My friends and I went on a ten-day trip to Scotland last month, and now that I’m back I pretty much want to tell everyone about it. That would require a lot of typing, though, so I’m just gonna write about this stupid thing I did.
That picture up there is Eilean na Moine, which is where Dumbledore’s grave was filmed in the Harry Potter movies. We always planned on visiting it, and my brother and I always joked about swimming to it, but nobody really took us seriously. At least, I don’t think anyone took us seriously. Hell, I didn’t take myself seriously. Anyway, the day we got there, it was fifty-something degrees outside. It was also sunny, which we weren’t expecting much of on our trip, and, besides the five of us, there was only one other person checking it out. We walked up to the edge of Loch Eilt and stared at it, as you do when you’re checking out an island, when my brother handed his wife the camera and decided he’d had enough.
“I’m swimming over there,” he said.
And, to be honest, I didn’t believe him. It wasn’t until he was in his boxers and wading through the water that I realized he was really doing it. It’s not a long swim — 20 to 30 feet, maybe — and, as naturally as ever, my brother made his way across, climbed to the top of the island, waved, yelled a couple things, and swam back. And when he made it back to us, I was hit with two questions at once:
“You’re not going over there, are you?” my wife said.
“You wanna go?” my brother said. “I’ll swim with you.”
Less than a minute later, I was stripping down to my boxers and dipping my feet into the water, too. I expected it to be cold, but it wasn’t until I was about chest-deep that I was teeth chattering, arms trembling frigid. So, I did the only thing that really made sense at that point. I swam. If I’m being honest, it was more to keep warm than it was to get to the island. The water was chilling, and anything to move, get out, and warm up sounded great. Conveniently, swimming did that and got me where I wanted to go. Ha.
Stepping out of the water and onto the island was a breath of relief. The thing about Eilean na Moine, though, is that it’s a steep (albeit short) walk to the top, and the ground isn’t particularly steady. This wouldn’t be a problem for someone in clothes and shoes, but here I was, barefoot, in my boxers, freezing. I’d come this far, though, so I climbed to the top, grabbing fallen trees and sticks and whatnot to help me on the way.
The top, though. Damn.
Standing in the middle of those toothpick-narrow trees, staring over the rest of Loch Eilt, the mountains, the reflections of the clouds in the water — this was something I wasn’t going to find on Google images. It wasn’t something I’d find back home. I grabbed a wand-looking stick from the top and proclaimed that I’d found the elder wand, and, after spending a few more minutes looking around, decided it was time to make the swim back. Somewhere between all this, though, an older man had come to the loch, and he yelled across to us that we’d swam to the wrong island.
“Bullshit,” my brother said.
“I wish he wouldn’t have said that,” I said. Between the cold, finding a good stick, and the view, I just wanted my moment. And I’ve seen Harry Potter enough to know this was the right island, so I chalked up my brother’s “bullshit” crack as correct and swam back.
I knew as soon as I got out of the water that I was sick (and, two weeks later, I still am), but I didn’t care. My wife and my brother’s wife looked moderately terrified that someone had walked in on their husbands stripping down and swimming to what was otherwise a peaceful place. My friend Jayson looked like he thought it was hilarious. And the older Scottish man was smiling. We found out that he thought we were looking for another island (some historical one, as if Dumbledore’s grave isn’t worth it), and, in the middle of our conversation, we realized he was painting.
When he saw we were staring at his painting, he smiled again. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I didn’t paint you.”