Art in the Sand

retreating waves

Bare feet on warm sand. This is rare. In April. In Scotland.

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Five Go on an Island Adventure

We arrived in the dark. On a boat. It missed the pier and had to spin round and go back out to sea before trying again. It was all very exciting.

Port Askaig, Islay:

ferry arrival

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shadows and light at the beach

st combs beach

We know extremes of light and dark in Scotland. At the height of summer it never gets properly dark; around the time of the winter solstice it barely gets light. But just now, in Autumn, the low sun illuminates spaces and objects from an angle that highlights both shadows and glorious brightness. Oh, the photo-taking opportunities!

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A Tower, a Chapel, a Kitchen and the Sky

the wine tower

I mentioned a visit to The Wine Tower, Fraserburgh’s oldest building, in a previous post here. During a recent Doors Open Day it was… open! Inside we go:

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Dolphins and Leopards, art in Aberdeen

Bon Accord shopping centre

There’s a public art project going on in Aberdeen for the next ten weeks: Wild Dolphins

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A Lighthouse in a Castle, and a Love Story, and the Sky

old lighthouse, new lighthouse

That’s the sixteenth century Kinnaird Castle on the left, it was converted into a lighthouse in 1787 and now houses the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. On the right is the modern automated lighthouse. Quite why they seem to be leaning towards one another I don’t know; I may have been transfixed by the sky when I took the photo (a frequent and increasing occurrence, should I be worried?)

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Waters of Philorth

Philorth River

*Dons Scottish tour guide cap, yet again* Let’s wander along the River Philorth.

philorth 005 (700x525)There’s a small nature reserve there, created by the dunes, which in turn were inadvertently created by man during WW2. Large coils of barbed wire and concrete blocks were laid along the coastline to deter enemy invaders. Sand built up on them, plants grew, and the river changed course.

Wildlife flourishes at Philorth today. There’s a rather nice PDF about it here.

A gull fishing

A gull fishing

I love the tall grasses.

philorth reeds

The scenery grows more and more beach-like as you progress along the riverside path.

philorth sands

washed up fishing net

washed up fishing net

limpet

limpet

We reach the sea, Fraserburgh in the distance…

Fraserburgh and the sea

…and return by the higher dune path:

dune path

Exiting onto the main road, you just catch a glimpse of Cairnbulg Castle through the trees (read about it on the website of Lady Saltoun, Chief of the name and arms of Fraser.)

Cairnbulg Castle

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I love the beach

view out to sea

I nearly blew over taking this photo, a high speed wind was hurtling through the sea cave, but it was worth it to capture that combination of dark and light and blue.

New Aberdour beach is never busy, being a bit far from main roads and civilisation, but I recommend seeking it out if you are in the area. It has sandy bits for summer picnics and sunbathing, stony bits that noisily orchestrate the retreat of the waves and then the magnificent caves. The almost hidden entrance to the one above:

entrance to the cave above

This next one I always avoid; I once overheard a highly respected educational psychologist, who I knew from my time working in schools, emotionally blackmailing a small child to defecate in there. Such knowledge is off-putting, plus, the roof is rather head-bangingly low…

the pooping cave

But the beach as a whole is lovely. Apart from the car park, there is no sign of the modern day, you could be meandering through any time, any era.

rock pools

Some specific points in history and local folklore are marked. St. Drostan is said to have landed at New Aberdour in 580AD. His well:

St Drostan's Well

And the heroic actions of one Jane Whyte, who rescued fifteen men from a shipwreck in 1886, are commemorated in the remains of her little cottage:

beach 003 (550x399)

When the tide is out there are exceptional rockpools displaying all manner of sea life from minnows to sea slugs, starfish, pipefish and anemones. Tide allowing again, you can walk for miles round bay after bay. Do watch the sea though, there’s no mobile phone reception down there if you get stranded. Sometimes you catch sight of dolphins and whales…

I sound like a guidebook, a representative of Scottish tourism… but I’m not. I’ve visited this place at times of trauma and felt negativity drain away into the pink rocks. I’ve lain on the sand reading books during hot relaxing summers while my children explored the pools and searched for cowrie shells. I’ve introduced all my friends to the beach, so memories of New Aberdour are mixed up with those of my favourite people.

I love the beach.

beach 011 (550x413)

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Tarlair

Tarlair outdoor swimming pool

I recently explored Tarlair open air swimming pool with my husband and children. Despite having fallen into serious disrepair over the years, it retains a certain beauty, and is evocative – for me anyway – of times past.

It was the scene of many halcyon days one summer; I was fifteen, and due to head off to college that September. I recall lying on the grass in the sun, messing around in the boating pool, buying sweets from the shop and chatting with friends. The hazy, golden hue of these bright points in memory is augmented by the nature of other events from that time.

There was a face off with the girl who used to beat me up in primary school. There was an abusive incident with an older family member, he was much respected and I didn’t feel able to tell anyone. An older boy grabbed me on a bus and kissed and bit my neck; actually that’s not a dark memory; non-consensual and unexpected as it was, I found it rather exciting at the time… There were other daily disappointments, but it can be bitter to dwell too deeply; some things are over when they’re finally over, and they are now.

Tarlair as seen from the cliffs above today

But Tarlair remains bright, both as it is now, and as it appears in my nostalgic image of the past. Three girls on the brink of being women laughed together and talked of their hopes for the future. We swam in the water of the North Sea with all our clothes on and got changed in the only one of our homes that was free from adult disapproval. We ate chocolate in an abandoned campervan. We drank White Russians in a local nightclub where no one questioned our age; hangovers were revelled in the next day by the pool.

None of our lives turned out quite how we hoped, we trailed far off those teenage maps we drew for ourselves that summer. We’ve all tasted despair but known great joy too. Maybe we couldn’t have had one without the other.

Strong emotion increases our capacity to feel and to live and to love, surely the greatest experience of all.

Below: looking out to the wider ocean through The Needle’s Eye, a rock formation beside Tarlair.

through the Needle's Eye

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