81 – Oronsay Island tidal beach, Skye

Parking the car at the end of a twisty track, we set out over marshy grassland. We pass a tumble of brown cliff with grey-blue sea lapping below, a rocky crescent of beach we can’t get to. We push on, sinking into mud, trying to guess which patches of grass are good to stand on and which merely float on water waiting to suck your ankles into the murk.

Oronsay means tidal island and this is one of many so named, but when we see ours we stop for a minute and stare down at the opened up causeway of rocks and, either side of it, two perfect crescents of white sand. I hurry down to it, desperate to swim while the sand sits exposed as it does. The rocks are thick with barnacles and limpets cling to every surface, burying into the rock as they wait for the water to return again and set them free to wander.

The sand is fine and soft and crackled with cold. Clumps of seaweed lie waiting for the tide to return. Black granules make patterns on the still surface. The water is flat, blue and grey with a slight hint of turquoise. It deepens quickly and within a few steps I push off and under, the cold rising up then settling into my flesh, pushing into my bones. I marvel to think that this perfect bay I’ve entered through will not be here in a few hours.

On the beach, a dog and a family come to the waters edge. Father and son roll up their trousers to paddle, turning their bare feet pink, then scarlet. I turn and swim away toward the chocolate mountains either side of me and then, in the middle, the inviting open ocean. The wilderness is in every line of every glance. Oronsay itself rises, gently sloping to my left.

I swim past a large, brown-gold jellyfish and back away. I think it might be time to get out, I even turn for shore, but no. I can’t swim outdoors and turn away from these things. I look back to the horizon where tiny clouds line up above me and kick forward again. I’m not done with the liquid cold just yet.

I’m raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please sponsor me at http://www.justgiving.com/swimbonnieswim

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