I was found remaking a movie last month, on the top of the highest sea cliffs in the UK. Well, a book and a film if I’m honest. One minute I was Cathy, hand dramatically against forehead, searching for Heathcliffe through the romantic mists and only finding – and narrowly missing toppling off – real cliff-cliffs.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
I could tell Mr wasn’t impressed with my literary show as we floundered about lost for a hairy quarter of an hour in the misty bog. Well, he couldn’t see me to be fair. And I couldn’t see him, which was why I panicked a bit when a giant sea bird chose that moment to dive bomb me from out of nowhere.
‘Woah! Not that form, Heathcliffe.’
We were extreme islanding; hiking to the top of ‘the island at the end of the world’, which we all knew was in Scotland of course. St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides to be exact. And even on that boiling hot, Scottish summer’s day – known locally as freak weather conditions – Hirta had its very own cloud which I’m convinced just sits there on guard all the time, like a giant, fluffy, white lizard from a 1950’s B movie.
If you haven’t heard of St Kilda until now, it’s an amazing place with a fascinating history which you must look up when you’ve had enough of reading this brief spin on my day here.
The people that had lived on the only occupied island, Hirta, since the Bronze Age were evacuated; forced to leave behind everything they knew, in 1930. Currently, the only year-round residents are military personnel, conservation workers, volunteers, scientists, wild Soay sheep and more birds than you can shake a mobile phone at. Which I absolutely did not do, after innocently and accidentally stumbling across a Skua’s nest while wandering about lost in the fog, just in case any member of the trust is reading this.
Which brings me to that Tippi Hedren in The Birds thing.
A trip to St Kilda was on my bucket list. I got off the boat and strode up that cliff side like the intrepid adventurer I was in my head, proud as punch to look back and find not another soul had been brave enough to follow us. Weren’t we fit and daring?
No, actually. We were knackered, a little bit lost and slapped on the head a couple of times by the mahoosive webbed feet of an angry Skua that didn’t take kindly to my wandering too near their nest. You can’t blame them really. But it was an accident and I did back away without having disturbed anything but my husband, who thought I was having an altitude meltdown and was laughing until I opened my back pack and started pelting him with sandwiches in the greatest, most quick-thinking display of self preservation I’ve ever achieved.
Me and birds.
I wasn’t stood behind some bird watchers, with their cameras trained on 40,000 barnacle geese that had settled in a field on Gruinart, before shouting, ‘Luci, come look at this!’ to my daughter on a day in 2013 that this entry happened on the Islay blog either…
Many, many thanks to Seumas and our brilliant guide John of www.seaharris.com, for what was one of the most spectacular and amazing days ever, made only better by the three home-made portions of ginger cake we ate. Magic.