Thursday, October 6, 2005

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders

Holiday spent on the Isle of Skye

They say you should never go back and I guess that’s true a lot of the time.

But sometimes going back is a good way of reminding yourself about something you may have lost sight of.

My apologies if anyone reading this is starting to wonder what I am havering about - by the way, ‘havering’ is a good old Scots word that means to waffle on about something with no-one knowing what you are talking about.

Normally this column deals with the comings and goings of the good citizens of the Scottish Borders and what’s making the news in that part of the world.

However, as I write this I have absolutely no idea what is going on in the Borders because I have been on holiday for the last 11 days.

I am writing this column from the room my wife and I have booked at the Floddigarry Country House Hotel, which overlooks the beautiful Staffin Bay on the Isle of Skye.

Exactly one year ago, we were married here and decided to spend the last night of our holiday back at the hotel.

The rest of our trip has been spent touring and exploring more of Skye, as well as spending several days in the Outer Hebrides islands of North Uist, South Uist and Eriskay.

Skye is one of the islands known as the Inner Hebrides for any of you geographically curious!

The Outer Hebrides are famed for their beaches, which see golden sands stretching for mile upon mile. In the summer, the machair - the area behind the dunes - are carpeted with the mosting amazing displays of wild flowers and there is bird life aplenty.

In fact, the Outer Hebrides are one of the last strongholds of one of Britain’s rarest birds, the corncrake.

The seas round all the Hebrides team with marine life including whales and porpoises, which you can often see riding the bow waves ahead of ferries.

Summer is ideally the best time to visit the Hebrides as the past week has proved with some of the wettest weather of the year so far.

But last Thursday, the sun broke through and the wind cleared the grey clouds away to leave blue skies for a visit to the island of Eriskay.

If you look at a map of Scotland, find the Outer Hebrides and then trace your finger to the last but one island at the bottom of the chain.

Eriskay is small with few people, but has the most beautiful beaches.

One of these is called, in Gaelic, ‘Coilleag a’ Prionnsa’, which translates into English as ‘The Prince’s Cockle Strand’.

This is so-called because this beach was the first piece of Scottish soil that Bonnie Prince Charlie put his foot on when he landed in Scotland in 1745.

The theme of going back, however, relates to me and not Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Sitting with my wife in the big lounge of the hotel with its log fire burning and a glass of malt whisky, it struck me how different it felt from last year.

Back then there was a real buzz of excitment because it was our wedding and we had all our family and friends around us.

Being back at the hotel on our own was very nice, but it brought home just what good friends we have to have made the long journey to Skye for that special day.

Thinking about them makes me feel slightly guilty that in the excitment of our first year of marriage, I may have neglected some of those friends a little bit.

Friendships are not like the tough little flowers of the machair in the Outer Hebrides, which bloom every year come what may.

Friendships have to be tended and nurtured like the most delicate of blooms, with care and attention.

And when we return home to the Borders this week, I will make sure those flowers of friendship are well and truly watered and fed!!

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