Travellers Tales from "We Are 8 Seconds"
Nowhere screams Autumn adventure more than the dramatic and spectacular vistas of Northern Scotland, although many would shy away from the idea of hitting the surf in these chillier temperatures. We caught up with Hugo (from awesome Production Company, 'We Are 8 Seconds') on his recent journey to Scotland's most iconic northerly spot...
"Originally intending it as an intense surf trip on the Northern coastline of Scotland, through forecasts in the week leading up, it was hard to learn we would have to find silver linings to a week without surf, we’d drawn an unlucky hand with the waves. Myself and good pal over from Australia had travelled far and wide with water housings and surfboards, to the Natural Retreats lodges at John O’Groats and it looked as if our dream cold-water surf trip was completely out of the question.
With a Natural Retreats lodge as home for week, we took stock and starting planning for a very different few days. With the weather on our side, a sofa, fire wi-fi and time to plan, it was looking up. Despite the comfort of the lodge, we were desperate to explore, get wet, see some sights and learn a few things. Although very much out of season for the summer activities of biking, kayaking, puffin and whale watching, we quickly found the bleak beauty of Northern Scotland had much to offer in deep Autumn.
It’s a hard place not to be inspired, the main road hugs the coastline and it’s difficult not to find little notches of beauty heading West from John O'Groats towards Tongue. We spent our first couple of days solely exploring our local area; long walks down river valleys, climbing up and down cliff faces, swimming with seals and getting stuck on barbed wire; very much part and parcel with (a) my nature an (b) exploring this neck of the woods. We met some local fly-fisherman who tried their best to teach us the tricks of the trade (to no apparent success) and we still stand under strict instruction to keep their spot a secret.
The following day, basked in sunshine, we drove West along the coast road to a beautiful hike, climb and swim off Strathy Point. Seals, Jellyfish, amazing cliffs, caves and rock formations. To have it all in the flat, calm and reasonably warm conditions we did, we were very lucky. Before heading back to thaw our extremities we stopped in at the Wolfburn whiskey distillery, our bit of education for the day. We were lucky enough to meet the head distiller, who kindly took us around and let us try some of his fine whiskey. We took a couple of bottles to our now home (for research purposes solely) and cooked a huge meal, ate under the stars with the fire roaring, not a bad end to a decent day. It’s easy to take the natural environment for granted, but the North Coast of Scotland is truly on of the most stunning places I’ve ever been. It often takes a series of photos from the day to realise this.
The next morning, looking out of the panoramic windows at small silver clouds floating above the Orkney Islands, it was there and then that we decided that was our next trip. After breakfast looking out over the sea and cows in the foreground, we made our way to Gills Bay for the ferry. Orkney is a special trip worth taking. During the dark winter months the islands offer amazing opportunities to see the Mirrie Dancers, a local term for the Northern lights. The Islands offer gorgeous historical monuments, interesting village names and community as far from the bustle, and light pollution you could wish to get. We filled our boots with a packed day of swimming, cliff running and soaking up some history at the well publicised ancient Neolithic burial chambers. It’s definitely somewhere I’d like to explore further.
All too soon, it was time to head south and back to city lights. The Natural Retreats lodges have always been somewhere I love to visit but to be forced to explore in conditions I’m not totally used to, it definitely helps me ‘sell’ the idea of a trip with family and/or mates for a well rounded and interesting week away in the UK. We only scratched the surface with what is possible up there and I can’t wait to go back, with or without some waves to ride."
- Hugo, We Are 8 Seconds