Posted by: wildswimmers | June 21, 2017

Magical Midsummer Night Walk

Last night I did a magical midsummer nightwalk in the lush temperate rainforest here in Argyll.  It’s something I’ve dreamed of doing since reading “Nightwalk” by Chris Yates while waiting for the Colonsay ferry some years ago.  I didn’t really expect anything specially exciting to happen.  But it did.  The evening was warm and very calm.  Windless.  Perfect for this type of expedition.

I took nothing with me, wishing to walk simply and unencumbered by rucksacks, torches, flasks and the like.  Just myself, walking in the dark.  I left the house about midnight and made my way quietly through the village and soon experienced my first mysterious noise from nature – high up in the majestic trees by the village hall – a strange creaking bird call, like a rusty door hinge, repeated many times by at least two birds.  I stood very still, puzzling as to what type of bird would make this call, which I had never heard before.  I’ve since been told it would be a tawny owl and its mate, calling to each other.

Leaving the road I plunged into the darkness of the woods, following the path which gleamed dimly white, often nearly overbalancing as I tried to get used to not utilising sight to assist with balance.  (Next day every muscle in my legs ached, from suddenly being pressed into service).  Dim shapes moved – deer?  Rustlings from the thick bracken made me start.  But I saw nothing.  Until I broke through the tree cover high up on the ridge and looked north.

I was stunned by the breathtaking beauty of the dark islands, the brightly shimmering Sound of Jura and the dark stain of pink to the far north, where the sun was lying low beyond the horizon.  Even amidst this wilderness there were signs of civilisation, regular and comforting blinks of light from the lighthouses at Skervuile and Rudha Sgeir, tiny but vital.  I sat awhile in the stillness.  A strange whispering of the trees precluded an isolated, fresh and powerful gust of wind.  Then, again, stillness.  Moving onto the very top of the hill, I walked further to a viewpoint.  Southwards the visibility was poor and I was about to turn back when a ghostly white apparition soared past!  A barn owl.  Utterly silent, it moved through the dark air, disappearing into the trees.  Spellbound I waited.  It returned suddenly out of nowhere and came unexpectedly and rather alarmingly close, circling several times about six feet above my head.  I’ve heard about owls gouging out people’s eyes and raised my hands to protect my face, just in case.  Having inspected me carefully, the owl faded away into the night.  It was an unsettling but rather wonderful encounter.   I turned for home.


On passing the village hall the tawny owls were still in full voice.  I stopped to drink sweet fresh water from the village well and stepped into the unwelcome glare of the street lights.  The spell was broken.


  1. Wonderful description of nightime sounds and the creatures that move in it.


  2. Reminds me of a childhood when we walked the summer nights from Heather House to Black Rock without an adult. Your description brings it all flooding back…..nature in all its wonder sharpening the senses. Thank you.


    • Oh thank you for such a lovely comment. Makes it worthwhile to get such feedback that I have awoken memories or inspired people xx


  3. This was lovely, wonderfully written and incredibly evocative. I hope it gets a wide audience!


    Sent from my iPad



  4. Beautiful. So poetic and full of tension and drama.


    • Gosh, thanks Martin! I can recommend the activity – at full moon ideally.


  5. So beautiful, Iona.


    • Thank you Lottie. It really was wonderful! I think I shall do it every year….


  6. I love walking in the dark, when you can just see, and the imaginary monsters loom large in your ears. What’s that rustle? Did I catch something in the corner of my eye? Your lovely story also reminded me of an Andy Goldsworthy installation a few years ago. He made white chalk paths through some woods and you could walk them alone around the full moon. Very meditative; just like your story. Thanks for sharing.


    • Thank you Carl, for such a lovely comment. I’m glad to hear from someone else who likes night walking. That Goldsworthy installation sounds beautiful.


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