Linked by one long main street, and collectively known as the Seaboard Villages, the small towns of Hilton, Balintore and Shandwick sit facing the sea along the Moray Firth in the Highlands of Scotland. Extending along the shore on either side of the villages are coastal walking paths that hug the seashore, curve along cliffs and traipse through farm pasture.
At Balintore, a small Seaboard Sculpture Trail celebrates local lore and the maritime heritage. Three giant salmon stand in a pocket park and nearby, in the water, a mermaid sits perched on a boulder, the tide rising and lowering around her. The villages are within walking distance of two magnificent standing stones, the Shandwick Stone and the (replica) Hilton-of-Cadboll stone, part of a popular Tourist Trail that features the stone carvings of the Picts. Quiet and remote, these friendly towns have much to offer a visitor. But on this spit of land reaching into the sea, it is the magnificent coastal landscape that is the feature attraction, with walking trails that offer fresh sea breezes, stunning landforms and dramatic skies.
Six weeks into our stay in Scotland, the time has flown by in a flurry of work activity. Fortunately the light, long days have given an extra measure of time to explore and go walking. Like being out at sea, the weather changes frequently. Even on sunny, blue sky mornings, clouds seem to bubble up out of nowhere, coloring the sky black with rain clouds. The winds blow cool, at times fierce. The daily weather forecast regularly includes rain showers and sunny spells, along with predictions of frost. But I am learning to trust, that on most days, the sun returns. And when it does, it shines so brightly, and turns the sky and sea such a gorgeous blue, that I quickly forgive the bad weather.