For this hospital doctor, the purity of the Hebrides and Orkney brings the solace he needs to carry on his busy city profession
One November, close to burnout, I left my job as a hospital doctor in Edinburgh for the Hebridean island of Barra. From the lee of an abandoned cottage, where I sheltered from the driving rain, the island at first seemed desolate, empty, solitary.
A headland stood over a broad bay of white sand chopped by relentless sallies of rolling grey waves. Down on the beach, the sands were sheened in a thin film of seawater which seemed neither to flow nor drain – a mirror over the earth, doubling the drama of the skies. I surprised two sea otters at play and picked up a bobbing audience of inquisitive seals that floated just offshore, following me as I made my way along the strandline. There were just a few hours of light to each day of the week I spent walking circuits of those beaches, but the purity and simplicity of the landscape – just hills, grass, sea, wind – lent a clarity to my mind that had been lacking for what felt like months.