They say that time by the sea has healing qualities and I for one am definitely behind this belief. Having grown up on the North East coast of Scotland, as a child I was surrounded by beautiful coastline and un-spoilt sands and many a weekend was spent walking and rambling around with a stick in my hand searching for crabs in the rock pools. Of course the weather was never anything higher than about -5 degrees and the sea winds were often enough to send you and your picnic packing fairly promptly after arriving, but that luxury of having endless sand and pebble lands to explore every weekend was one that I took for granted for far too long.
I guess you always want what you don’t have and as my teenage years hit I found myself craving the bright lights and glamour of a city. It’s only now having lived in London almost six years, I can see how much I miss being by the sea. I miss the brash sea air that tangles up your hair and bats fiercely against your skin, I miss that ever so slightly salty smell that everything and everyone in town has no matter how much they try and avoid it, I miss the ease of being able to spend a whole day ambling along empty sands and being perfectly entertained without spending a penny, dodging tourists or using public transport, I miss the instant calm that comes from staring into the sea abyss and realising just how tiny we all really are, and most of all I miss that feeling of home.
When I was approached by the travel company On the Beach and asked to take part in their Beachin’ Beaches photography competition by submitting a photo which summed up what a ‘Beachin’ Beach’ was to me, there was no doubt in my mind that the beach had to be a Scottish one. I’ve been to many ‘hold your breath it’s so beautiful’ beaches in my time; the drama of Croatia’s rocky coastlines astounded me, and looking back at the clear blue seas in photos of our Greek adventure always makes me happy, but there is just something special about a UK beach. It can’t always rely on the sun to make it look pretty, it doesn’t always have the weather on it’s side and it can often be described as pretty gloomy, but in a way that’s what I love. The beaches of the North of Scotland are harsh and moody yet also strong and defiant. The dark oceans and crashing waves can be scary at times but also rather magnificent. The coastline’s gloomy demeanour can be grey and dull but also atmospheric and most importantly those beaches have something which even the most idyllic of setting abroad may not always have – my heart.
Of course the tricky part came when trying to narrow it down to just one photograph. Which beach, which day, which memory would capture all of these feelings in one for me? I scoured through old and new snaps from holidays, weekend trips and summers spent up North as an adult, to familiar memories as a child. I deliberated between the old faithful beaches that were on my doorstep and the ones which were a longer drive away that we’d only go to on especially sunny days. I thought about who I was with and what time in my life I wanted to capture, but in the end it all came down to the one you see above.
Although it’s not a beach I ever spent time in as a child (in fact the visit this photo was taken on was my first and only trip to this beach), it sums up everything I’ve just tried to convey about Scotland’s beaches without any words whatsoever. Would you believe me if I told you that this photo was taken in December? And better yet on Christmas Day? Yes, Christmas, that time in which Scotland is usually covered in thick snow and no-one can get anywhere or do anything, and yet here we were on a beach that was just oozing natural beauty. The light, the sun, the atmosphere.
This, is what I love about Scotland’s beaches – the wonderful unpredictability that they hold. No matter whether you visit in the height of summer or to walk off your Christmas dinner with some of your favourite people, you are always guaranteed to find something special.