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Solstice of the Moon ~ Inverurie, September 2017: A Flying Visit

In September 2017, we went north for our autumn workshop, placing ourselves in the hands of our friend, Running Elk, for the weekend. Knowing the area intimately, knowing the stones and the landscape, we knew he would present a superb weekend. We could not know quite how magical the time would be… nor how far down the road its effects would still be being felt…

There was absolutely no way we were going to drive to our destination without getting sidetracked. Where would be the fun in that? So we decided that the first place that would take us from the main road north would be the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

There were a number of reasons for that. It is a very beautiful place with a long history, a place of pilgrimage still today. The pilgrim route is still marked by poles across the shifting sands, although most visitors now take the causeway that is revealed at low tide.

On our last trip this far north, in the depths of a deserted January, we had experienced the strange and unearthly atmosphere of the island when the tide cuts it off from the mainland. There is a very different feeling between an island that is always and predictably sea-locked and one that seems to withdraw from the world when the tides come in. Leaving the island had been a surreal and unforgettable experience, driving through the receding waters in pitch darkness, with one headlamp out. ‘Civilisation’ seems a remote and unlikely chimaera when the sea glitters around the wheels of the car.

This visit, though, would be in daylight and with hours to spare before the next tide, no chance of finding ourselves lost once more in that other world. That was a pity… but there was another reason too for our visit… they make the best mead on the island… and it was my birthday, after all…

Tree of Life by Mary Fleeson

Duly supplied with mead for the evening, we wandered around the tiny village. It had been closed for winter on our last visit and I have also seen it in the throes of high season, thronged with bustling tourists. This time the island was open and yet there were few people about. It is odd how the place changes with the shifting tides of human presence.

We went in search of refreshments. The pub near the Abbey was closed and up for sale. Last time, we had watched a glorious sunset, then retired to the warm pub to finish writing Mister Fox as we waited for the turning tide. Instead, we headed for a little place I had visited with a friend some years before.

The island itself is a sanctuary for birds and they have inevitably found their way into the little garden tea shops where there are easy pickings. We watched them as we entered, tiny sparrows helping themselves without fear to a free lunch… and clearing the crumbs from every abandoned table.

The sun was pleasant, so armed with coffee and a scone, we found a table in the sheltered warmth of a wall… and attracted immediate interest…

What happened next was sheer delight…

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The sparrows were far more important than playing the tourist… and I can think of few better surprises for a birthday than this brief encounter. Not until every crumb had gone did we leave… and, back on the mainland, there was something else we really hoped we could find…

Click the highlighted links in the text to read more about the beauty and history we found on Holy Island on our previous visit.