At the end of 2014, I compiled a list of four books that I thought people should check out this year, and one of them was Aly Sidwick’s Lullaby Girl. So, I’m thrilled to be a part of Black & White’s blog tour in celebration of its release (4th June). Thanks to Aly for her guest post!
For the second stop of my blog tour, I thought I might pay tribute to the wilderness! The highlands are a favourite destination of mine for writing/editing, but one place in particular stands out, and that is Scoraig. My visit there affected me deeply, and even now it’s difficult for me to describe how magical the place is.
When I showed my workmates where I was going they called me insane, for the same reasons I found Scoraig so perfect. It’s an isolated peninsula near Ullapool on the north west coast of Scotland. Completely off-grid and completely inaccessible by road. Drinking water comes directly from the loch on the mountain. Heat comes from burning logs. Power comes from wind turbines and solar panels. There are no shops, no services and the only way in is by chartered boat or on foot along the cliffs.
I chose to hike in (carrying all my food on my back), which in itself was an adventure. Three hours along a rough track, into a lush, silent wonderland. By the time I reached the bothy I truly felt like I’d entered a different world. Starry-eyed, I watched Anna show me how to build a fire in the barrel stove. She gave me some eggs from her chickens and a loaf of bread she’d personally baked. She showed me how to light the hob.
Then she left me to it in the little wood-and-stone bothy, in surroundings so beautiful I could have cried. In four days I wrote more than I had in months, which was handy as I had a particularly gruelling edit on my hands. At night I lit the bothy with candles, to save the solar power for my laptop. I took an axe to bed with me, just in case!
There was no radio reception and no electrical entertainment of any kind. Just binoculars, books galore, and a five stringed guitar which I played when the fancy took me (Leonard Cohen and Belle& Sebastian, if I remember correctly.) I made coffee in the mornings and sat out in the heather to drink it. Sometimes a little cat came to visit. The floor and table were a forest of post-it notes and sellotaped plotlines.
On Scoraig, I rewrote the ending to Lullaby Girl. Living metres from Loch Broom, I watched the tides every day. I felt the hush of water at night, and watched the changing colours of the mountains. Without a doubt, these experiences affected the book’s ending. When I read certain passages, it feels like I’m back on Scoraig. Standing under twilight on a wild shore, with a mug of coffee in my hand.