites melded together, carpetting the horizon as far as imagination allowed. To our left the sand dunes hung high, imminent cascades prevented by nothing more than granular inertia; to our right the sea grumbled like a lowing cow on her way to evening milking.
We followed a snaking line a shells as the sun challenged the damp supremacy and began to win. The eye remained unchallenged by any break in the uniform crease between sea and sky; the beach was ours.
We rounded the headland and the sun bullied its way to the front; grey cliffs palatted to indigo; turquoise gave itself permission to love the sea again and rose, coy and baffled as it retook the waves.
The shells changed too – a path of tiny jewels wending their way across the meadows of sand. Ahead voices – a family. Parents holding hands; teenaged boy and girl galumphed about, testing the line of Earth’s curve as they approached us. Dots had become flesh in a blink. They charged the sand cliffs, releasing their inner goats as they scrambled up. We stopped and watched their gleeful exuberance while the umbilical adults smiled the permission to play.
Still we curved south as lumps of indeterminate clay stuck in the dunes took on the myriad colours of mountains, at last finding delineation in the fresh baked sunshine. Ahead several burns with the persistence of wet rope twisted into a strand that cut the beach in half. We headed for the neck where beach and burn met, taking in the water’s power to sculpt. Water dictated our path up and away from the beach.
We wobbled across a board bridge clearly meant for a less treacherous life but resignedly serving its new purpose. We trod carefully amongst the meadow flowers and around the indifferent sheep. The lushest of grass dampened our turn ups as its sharp browns and purples, vivid blues and lurid greens caught and freed the eye from the beach’s dominance.
Clouds began to return – Scotland’s skies have more character than most – none of the unremitting aquamarine here.
The eastern hills began to turn their backs and disappear as we reached the road and returned, slowly and satiated to the car.’
And here’s a soothing video of the burn and the sleeping dragon – can you hear its stomach rumbling?