We have been in Glenelg for four days now and the threads that bind me to things to do have unravelled into a tangled heap on the bedroom floor alongside the running kit and crumpled shorts I pull on most days. The carefully curated holiday wardrobe lies tidily in the drawers and seems likely to go home untouched. I rise early here, the attic skylights have no shades or curtains and light floods the room before six. Keith snores and snuffles through it and Lachlan is dead to the world until after ten at the earliest so Lyra and I waft around silently, making coffee and sorting out the aftermath of last night’s dinner in the absence of a helpful elf or, more prosaically, dishwasher. (We ate at the pub last night so I have substituted this blog for the dishes…) After the productivity highpoint of coffee and desultory dishwashing, most days devolve into walks to the beach and small excursions designed to maximise trips on the small but perfectly formed Glenelg/Skye ferry.
It is cooler here than at home, though still mostly fair and sunny, and it has clearly not had such a ferocious dry spell. The grass is lush and it feels as though we have turned back the clock to enjoy, at a more leisurely pace, the first days of July. On the walk to the beach the brambles are still flowering, the petals flushed a delicate pink, and the meadowsweet is full and frothy. Viburnum scented heads of true valerian stretch skyward out of ditches. (The red “valerian” that seeds in walls and, in its white form, all over our garden is really a centranthus). The hawksbit and thistles still glow brightly, not yet turned to fairy fluff. A creamy white flower spikes out of the heather. It has a leaf like mint and so, egged on by Lachlan, I test it. It is unspeakably vile. This is, it transpires, wood sage and I am happy to make its acquaintance as I have often seen it on the hills behind Selkirk and puzzled over it. A squirming cluster of peacock caterpillars munch, much more happily, on nettles.
The beach sheep shimmy away as we head down to the sea, nudging their curious lambs away from Lyra, a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing with her creamy fur and skinny legs, especially after a dip. Curious cars have been known to slow on the beach road to check if Lachlan is actually walking a pet sheep. Well anything can happen here – we saw a lad playing football with a pet cow at Elgol once, best to check. It seems to be jellyfish season at the beach, glistening blobs embossed with sugar pink rings are scattered haphazardly on the sand and over the rocks. Lyra and I find a perfect pink furred sea urchin shell. Plant to take it home in triumph are, however, thwarted when Lyra, deciding it is a tennis ball, snatches it up only to have it crumple in her jaws like a Tunnoch’s tea cake.
A shoal of something seems to be progressing through the sound. On afternoon ferry trips herring gulls and black backed gulls wheel and skirl above the prickled water. The colony of grey seals which basks on the rocks in the morning roll and dive by the ferry poking their curious noses out to inspect the entranced passengers. Lyra finds a friend in the car next to us so windows are opened to allow a little sniffling and snuffling. The little black dog is smitten and serenades Lyra all the way across the sound. Lyra’s enthusiasm dwindles under the passionate onslaught she has unleashed and she edges over to me and tucks her head under my arm.
On the walk to Frenchman’s point there are shaggy heads of ragged robin and magenta spikes of marsh woundwort in the long grass as we clamber up over a boggy hillside to reach the headland. As we emerge damp footed and puffing Lachlan remembers that when the tide is out one can simply walk across the beach. The tide is out. We take the beach road back making a circular walk, which is, of course, the best kind. Whilst Keith and Lachlan peer out to sea Lyra and I clamber down amongst the rocks. Huge barnacled slabs, edges rounded by the waves and decorated in pearly queen style by barnacles and limpets. The thrift is past for the season but there are glowing beads of stonecrop in the crevices. In the pools tightly clenched garnet red sed sea anemones decline to wave their arms when prodded.
We detour on the way to the ferry one evening and wander along to the otter hide (no sign as ever!). The rewinding has matured beautifully and in the shade of the young birches and rowans there are colonies of spotted orchids poking through the bell heather. I stoop to investigate something pink and pea like at the edge of the road and find lousewort growing amongst the heather roots. We linger on the slip way waiting for the ferry, counting the seals and wondering at the tenacity of the ferns colonising every nook and cranny.
At the end of the day we inexorably wend our way over the bridge to the village, stopping briefly to look in the peat stained water for signs of fish, for a pint or three in the sunny garden, and sometimes dinner if we’re feeling lazy, of the Glenelg Inn (quite possibly the best pub in the world). These are the best of days.