17/100 – Calgary Bay, Isle of Mull

Calgary Bay could, quite simply, be the Caribbean. If it wasn’t for the slightly (hugely) lower temperature. But the sand is utterly white, pale churned cream before it turns into butter. The sea is the kind of turquoise usually reserved for post cards, a shifting, dappled landscape of green and blue crystal. The winding cliffside road on the Isle of Mull has offered stunning views of crumbling cliffs and wide, uninterrupted seascapes, but when we round this corner and see the bay lying beneath us, nestling in the cliffs, it is breathtaking. From above it is a horseshoe, cliffs topped with green rolling down to slate grey rocks ringing an expanse of almost colourless sand, all pointing to, highlighting, the unbelievable colour of the sea.

This beach came high up the list when we researched where to go on the Isle of Mull, and so we expect it to be touristy, busy. But there’s just a small gravel car park and a hut selling ice cream. The car park is full, but once you’re down on the soft sand, the nearest person is a dwarf in the distance. The sand is cold silver on our feet, powdery as it flows up between our toes. The wind is sharp and there’s nowhere to change and I think about just enjoying the view from the shore – I don’t need to go in, do I?

A man by the waters edge wades in while his friend takes pictures. I sit up to watch. He walks in till the water is waist height, pauses for some more photos, then turns and walks straight back out. He doesn’t even get his chest wet, let alone his head. He’s taking memorable photos of an experience he isn’t really having! Now I have to go in.

I change at one end of the beach, hoping I’m too far away from other people to be seen. And then I wade in. The water, cold and crystalline, is ankle deep for what seems like forever. But after watching the other man, nothing is stopping me until I’m under. The water is some of the clearest I’ve ever swum in. I can see the pale yellow sand perfectly, even when my feet can no longer reach down to settle on it.

The sun dips in and out behind clouds and transforms the water. When the sky is still and grey, the water is a placid flat echo of it, a steady relief to the mountains that edge it in. The sand is just a few shades brighter. And then the sun comes out and shatters the dullness. The water is green and gold, wavy reflections and cut glass edges. The sand strip back on the beach is dazzling and the green hills and rusty cliffs that curve around the bay stand out in high definition. Everything comes into focus.

On the bottom beneath me there are tiny footmarks, a bird or an otter that came before me. The water shines so brightly that it envelops everything around it in its glow. The Caribbean can’t be much better than this.

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