The Lang Ayre by Tom Morton
My favourite place is a secret. And I'm not even sure I can get there anymore, as it involves a somewhat dangerous scramble down a great gouge in a cliff, carved out of crumbly granite over millennia. And these days I'm too creaky and too feart to try it. Maybe. But oh, when you get there, to this perfectly formed shingle beach with its press-gang caves, the echoing face of the rock above you lending a weird resonance to every crunching, shushing step you take...it's magical.
So maybe I'll tell you about my second favourite place, which is pretty much like the secret one, only not. Secret, that is. It's the Lang Ayre in the Northmavine area of Shetland, which is, in fact, near where I live. And not far away from the idyll I've already described.
The Lang Ayre (long beach) is the best beach in Scotland. But it's a connoisseur's strand. It's coarse red granite shingle, for a start, so sandcastles. It's extremely, well, long. A mile, in fact.
It's only accessible via a steep gully at Kettligill Head (easier getting back up than down)and, on my last visit, I took two and a half hours to walk there from the car park at the old NATO station on Collafirth Hill. An hour there (probably could have spent longer) and two hours back. If you're thinking of going, it's worth taking a tent and camping, as you can walk on next day to Uyea Isle, another of Shetland's great geological wonders. There's a good track from Uyea to North Roe, and from there you can phone somebody in tears and plead for a lift back to points south. Or hitch.
Shetland's many advantages over the West Highlands include fewer people, no clegs, insignificant midges and no snakes. We do, though, have those marauding pirates of the sky known as bonxies, or great skuas, and the moorland above the Lang Ayre is particularly prone to those pirates of sky . There are horrendous tales of them burying their beaks in human heads, but that's just a myth. Isn't it?
Shetland Birdman supreme Martin Heubeck told me that they very rarely hit you, and then only by accident, but bonxie attack (all you hear is the swoosh of their wings) can be terrifying if you're not used to it. A few years ago an elderly tourist was found dead of a heart attack in the middle of a bonxie colony. Very Hitchcockian.
Now that you've read about Tom's favourite place in Scotland, write about your own favourite place - and share it with the world.