Chasing Daylight in August: Cruden Bay in the Rain
Friday night, 11 pm
The chance for rain had gone up to 90%.
Taido had been checking the weather hourly all evening, watching the increase from a 10% chance to “almost certainly it’s going to rain.”
Now he was feeling uncertain about our plans for a Saturday outing, the one I had been planning in my mind as:
My Perfect Last Day of Summer with Friends
Mary Polly’s 16th Birthday Outing
Cole’s Only Saturday Home After Being Gone For Three Months
Even Taido was only whizzing through for a weekend, home from Germany to say a quick hello.
The rain had poured down all day Friday. Cole had been sleeping off jet lag while the other kids watched movies.
Cole and Taido were both leaving again on Sunday.
We needed this outing.
Let’s just see what it looks like when we wake up, I said. The weather is constantly changing. Maybe it will be pretty.
Silence from Taido.
Saturday morning, 6 am
TC (Taido): It’s already raining.
Me: What about in Ballater?
TC: It’s already raining there as well.
I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep, but then I heard an alarm, and soon afterwards, the shower coming on.
It was MP, up early to get ready for her birthday walk with friends.
I rolled back over.
Me: We can’t cancel. We have to get out today.
TC: Ugh. I’m not driving an hour and a half to walk in the rain.
I sat up and pulled out my phone. Now we were both sitting up in bed and looking at the weather.
Me: It looks a little clearer north of Aberdeen. What if we try Cruden Bay? That’s closer anyway.
Me: Do you think folks will still come?
TC: Hmm. Maybe text them and see.
Good morning friends! Well it looks like it is going to rain all day in Ballater. So we’re thinking of heading up to Cruden Bay to walk along the coast to the Bullers of Buchan and then back. We may still get rained on but the forecast looks a little clearer that way. Thoughts?
The replies came back.
Miraculously, we still had a small company of willing walkers.
Thank goodness for crazy Brits who consider horrible weather as normal as breakfast or afternoon tea.
One family who was previously not going actually decided to go on Saturday morning. They woke up to rainy skies and thought, Maybe we’ll join that in on that walk after all! Who does that?? I’ll tell you who. People who were born in Scotland.
There were grumbles from some corners of our house about walking in the rain, and moods did not improve as we loaded up in the car in a steady drizzle of rainfall.
I think the sky looks to be a brighter shade of gray up ahead, I pointed out optimistically.
No one agreed.
Taido turned on his electric beats that we’ve been driving around to all summer long.
MP: Ugh. I’m sick of this playlist.
Cole: I’ve never heard it.
Ben: That’s because you’ve been gone.
Cole. That’s right. And I wish I still was!
MP: Daddy please, I hate this song!
TC: Shut it.
MP: Will you at least turn it up?
We rode the rest of the way in silence. I was alternatively relieved and horrified that we would be with others for the rest of the day, hoping the distraction would make us better versions of ourselves rather than worse.
Everyone met in the car park. Blessedly, for a few minutes, it was not raining.
It’s one thing to be prepared to walk in the rain. It’s quite another to actually start out in it.
From the Cruden Bay car park, you walk first through a bit of forest and then on to New Slain’s Castle, a ruin named as such because there is a tower remaining further south of Old Slain’s Castle. But New Slain’s is also old.
From the castle, the walk leaves the road and continues on a single track trail along the dramatic coastline.
The scenery is magnificent. Rock outcroppings, cliff drops, waves crashing below. Even the occasional puffin spotting.
But even on a rainy day, if you poke your head out from under your hood, the cliffs below are gorgeous.
But my kids had not come for the views.
Having done this walk multiple times, they are sadly immune to its beauty.
The only reason they were not sitting back in the car and refusing to get out was the company.
And thankfully, when it started raining about ten minutes into the walk and did not stop for the remainder of the day, the company was enough to keep going.
Even before the rain was actually falling, everyone was wet up to their knees from the muddy trail and tall grass.
It’s been a very wet summer in Northeast Scotland. And the green grass and bushes have thrived. They were much taller and thicker than I remembered them being in June when we had last walked this trail.
Everyone fell into patterns of twos and threes, talking and laughing. And shrugging off the soggy day.
Soaking wet trousers and socks, mud to our ankles and no sign of a break in the rain for a picnic lunch–it was certainly not what I had imagined when I determined to plan “A Perfect Last Day Of Summer With Friends.”
But when we were all finally off the coastline and back on the road, crammed with standing room only in a bus shelter to eat our sandwiches, I looked around and everyone was smiling.
One of the kids started a game that they had all played at summer camp, a sort of calling and answering game where the lead gets passed around. They were all chanting responses back and forth, while the adults passed around thermos cups of hot tea and coffee.
As I warmed my hands around my cup of tea, I paused to hold the memory in my mind of the unassuming gathering.
It was not picnic blankets spread under blue skies and faces to the sun, but still.
It was actually kind of perfect.