The water surrounding Great Cumbrae is so clear that we could see the bottom of the bay all the way across to Largs. That was just … unbelievable to us. The place attracts hordes of shorebirds who dive and dip, feasting on their very visible prey. Eiders and Oystercatchers seemed pretty happy.
The fog was just burning off as it headed toward noon… and the air was thick with mist and the smell of seaweed, salt, and the tang of decaying sealife. Odd, how good death and decay smells at the seaside…
Largs — that bustling metropolis of a village – sits quaintly in the distance. There is nothing but blue skies and the battering of cold breezes on our cheeks. The cold is a heady drink we keep sucking into our lungs as the sun warms our backs. A perfect day for sailboats, shorebirds, and cycling…
…and the odd berry. (The management would like to thank what must be the most obliging bee in the world, who posed for this Lifecycle of the Blackberry shot. Go, bees!)
Great Cumbrae Island is actually …little (Great Cumbrae is the mountain in the middle of the island, and plain old Cumbrae Island is in New Zealand). It’s ten miles around, and we intended to walk at least halfway, having been told that the best berries were on the lee side. We didn’t get more than a mile around before we stopped at a bramble alongside of the road, and found small, ripe berries. Our friend A. – we’ll call him Axel today – started sampling. “Not good enough,” he told us, licking his fingers. We shrugged and kept going.
It was hard to get serious about berrying when the sun was shining on us, the sea was lapping against the rocks, and the breeze was tangling our hair. We honestly didn’t care if we got any berries or not, drunk on the sun and the sea. We considered tide pooling. We looked at the clear water and considered a good wade. We strolled dreamily for about two miles before Axel decided we’d reached a bramble that had some potential (this he determined by eating about a quart of berries while chatting). We opened our plastic bins and got serious — well D. and T. got serious. Axel continued to point out juicy looking berries, then steal them. It was like berrying with a cheerfully loquacious bear, or a particularly good-natured wolf. (Ahem.)
It wasn’t all sweetness and safety. Between the sliding rock wall (Note: one should not brace one’s foot on any rock wall before checking to see if it’s actually going to hold one’s weight), spiders running up T’s sleeves (the small shriek that rent the air went largely ignored by the island populace, except for those who quietly went deaf in the near vicinity), the vicious bramble thorns and the discovery of the stinging nettle (thank you, Prairie Girl Wanderer – we remembered that blackberries and nettles go vine-in-vine), there were some yelps, whimpers, and the occasional muttered imprecation. We would have used the natural remedy of the dock plants growing nearby, but mostly we didn’t see the nettles we ran into, so were a bit frustrated. However! All these things were minor. We came away with a good eight quarts of berries, and visions of blackberry jelly dancing in our heads.
This being Scotland, eventually our lovely, sun-drenched idyll came to an end — and considered becoming just a drenched idyll. We picked faster. Axel even stopped eating. Briefly.