True north …

Tonight we are in Ullapool, ideally placed to catch the 10:30 ferry to Stornoway.  The first image is the view from the B&B window – Waterside House.  The skies are clear, the sunset was spectacular but the temperature remains on the low side of comfortable. Hopefully the isobars will remain well spaced, the winds light and the swell modest. It is 2.5 hours over the sea to Lewis.

Unto the Lord belongs the Earth
And all that it contains
Except the Kyles and Western Isles
For they belong to MacBraynes

The Greatest Show on Earth

The Olympic opening ceremony was a wonderful spectacle but if we saw it every day the novelty and interest would eventually pall.  Certainly I would soon tire of Kenneth Branagh’s self-satisfied smile on the face of Brunel; I would all too quickly long for his dour Wallander.

Pictures of sunsets are a cliché, seen too often, taken for granted, they owe nothing to the person behind the camera other than his/her ability to be in the right place at the right time.  Nevertheless the sinking sun still has the potential to provide the greatest show on earth and it still can attract crowds.

In early August I was in the right place at the right time.  All that is required is clean unpolluted air, open water, clear but not totally clear skies and an uninterrupted horizon; then, all the ingredients are in place.  Sadly not many locations on mainland Britain meet the necessary criteria but on the days when the clouds lift and the rains desist, the far northwest will always deliver.

The right place on this occasion was at the end of West Shore Street, Ullapool, where you step up to the sea defences and walk towards the campsite and the mouth of the Ullapool River beyond.   It was a perfect evening; in the last hour before sunset when the light is at its clearest, the world appeared in Ultra HD.  Then as the sun began to sink into the Summer Isles, people gathered along the shore line, sat and watched, transfixed.  To enhance the occasion a woman played the sun down on a lap harp.

They are never the same.  The cloud formations, the clarity of the air, the stillness of the water, all vary from day to day.  A long, long time ago when the world was still young, I shared a sinking sun from the shores of Applecross; across a mirror like sea, it was pure watercolour on Hahnemuehle paper.  Some things you never forget.