Diario di campagna: A cuckoo calls me into a cove of delights

io’m on a creative practitioner residency on Eigg, courtesy of the Bothy Project, and trying to write. There are distractions, anche se. Outside the window is a mass of bluebells, rippling in sun and shadow. Beyond, another sea turns from turquoise to blue to grey. It’s been squally all day, but by mid-afternoon the wind has died down, and across the water the tops of the Rum Cuillin, on the island of Rum, are visible for the first time. I head out.

At the end of the track, I start crossing fields in the vague direction of the sea. After a couple of detours when it gets too boggy, I realise I’m following the call of a cuckoo, though I see no trees or discernible shelter for one. Once I reach the coast, I discover a cove that had been below the horizon line. A small, dank curve of cliff, water trickling down its face, sits behind a thicket of willows that – sure enough – hides the calling cuckoo.

That’s not all, anche se. Nearby grassy banks are sprinkled with primroses and bluebells, early purple orchids seem to glow, and beautiful violet-blue butterworts hang at the end of single stems coming from a pale green rosettes. A beach clean has left a careful stack of rubbish piled next to a stile, wellingtons over the posts on either side.

I’d originally been aiming to sea-watch, hopeful of another great northern diver, but the details of this place are holding me. I walk down, through a field of yellow irises peppered with cuckooflowers and plants with purple-green leaves that, when rubbed, leave my fingers smelling of mint.

The cuckoo flies up again, hassled by a pipit, and lands on the fence. Behind me, oystercatchers squabble and there’s a wheepeepeepeep of a sandpiper flying low along the shoreline. On the beach, large slabs of rock are sea-worn and pocked with rockpools that are suddenly rippled by a plop, and another, then more, and the top of Rum has disappeared again.

I’ll be soaked by the time I get back to the bothy, and this west coast rain will have done its trick of making an entire island disappear, but it’s been worth it. Who needs the headline birds?

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