Edge of the World

Sydney Smith University of Aberdeen, Scotland


March 22, 2018

As you may have concluded by now, I like to take long walks in the wilderness on my own and hope that everything goes alright. So, here is another illustrious story of how I spent a weekend trekking around Scotland.

It had been a week filled with sun unlike any other that I had experienced in Scotland prior to the Beast from the East’s arrival. I spent countless hours procrastinating my responsibilities, as per usual, walking without any purpose along the Aberdeen Beach admiring the waves and the wind as it whipped through my hair making me feel like I was living in a dramatic movie.

This particular weekend I felt like exploring up the coast to Slains Castle near Cruden Bay and hike along the coastal trail up to Boddam.

Getting to Slains was the easiest transportation experience I have had thus far. I simply got on the bus and it practically took me to the castle’s front door.

Slains Castle served as the inspiration for Bram Stokers Dracula and after visiting I can understand why. It sits on the edge of a cliff away from the small town, isolated. The structure of the castle is relatively intact and you can wander the length of the stone halls now exposed to the elements and overgrown with grass. Nearest to the cliffs rests a tower with a spiral staircase that is still functional. And, if you climb it as I did, you slowly become more and more vulnerable to the wind that howls up the cliffs. The halls of the structure are eerie to wander alone. They rise above you and occasionally open up to rooms that once existed overlooking the ocean.

There were other people there around Slains Castle, but they stuck to exploring the cliffs while I was the only one who walked through the ruins of the old building. This gave me an almost uneasy feeling because I am incredibly superstitious and if any place could be haunted it would definitely be Slains.

After leaving the castle I explored the cliffs nearby, but only briefly because I had a short way to walk before arriving at my next planned stop, Bullers of Buchan, a land bridge created by the erosion of the cliffs over time.  

Getting there was a short hike, and I was having to fight off the wind which was blowing viciously making the already chilly coastal air even friskier.  

Other people where there when I arrived, which was exciting because I wasn’t alone in my fascination for the natural wonder. The Bullers was magnificent with the sea roaring below, and the wind howling above.

My original intention was to only get a nice picture of the Bullers, but of course, I saw the land bridge and the narrow path with a hundred+ foot cliff on either side and was tempted to walk across it. So, I did.

It was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done in my life and I am only slightly exaggerating the circumstances for storytelling purposes. The ground of course was muddy along the path and the path itself had been walked so many times that past explorers had left a foot-wide indented trail for other idiotic adventurers like myself to try. At one point, where the ground narrowed, it was super muddy and it lead steadily up a short little slope. That is where my foot slipped. Luckily I didn’t fall to my death. By the time I made it to the end of the land mass, I was so nervous that I sat down.

Have you ever stood on the edge of a cliff looking out at the vast sea in front of you? All alone with the wind blowing fiercely and the violent sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below. The horizon disappears in the distance making it appear like the ocean continues on forever. From my place on the cliff overlooking the sea, I was in such awe from the beauty of the cliffs that surrounded me. Looking back at the breathtaking views I had, I question if it was actually a real place, but then I look back at my photos from that day and recall that yes indeed it is real.

After leaving the Bullers of Buchan, I followed the coastal trail around the cliffs where I continued to be enthralled by the natural beauty of this particular place.

I was enjoying myself despite having to fight off the wind and strategically maneuver around mud puddles. I was just strolling along, having a great time hiking along the Longhaven cliffs, when I came across a sign placed on the edge of a cliff which said, “In loving memory of Sydney Shepard. Ashes returned to the Sea.” Seeing this froze me in my tracks because the name was quite similar to my own. The spot overlooked the cliffs and the sea which extended past the horizon.

I continued my hike, but kept thinking back to that sign. Eventually I finished my day of ogling the captivating cliffs and returned safely back to my dorm room.

Later I joked about the peculiarity of the marker with my mom, but now I think of it in a deeper way. This sign was the marker of where someone wanted their remains to be returned. It was their final resting place, on the edge of, what seemed from my perspective, the world.

The marker on the edge of the cliff, made me question the importance of this spot and made me think of where I want to end up someday not just in the final sense of ending up through death, but just generally with my life. What sort of legacy do I want to leave behind? Looking back at it, I am adding more philosophical importance than I did in that moment.

Since then I have pondered the ordinariness of death. Death happens to everyone, eventually; thus making it an ordinary occurrence. It is life that is extraordinary. We each live lives that may seem similar in ways to others, but have their distinct differences. What one person experiences may not be what another person experiences. For example, this post and the significance I got out of hiking along the cliffs. What we do in our lives will eventually be our legacy that we leave behind. Our actions past, present, and future, will be how people remember us.

So, how do you want to be remembered?


Scotland Semester