Above the ocean …

Picture the scene. Dusk. Howling wind and curtains of rain on the Atlantic coast of Scotland. A cyclist that was stopped cycling by the appalling weather is now dressed like half a cyclist and half a hill bimbler.

He’s been back three times to the arrow on the gate which is the last clue to the whereabouts of the bothy. He’s taken a bearing and walked on it and there is no bothy that way. There’s only a dangerously chuffin’ big cliff and the ocean.

He’s got a pannier and small rucsack a bag of wood a walking pole and …… two enormous goose eggs balanced in a cycling cap.

After 90 mins of searching he realises the arrow is a duff and the bothy isn’t that way. He clambers to a nearby high point and with 1 bar of 3g googles the name of the bothy, clicks on images, and starts relating them to the very little ground he can see through the sea fog.

Ten minutes later he’s in and the fire is on. But how long do you boil a duck egg for ?

The owners of the bothy built it as a quiet place to reflect. I spent time in the same country their aid-worker daughter was killed in, and i too am here for peace, space, and reflection. They have asked me not to name the bothy. If you message me i will let you know how to apply to stay here. You *must* book to spend the night here.

I brought a book and a beer. I warmed up salami and cheese on potato cakes. I boiled the eggs for 15 minutes. One of them was the size of my palm. A massive rat crawled past the window eyeing up my rations. The ocean crashes relentlessly beneath the window. A therm-a-rest got inflated. A fire went out. Does it even get dark this far North ?

I went outside and up a small slope to get a phone signal to send an ‘all okay’ message home. The wind dipped for perhaps ten seconds then accelerated and blew in huge curtains of rain. Running back to the bothy i was absolutely sodden in thirty seconds. Soaked to the skin. Fire back on. The old soldier in me had insulated trousers and a warm top layer in a just-in-case dry bag in my rucksack. I was getting very cold very quickly. My breath visible. Some one legged hopping and i was in warm dry clothes. The fire nothing more than a pastime, its heat sucked through the geology in to which it was built, its warmth only tangible if you were almost sat on it. I stank of woodsmoke (the chimney seal was cracked) and damp. A bit like my by-the-fire dozing labrador after a wet walk. The weather battered the outside like i was going through a car wash sat inside a stone lined car. The ashes glowed. And still, and always, the Atlantic roared …..

In a quick five minute shop before going off-grid (for a whole 12 hours), i grabbed some supplies …. specifically i grabbed two goose eggs from an honesty shop, and a book and some firewood from a community shop. My decision making on the book of choice ran ‘puffin on the front … that’ll do’. Little did i know that the author had owned the Shiant Isles that i was on on Wednesday (his son Tom now owns them), and that my night on the cliffs acompanied only by the sea-birds would be spent captivated by this wonderful book. Thank you Adam Nicolson 🙏

A sea eagle and a lapwing sang me away in the morning ….

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