Monday, 12 September 2011

Home from the Summer Isles

Tanera Mòr is a tardis island. I've looked at it from the mainland for many years, thinking it a wee smidgin of a thing. Earlier this year, I visited for a day trip, allowing myself time to chat with Lizzie and Rich Williams about a creative writing week we were plotting, leaving myself the luxury of a couple of hours to look around. 
We chatted so pleasingly, my island-scoping time was squeezed a bit, but in an hour and a half I still managed to sprint up to the high point above the northerly pier and stroll around the east side of the island to the jetty at the south. I reckoned I'd seen most of the place and I was delighted by the woods, the ruined herring factory with its beautiful stone pier and the fabulous views out to the west to the other Summer Isles. I was pleased that I had left myself something of the island to explore when I came back for a week in September. 

That week has just come to an end. It was one of those special times in life that dart past like a dragonfly. 

On arrival, I sauntered up to the high point to survey my domain for the week. To my surprise, a proper look at the map revealed that the big lump down the south end of the island was in fact a hill considerably larger than the one I was standing on. Rather more of the island remained to explore than I had expected. 
On my first full day, the weather was warm and calm. A paddle around the island was in order. I set off on a kayak across the sheltered bay, which gained Tanera its Viking name meaning 'big haven'. And big it turned out to be. At the far side of the bay, I returned, the shoreline of the island having stretched beyond my reach. 
My walk up to the real high point and on down to the beach beyond revealed just how far the south and west sides of the island extend. After several hours of scrambling, numerous bays and craggy cliffs, bogs and thick heathery knolls were stalwartly untrodden. 

A walk in the woods tuned me into the scrubby tree regeneration happening all over the island - on all sides many more patches of woodland burgeoned, unscrutinised. 

Out on Patricia for a cruise around the island, surely this time to achieve a complete circumnavigation, the rough open water to the south forced us back through the channel between the island and its little sibling, Tanera Beag. The south shore is still to be revealed. 

We saw common and grey seals, gannets and kestrels, butterflies and toads, and a friendly Highland bull, but the otters and dolphins eluded us. We had all possible weather: sunshine and rain, calm and wind; still, I couldn't help wondering what it is like in spring or in snow. We were dazzled by phosphorescent plankton, rainbows, a spectacular moonrise and Jupiter over the mountains, yet just imagine it under the northern lights!
By the end of the week, the little dot on the map had expanded to a whole world, complete with everything a world should have: woods, moors, freshwater lochs and streams, pebbly beaches, ocean crashing at the feet of cliffs, a sheltered bay, a walled garden and a tidal island promontory (not forgetting warm baths, log fires, fairly traded and organic food and excellent company) along with none of life's troubles in the form of cars, phones or constant internet. It's a uniquely peaceful world, and I've barely scratched its surface.

Thanks very much to Lizzie and Rich, Lesley May, Rachel and Jeanne, for inspiring and creative company in the tardis.

1 comment:

  1. Mandy. It sounds wonderful. I wish I could have been there. I must try to go another time. I got a card from Rachel with the special stamp on it. Maggie x