My Favourite Place in Scotland - Ricky Ross
As part of the My Favourite Place in Scotland competition Ricky Ross tells his story...
When I was a child there were a few set outings for my family . Some would venture up the Angus Glens and others across the water to Fife. A picnic would be packed and against the cold blasts of the Scottish summer, my mother would spread a travelling rug and sandwiches would be passed out, tea from a flask poured and we'd hope it would stay dry enough to stay out. The magical part for me came early; it was when my father took the car from the tarmac over the bumpy pavement and on to the grass. Something about that car negotiating the bumps and grooves of the turf signified we really were about to enjoy a different kind of day. Our Singer Vogue negotiating the grassy beach was a lingering metaphor for my father slipping off his tie and rolling up his sleeves; something that never happened.
From our Dundee home Monifieth was a regular haunt and Carnoustie, a little farther up the coast, a bigger day still. If the family really meant to make a day out of it - say relatives were joining us - then we would head beyond both these small towns and drive through Arbroath to Lunan Bay. Tucked off the A90 and east of the main east-coast rail line Lunan Bay is a languid, crescent shaped beach lying out behind enormous Angus sand dunes and the North Sea. Just getting to the beach involves taking quite a detour from the main road to Montrose and beyond and once you do park the car there is the business of crossing the dunes before you even catch sight of the beach for the first time. Tantalisingly, you can see all the bay from that East Coast railway line as you journey south from Aberdeen but there is no station at Lunan and the train carries on till Arbroath. I often think of travellers who have passed, marvelled but never stopped and feel sorry for them.
I can't remember my first visit but I know when my I first realised how special a place it was. In primary seven I joined The Crusaders. I needed another church based youth organisation like our house needed another Bible but my pals at school told me to join them on Sundays as there was a plan to 'go camping.' We did. We went to Lunan Bay. There was a small group of chums from my class and on the way in one of the leaders' cars I asked if we had to go to church on the Sunday morning. (this had been mandatory at other youth camps I'd been sent on). 'Have you brought clothes for going to church?,' he asked dryly. I think we knew then it was going to be fun.
When I returned my mother claims to have been slightly concerned. We'd been by the beach under canvas and it had rained on and off the entire weekend. She told me I declared I'd had the best time ever and when she went to get my clothes from my bag they were all soaking. In truth I remember some of that - I think our tent was at a slightly jaunty angle for keeping rainwater out - but I remember the place and the experience more. The open fires, the dune jumping, the salmon nets, the hunt for agates and the wide game over all of the land all come to mind now.
Perhaps that weekend was the last hurrah to boyhood. As one season follows another adolescence kicked in and soon the beach was a magnet for us to go for barbecues and long moonlit walks. Sand dune jumping was still done but increasingly they were trials of strength to impress a girl. Soon we were in friends' cars and sooner still I was able to drive myself, taking my mothers car on that old familiar route north and east out of Dundee to the magical beach. Part of that magic is that time has changed it so little. The railway still goes by and the dunes are as high as ever and although the fishermen no longer put their nets out for the salmon or sea trout the beach still looks much as it did all these years ago and no doubt many hundreds of years before that. No one has built near there and, although there are one or two old farms in and around the area there is no one claiming the bay as their own and, sometimes frustratingly, it's as open to any group of people who want to use it. On a bad night you might encounter a noisy drunken beach party - but you know too that through all of that the magic of the bay is worming its way into the souls of the next generation.
I have returned many times as a grown up. We took two of my daughters with us one day when they were both in the early days of school. We jumped and ran and I saw again the magic of the place through their eyes. I still have beautiful photographs of that special day when we drove all the way from Glasgow just to be there. A few years later I took my little boy and two of his friends when we were camping on the east coast. As I prepared a barbecue they lost themselves in the sand dunes building up a hearty appetite. After we put the food away we all played hide and seek in and through the wild grass as the sun started to go down. He still talks about it until this day.
It's May and the longer nights are here. We'll head off for some family days out soon as my daughters return from University and gap year projects. We'll find a day this summer and I'm pretty sure we'll be back on that beach together very soon.
Where is your favourite place in Scotland? What makes it special to you?
Scottish Book Trust and BBC Radio Scotland invite you to write about your favourite place in Scotland, whether it's a remote beauty spot or an urban hideaway, a famous landmark or a favourite café. We want to get Scotland writing, inspired by our country's best-loved places.
Write a story, poem, song lyric, diary entry, letter or sketch about your favourite place,
submit it and your story could appear in a book or be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland.
Check the website for stories, poems and songs by celebrities and listen to BBC Radio Scotland's Out of Doors programme to hear more.
To find out more, read others' pieces and write your own, go to The Scottish Book Trust - My Favourite Place. For full terms and conditions visit the BBC Radio Scotland website.