A calm day in October, and I am following in the footsteps of Peters Riegert and Capaldi as I walk across the wide expanse of Camusdarach Beach in the Scottish Highlands. One or two hardy dog walkers are buttressed up close to the dunes but, for the most part, I have the beach to myself.
Across the Sea of the Hebrides, the sun is shining brightly on the heather-brown humps of Rhum and on flat-topped Eigg, leaving Camusdarach overcast; the wind choreographing intricate dances amidst the fine silver sand.
This was the setting for the 1983 movie Local Hero, and the residents still refer to the fact with pride. But, I am not here to reminisce; I am here to swim.
My first trip away from London since lockdown, and all I want is to feel the cold embrace of the autumn Atlantic, and the sense of freedom that comes from being in the open waves.
I walk beyond the flat breakers of the wide beach; scale a short incline of jagged rocks; emerging to overlook a small, sheltered, sandy cove. The sea maintains an appearance of granite forbidding, but in my imagination I can picture the turquoise tranquillity transformation that a glimpse of sun would perform.
A litter of sea shells are scattered across the sand. I pick up a large scallop shell and wash off the sand in the sea. I quickly change into my swimming costume; the cove is protected from the worst of the wind and it is not as cold as I expect on my bare skin. Nevertheless, I keep on my woolly hat for good measure.
I begin to wade into the sea. The beach shelves deceptively steeply, and I am up to my waist and then my shoulders surprisingly quickly.
The temperature is numbing. Colder than when I swam at Bunes? Maybe not quite; but not far off. I ease myself into a gentle breaststroke, keeping my head––and my hat––above the surface.
Slowly, I begin to feel warmer or, if not warmer, less cold. The only sounds are the lapping of the waves against the rocky sides of the cove, and the occasional gull flying high overhead. Looking down through the clear water, I can see white shells on the seabed and, where the water meets the rocks, black wrack gently undulates back and forth in rhythm with the tide.
For the first time in a long time, the pandemic feels far away.
© E. C. Glendenny
E. C. Glendenny enjoys a moment of peace on the west coast of Scotland.
E. C. Glendenny has published four volumes of travel writing: