(To D. in memory of happy
WE wandered barefoot along
the seashore, and the soft sand came up warmly between our toes. Little
waves rippled round us like grey silk edged with pearls. Tiny pink and
yellow shells lay in delicate drifts among sun-bleached stones; and
lichen-crusted clams and scallops poked sharp edges above the sand.
The sunlight danced and flickered over the calm sea. Two little boats,
lifted by the incoming tide, bobbed unevenly in the shallows. The small
islands were bright with yellow lichen, rosy with sea-pinks, slippery with
long strands of green and brown weed. Off the northern point of Strath
Bay, the low hills of Longa took on a misty blue-green tinge under the
Presently, we put on our shoes and meandered inland, along the shady lane
towards Shieldaig. Now the scene had, indeed, changed. All about us, the
pineforest waved and whispered, its fragrance heavy on the warm air.
Grotesque shadows fell from the trees and spread across the carpet of moss
and pine-needles underneath. Before us, the steep hills of Flowerdale
Forest were sombrely blue, softened by veils of floating cloud. We could
see Creag an Fhithich and the long ridge of Baosbheinn to the south.
Beyond the trees, the striped pyramid of Meall Aundrary leaned against a
watery sky. On the lower, nearer slopes, ling and bell-heather were
painting streaks and patches of purple over the quiet green.
Down the road towards Loch Shieldaig, we were caught in a brief shower,
and the hills disappeared behind a wall of moving mist. Then the sun came
out again, and there before us lay the little blue loch with its grey
hotel, green islands and the rotting skeletons of old ships lying desolate
off the weedy shore. There was silence save for the lap of water on the
rocks-the hiss of its slow withdrawal through wet weed.
We walked on through the woods, and overgrown foxgloves nodded purple
heads among the bracken as we passed. From the white village of Badachro,
we looked right across the blue bay to Strath, resting the while on the
machair, inhaling the salty air with its tang of shellfish, tar and drying
In the declining light of the evening, we turned back along the way we had
come. Back to the singing river and the dark pines. Back to the enchanted
vista of Flowerdale, where the clustered hills, alive in a rainbow sunset,
looked out over frith and moorland to Gairloch of the Golden Sands.
The Flowerdale Hills, Gairloch, Wester Ross