We’ve been camped on Ceannabeinne beach for the last three days. Each morning, after waking up and looking across an empty stretch of sand and sea, we went up the cliff side stairs to the car and then to a little B&B in Durness. Inside, it felt more like my Grandmother’s kitchen than a cafe. The place was run by a lady who attended the till, cooked, cleared everything away and kept the rooms clean and changed in the B&B.
Her hands shook as she delivered plates and glasses to our table. We’d return them to the kitchen ourselves. She looked like someone who had worked a long time in this type of job. It had become a habit. Maybe she’d turned her natural inclinations into a business or maybe this was just how things had ended up. It’s all unpredictable. There’s no maths for life. She didn’t seem unhappy though.
The kids are on summer break and while Durness inspires us, it’s easy enough to imagine how a kid on an extended school holiday here could go insane with boredom. It’s for this reason that the grandson of the lady who runs the place has taken an interest in us. He’s an adventurous kid, prone to fleets of pretty awesome fabrication. He has in play so many interconnected and simultaneous fictions that he loses track. Most kids are basically the same in this regard, perhaps especially bored little boys.
He showed us the land behind the cafe. It was on a headland with the inlet for Smoo Cave on one side. There were old broken structures, the foundations of pylons with iron struts still visible cut a few feet from the base, a ruined caravan, tens of used tires. The kid told us the military used to do testing here and that went to explain the ruined buildings. This site was away from the proper military ordinance testing ground though, that was a few miles away on Cape Wrath.
There was also a story he enjoyed telling about a man who lived in a caravan here but even from a distance it was clear the caravan hadn’t been inhabited in years. Another day, the story evolved and it turned out the man had died and was buried nearby in, we must assume, an unmarked grave.
All of this would be great to explore in your childhood but it only goes so far and if you don’t have other kids who are down to explore with you, it’s possible that it doesn’t mean much of anything. The same goes for adult adventuring; some people swear by solo trips and I see the appeal, the anonymity, the immersion and freedom that maybe easier to achieve alone, not to mention the fact that often times you just can’t sort out scheduling for a good trek with your friends, but for me, I suspect an adventure on my own would get to feeling a little hollow.
The kid sat with us today while we ate our last meal at the B&B. When we left, he followed us out to the car and tried to convince us to stay a bit longer. There wasn’t really anyone else around to play hide and seek with. Unfortunately, we said that our cash was running on near enough empty and we had some more places to stop before we could think about going home, although we weren’t sure which places they would be. He offered to lend us some of his a hundred and three hundred thousand pounds but we politely declined. The interest rates would probably have been ridiculous.
And right now, speaking of home, we gotta go back there soon. What a drag. The real world. The real world, where every surface is a chance to advertise something and every building must be lit all night and almost every transaction or interaction must be false, at least on some level. Then there’s the growing pain and existential dread that comes with that long drive back, where you start somewhere beautiful and end somewhere familiar. A gruelling experience. Maybe some thinking time.
Luke Smith on Twitter
Journeys Through Pre-World War Britain on Facebook.
Have any of you guys checked out these spots?