In the autumn of 2019 we returned to Scotland, to the little holiday cottage on the windswept north west coast. We wanted to see how the changing seasons affected the landscape that we had fallen deeply in love with back in the springtime and timed our trip for when the autumn colours would reach their peak.
As soon as we had recovered from the long journey north, we set out for Durness, eager to see the Atlantic waves crash against the shore.
Our baby daughter was now just-turned-one and still in her carrier, wrapped up in blankets and scarves, huddled against me in the bracing winds.
There is a knack to getting children beach-ready in September in Durness. You master the art of catching gloves and scarfs as the breeze whisks them out of the car boot.
As you first step foot on the sands, a stream runs down from the crags to greet you, ripples under an old arched stone bridge, and then follows you down to the surf.
The clouds above us race by; shafts of sunlight appear for seconds and vanish.
We find a spot where the waves pool between the rocks. Our boys venture forward into the foam and quickly scuttle back, the youngest squealing with delight, every time the tide rushes in just a little quicker and further than expected.
Everywhere new textures catch my eye; just to my side is a cluster of shells that look as ancient as the weathered stone they cling to. I hold my daughter close enough to prod them gently with her mittened hand.
My little son, who speaks only rarely, runs his fingers over the barnacles that edge each rock pool and I just catch his words over the roar of the sea: “same but different!”
I love the deep greens of the seaweed, stretching out to greet the tide. My son reaches out eagerly to touch the beautiful strands, for he has a love of ribbons and streamers, but he gasps and then recoils back at the shock of cold, wet slime.
At a glance, the huge dark standing rocks are shrouded in deep blues and greys … and then, up close, they are streaked with a palette of coppers and deep reds.
Clear bell-like shapes of jellyfish peak up from the sands. From above they shine like polished amber.
A last glance before we take to the road. This is how I alway see Durness in my mind: the dark guardians under ever-moving skies.
On our journey back to the cottage the autumn landscape surrounds us; layers of gold, russet, burnt orange and muted red.
The mountains beckon to us; tomorrow we climb.
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