Camping on Ceannabeinne Beach, Wandering Durness – From Home to End – 10




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.



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Have any of you guys checked out these spots?

About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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16 Responses to Camping on Ceannabeinne Beach, Wandering Durness – From Home to End – 10

  1. Lana says:

    That lad will be talking about you guys for months to come. Never been there, but certainly would! Then again, I’d go anywhere in UK.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robyn Haynes says:

    You’re a natural storyteller Luke with a keen eye for observation. I especially like your sharp eyed descriptions of people you encounter.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This looks like a beautiful and wild place. I would love to visit but I would stay in the B&B. I am not a camper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke Smith says:

      I’ve stayed in B&B’s for these adventures a few times, it does make it nicer in many ways and the only downside is the expensive, generally. Although, there is an appeal to being away from people at times.


  4. Isabelle says:

    This is a first-person narrative, a great short story. I loved the way you described the characters, the lady and the kid, the details. I could visualise their expressions, their movements, and their chosen way of life. The abandoned caravan made great impression, it must be a story behind it, isn’t it. An extended one, the life of the man who used to live there, his reason and justification for living in the way he did. A good read, really. Thank you Luke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke Smith says:

      Thank you! I try to give a sense of narrative with all of this where I feel its possible, it’s good to know I hit it with this piece. Appreciate your comment very much!

      I agree; one of the interesting things about this spot is that there were so many stories littered about. The caravan but also the strange bunkers and old buildings that were all around. I don’t know what they were for. Nor when or why the pylons were removed.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha I find it totally ridiculous that I’ve never been here despite being from Orkney!!! Adding it to my never-ending Scotland list – your photos are beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Luke Smith says:

      I’m the same with beauty spots near me too although I’ve gotten better over time. Should I check out Orkney? I bet there are some sweet hidden spots around there. I’d definitely recommend checking out Durness though. And thanks for saying about the photos. They’re actually all taken by my friend, I keep badgering him to sort his instagram out so I can pimp out his work properly but he hasn’t done it yet… I will pass your compliments along though! Thank you for your comment.


      • Yeah I just spent 18 months back home and realised just how much I’d taken for granted, so I did LOTS of exploring! You should definitely check out Orkney, I’ve got a section dedicated to it if you’re interested! Lots of history, scenic coastal walks, wildlife, food… you name it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Luke Smith says:

        I’m most certainly gonna check that out! I look forward to reading about it and eventually getting there myself.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. scotlandmac says:

    Great post Luke and wonderful photos. We’ve camped at that beach before too – recognised it right away! Stunning spot.


  7. Pingback: From Home to End – Adventures in the Highlands | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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