A walk along cliffs

On the tip of the Wester-Ross coast between Loch Torridon and Gairloch there are two fine beaches. On the peak of a rocky knoll overlooking the first of them, fifteen years ago we interred the ashes of our first Vizslas, Seth and Chloe. We used to take them there during our frequent holidays in the area. I can see the pair of them now, running in top gear the high, grassy dunes, the firm wet sands of the tide-zone.

The other Sunday we did the three mile walk from that first beach along a ragged, boggy cliff top along to the second beach, the one I called the salmon station in my pastel painting - still one of our most popular prints. (www.picturesandpoems.co.uk) It was a beautiful, windless day. We could see pin-sharp the islands of Raasay and Skye and, hazily, the Outer Hebrides beyond. It was hard going, so, half way there, we sat on a rock for a rest and to take in the wonder of it all.

What follows is true - and truly wonderful. Around the rocks to our left, not fifty metres out, came a pair of dolphins. Their great wet backs flashed in the sun as they surfaced, only to sink out of sight with barely a ripple, rise once more a little further on. And again and again. We've never heard of dolphins swimming close in like this. Usually, if you are lucky enough to see any of them at all you have to be in a boat, way out on the Minch where these great mammals are seeking and hunting the shoals of summertime mackerel.

We sat there mostly in an awe-struck silence, watching their progress. And then came, amazingly, another pair. And yet another, and another and another. In all we counted twenty six dolphins, all in pairs, all of them on the same sea track just out from the shore line rocks. They didn't seem to pause or divert to hunt, just swam on and on, the string of them the best part of a mile in length from start to finish.

We watched as the line proceeded all the way along to a point opposite the second (old salmon station) beach where they swung out into deeper water, in a wide parabola around the mouth of Loch Torridon. We watched them until the tailenders were out of sight in the distance. We shall not forget them. Or that day. Or that walk.

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