< If it's Kinneff anecdotes you desire, dear reader, then be forewarned that this recollection tends to the ominous.

 

It was the mid- February of the year 2014 and I had been en route to Lunan Bay, but I had left later than was suitable and as the light began to fail decided to divert my attentions to Kinneff which is much closer to my home. At that time I had only visited the location twice before.

 

I knew that the most productive beach I had yet discovered was likely accessible by walking cross-country through muddy farmland, but I wanted to avoid disturbing any cows or sheep and indeed, people too.

Accessing the Kinneff shoreline from the road is difficult, and not advised. I had a route in my mind that I had improvised the previous August on my initial foray, and I was feeling energetic. I reached the rocky shore by following a rough path down a steep incline through nettles and brambles and then continued, rock-hopping for much of the way. The tide was on the ebb, but still quite high. The very lowest shores at Kinneff are highly treacherous being composed of waterworn reefs of black rock and slippery brown-green seaweed. Needless to say, these areas are best avoided.

Upon reaching a gully beyond a large cave with a huge cliff marking its boundary to my right, I had to get myself quite low on the shore by gingerly stepping from weedy boulder to weedy boulder, to reach a place where I could scramble up to a wide rock shelf that could then be followed to my destination. However, the tide was too swift for me, and my feet were soaked, but I did get to the ledge intact. It is never less than mildly disconcerting, and often wildly unpleasant not to know how much water you might stand in if the tide is inescapable. In this case, standing on a large flat boulder, it perhaps reached my lower calves. It is worth noting that I do recognise that this trip was a wholly foolhardy and reckless venture but it was conducted during an unpleasant period in my life, when indeed my own safety and wellbeing sadly were not paramount in my priorities.

Anyway, I digress. The first odd thing about the rock shelf is that it appeared to be andesite, with occasional nodules showing through. The rock was impenetrable however, and hammer blows merely bounced. The second odd and rather disturbing aspect to this area was the strong smell of animal decomposition. I don't know if you have ever stumbled-over the corpse of a dead fox in farmland during high summer but this was considerably more potent. In my mind's eye I could see some great slain marine saurian just offshore dashed among the rocks, its grey flesh pensively picked-over by gulls, one glazed eye still huge and bright in my torchlight. Or perhaps this was where one such creature brought its prey for later consumption. A sea-monster's larder. A Mosasaur's midden. Was there a cavern beneath my feet laden with rotting seals and Moray dolphins? I made my way further along the edge considering all this carefully.

At the time of writing, the cliffs and crags south of my chosen destination at Whistleberry Farm and the nearby Whistleberry Castle have become a crime scene after the death of a woman and injury of a man exploring the area during the night. This is a perilous place, and obviously is best explored during daylight hours.

The beach here is framed by steeply inclined farmland and imposing cliffs in all directions but that of the sea. I had begun searching by torchlight, only turning up a few shards or partial nodules even after some time. I was particularly uncomfortable and felt watched. If there has been one time in my life when I can suggest that this feeling was not just a result of paranoia then this is it. I remember it being cold and windless, but the grey pebbles were illuminated in the stark moonlight and everything seemed almost overwhelmingly grey and silvery. Even the sea was the colour of slate.

Who would have been observing me? A local farmer perhaps? It would have appeared to be very strange behaviour from a distance to see someone searching shingle at a fairly remote cove by torchlight. Perhaps even a matter for some discussion. It was this notion that caused me to eventually turn tail and make the return journey to the car using the same route I had utilised on my approach.

In recent days I have been struck by the relentlessness of time, and how I wish it was possible to "press pause" amidst it all and properly take stock of what has been. Yet, of course, it is the very fact that we cannot escape the pull of time even momentarily that makes some of the literature we create so compulsive and vital. We see the past as gloried and pure and we instill it with nostalgia and sentimentality.

It is for this reason that I wished to note down the above event, primarily to illustrate the power the landscape can have over us but also to say that despite it being an anecdote from a melancholic time, including foolhardy behaviour of which I do not condone and am not proud, it is a memory I travel to in my mind from time-to-time in order to make my peace with it.