Salty Paws

As diluted sunlight comes streaming through the window I’m awoken by the squalling of gulls – a tangled symphony of disgruntled burbles, high-pitched cheeps and open-throated cackles from chimney top perches.

The weather in the Scottish Highlands is always a lucky dip. Some days I wake up to driving rain and moody skies. Today the sky is bright, streaked only by wispy cirrus clouds. Despite the sunshine, there’s a bracing wind skirting up over the waves and whipping them up into frothy white peaks.

A gaggle has assembled on the beach while the tide is far back. Common sandpipers hurry across the sand, weaving their way between bunches of seaweed strewn around like abandoned clothes. A handsome oystercatcher kicks up a fuss, its shrill piping call spreading far along the beach. House martins swoop like missiles over puddles left behind by the tide, their inky blue plumage gleaming in the sun.

There isn’t a soul here. On a warm, sunny day like this in the south, the beach would be clogged with sun-bathers and a garish patchwork of multi-coloured towels. Here, the beach is my solitary refuge. The water may be icy, but the views are stunning.

After weaving my way through assorted rocks worn smooth by the ocean and abandoned shells lying chipped and half-buried, I clamber up the steep dune running the length of the beach. My boots sink and sharp grass brushes my legs but I finally reach the summit and slide down the other side. The coastal wind instantly dies like a door has been slammed against it. The forest is sheltered and muffled against outside noise. Seclusion is one of the habitat’s best qualities. There is a feeling of anticipation upon entering a forest. It’s full of surprises.

The dog wanders off by herself, true to form. The forest fragrance is too hard to resist. Her light fur flashes in and out of view behind the trees, their trunks as straight as the lines on a barcode.

I know there must be red squirrels in this forest, perhaps even pine martens. So far I haven’t seen either, but that is no guarantee of absence. It’s what I love about wildlife: it can never be rushed.

We pass another dog walker and for a while the only movement in the forest is the flurry of fur in a rambunctious chase. There will be no wild sightings this morning – martens are sleeping and squirrels are out of sight in the enclosed canopy. The dogs dash around blissfully, but eventually we pull them apart and I loop back towards town. Sounds of civilisation begin to permeate through the trees; car doors slamming, human voices, a distant bus. It’s like the sensation of ears popping and I’m back in the open, leaving the forest behind me. Until tomorrow morning.

Hound at the Beach

St Andrews in Fife, Scotland is one of my dog’s favourite places on Earth. She knows where she is as soon as we enter the car park, and she’s got her paws up on the window, whining with excitement.

We can’t park the car quick enough. Once on the lead, she does her alarmingly good rabbit impression and bunny-hops towards the sea.



It is occasionally very difficult to get a clear photo of my dog – when the tennis ball appears she’s a rocket.


As the afternoon wore on, the sun began to set over the beach. This was a fantastic opportunity to capture the magnificence of the Cockapoo.



Just before we returned to the car, we made a new friend. This was an inevitability; there were dogs running amok every five paces.


The only incentive to get Jasmine back on the lead is to offer something tasty from the treat bag, as this provides a very useful distraction.




In the Spirit of Summer

April is here, and I am beginning to overlook the daunting hurdle of A Level exams and peer at the distant summer holidays.

My mind wandered back to last summer, when I went to Majorca with a friend I’ve known for fourteen years. They say you are friends for life after seven years, so it looks like we’ll be close in this life and the next!

My Favourite Kind of Umbrella
My Favourite Kind of Umbrella

I love Spain. I’ve soaked up some history and culture in Barcelona, but I also love simply relaxing. I believe that a holiday is designed for unwinding, not rushing around clutching a tourist guide. I rush around too much in my day to day existence; when I holiday I want a change, and a reduced tempo.

First evening
First evening

The Spanish seawater is dazzling. I couldn’t help but snap away at the waves lapping at the salt-glazed rocks.

Aquamarine Dream
Aquamarine Dream

I also loved watching the daily lives of the locals. Occasionally I would walk past an open terrace and see a man playing a Spanish guitar; I felt as if I were part of a documentary. Once on a visit down to the seafront by the apartment, we watched a dog playing on the rocks, his owner throwing a ball into the sea. I couldn’t imagine letting my mad puppy leap in the ocean like this one, but everyone is so much more laid-back here.

Sunshine Play
Sunshine Play

I would have loved to have captured some of the vibrant fish I saw whilst snorkelling on camera, but I didn’t quite have the right kit for underwater photography! I did glimpse what I thought to be a shag sitting proudly atop the rocks. I decided to give him space and not get too close.

Standing Proud
Standing Proud

A beautiful sunset was something to look forward to every night. Often we would eat outside in the evening warmth and watch the sun sink under the sea, leaving splashes of red and orange across the sky.

A Spectrum of Delight
A Spectrum of Delight

Once again, I shall conclude with a sunset. Thank you for reading!