We stayed in most charming Airbnb I’ve had the pleasure to set foot in – a wooden shepherd’s hut facing the sea and distant mainland hills. I could have spent the entire trip holed up reading or looking at wildlife. Each morning began with pancakes watching our mystical neighbour, the heron, glide across the glassy sea. The Cuillins of Rùm are every bit as ominous and impressive as the Skye Cuillins - apparently, when Tolkien stayed on nearby Eigg, his view of the Rùm Cuillins was the inspiration behind Mordor.
It might have taken several hours to walk here but it was worth it to see the mausoleum at the edge of the world surrounded by wild ponies. I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it again. We returned at dusk to the warmth of the wood-burning fire and a pot of coffee.
Next on our island trip – a brief stay on Skye, followed by a magical night on Raasay. My partner is from Skye and I always enjoy being guided around the hills and beach he calls home. Rippled, slanting Ben Tianvaig; the dark ridge behind the house, wind-blasted and loch-filled; the bay of seals. Stooping on seaweed and slick pebble I wait for them to emerge, sloe-eyed and wary. My partner told me that the best way to get close to a seal when it’s in water is to walk towards the shore while it’s submerged, otherwise they might swim away in fear. Other memories from this portion of our trip include squinting at The Long Night episode of GOT Season 8, on a small laptop screen, shovelling Pringles into my mouth to combat a rising sense of disappointment, and looking down on Portree Bay from a tall, gloomy window in the village hall. Plus fish and chips x by cake.
The sun goes down behind Dun Cana…
Raasay works a different kind of magic to Rùm and Skye. Where Rùm was still and empty, Raasay is full and vibrant in a heart-warming way. That sounds cheesy but bear with me. We visited friends who live on the island (my partner’s friends, but I’m going to claim them as mine, too) who live a version of the life I hope to lead – running a creative business surrounded by friends, family and the most mystical, inspiring scenery one could hope for. Of course, I’m romanticising. Our visit coincided with beautiful Scottish spring weather and I was on holiday, the stress of daily living dropped on a doormat some hundred miles away in Perthshire. But I couldn’t help picturing myself in a Raasay cottage, penning novels, walking Dun Caan and leaving the island once in a blue moon, because why would I want to go elsewhere? The hotel bar, boisterous but friendly spoke of a ready-made social life and the new distillery, a forward-thinking venture designed and built by locals, signals a new golden era for Raasay.
Escaping to the islands was the break I needed. Everything seemed to go right on this trip - ferry times aligned, it was too early in the year for midges and once again I left the Western Isles without a tick. I’m sure my luck will run out one day.
This summer I’ll be handing my manuscript to a professional Editor for the first time. Amid the self-doubt and stress I’m trying to carry a piece of island calm, and remember my dream of writing to brooding mountains and sparkling seas.
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