Sailing here from Belfast the other day was a right pain in the backside. The sailing was fine; even though it is winter the water was only a little rocky and the few hours at sea were grand. It was arriving in Loch Ryan that was the nuisance. There had been heavy rain in the few days before and the coastal roads to the north, overshadowed with steep hills, were the victims of a considerable landslide. Thankfully no one was harmed, but the result was that the roads were all closed for a couple of days for road clearances and so that the hills could be reinforced against further land slippages. None of these roads are motorways, no; they are simply the modern development of the auld dirt tracks that have wended their way along this route of western Scotland for millennia. There are no other roads might we add. This meant that everyone disembarking at Cairnryan Port had to go south and east rather than to the north and the rest of Scotland, and the south-east of Scotland is a vast landscape. Getting anywhere near Glasgow that day took hours.

Through the Christmas holidays the road fairies must have been working overtime to reopen the roads, for as I travelled south through Prestwick and Girvan there were no closed roads, and it was an easy trip to the peninsula of Galloway. On board, off the starboard side, I watched as we sailed past the Mull of Kintyre and Sanda, and at the rear I watched as Ailsa Craig and the Ayrshire coast drew further and further away as we pressed on for Ulster, Ireland. I’m not sure if it is a sadness or a nostalgia that hangs on me when I see these things. I always have a sense of fear that I might never see them again. I watch them drift away and I hope to see them soon – but never too soon. Home is a funny notion. Leaving Scotland I am always aware that I am leaving home to get home. We all must feel like that at times. One day I might sail back and decide not to come back. Perhaps not. Maybe I will decide to sail somewhere else instead.

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