Foula: it’s pronounced “Fool-er.”
Here’s the Wikipedia article about the island. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foula
I’ve always had a thing about islands. When I used to collect stamps as a 12-year-old, I was pleased as punch to have in my collection a mint stamp from Nauru and another mint stamp from Pitcairn Island, both places being as remote as it gets.
Fast forward to July 2003. I had booked a hiking holiday on Shetland with a friend (Dan), including four nights on Foula. For an island of just 4 by 6 kilometres, there were plenty of routes to walk, north, south, east and west, along the roads, uphill, around the island, etc.
Day one we walked to the highest point on the island, and then down to the air strip and lighthouse at the southern end, and spent a bit of time watching the puffins nesting near the lighthouse. My friend was a born and bred Londoner. He found the real live sheep fascinating. (As my Dad, born and bred in the Yorkshire Dales, would say, “Townie.”)
Day two we headed northwards. It was a pretty hot summer’s day. Thankfully, being a redhead, I had slapped on the factor 50 sun cream and plonked a hat on my head. After a couple of hours strolling, my friend and I had built up a bit of a sweat, slightly sore feet and backs needing time off without rucksacks on them.
By now we had reached the top of the island, with a kind of beach.
Right, shall we take a break here, and go take a dip in the sea?
Good plan, mate. My feet are absolutely throbbing.
Skinny dip, unless you’ve packed your swimming trunks?
Ginge in Germany:
Yeah, may as well. Nobody else is going to be around, anyway.
Rucksacks get dropped off gently onto the rocks on the “beach.” Then walking boots and socks off. Then everything else. Except my glasses. Blind as a bat without them. We both tiptoed into the water. The sea was cooling. It was freezing. Testicle-crushingly freezing. But, boy, it was nice to cool down after walking in the mid-day sun. And there was nobody else for miles around.
I was wrong.
By now the water was at chest height. I had kept my glasses on. Only my glasses. 200 metres away from us, I spotted a group of five or six walkers. They had not spotted us (I think).
“Dan, whatever you do, stay in the sea! PLEASE!”
“Why? It’s blinking freezing. I can’t stay here much longer.”
“Because there’s a bunch of hikers over there, and they are heading in this direction.”
Dan and I stayed exactly where we were. The water was at chest level. The group stopped and looked in our direction. We waved back. They waved back to us.
(Please don’t come any closer.)
They paused for another minute or two, pointing at the geographical features to our east. They then continued their hike eastwards, away from us. My fingernails were probably turning a nice shade of blue.
Finally they were out of sight. It seemed like two hours, not two minutes.
We breathed a sigh of relief. Gingerly (no pun intended) we tiptoed out of the water back to our rucksacks and clothes. We dressed rapidly – just in case any more hikers strolled by. Luckily the sun dried us off and warmed us up, as did our brisk stroll back to our digs. On our way back we encountered the same group of hikers. We exchanged greetings.
“Yes, excellent, thanks. Surprisingly warm, actually. Did us the world of good.”
A close escape. The rest of our stay on the island, we resolved to stay on dry land.
May your day go swimmingly well!