Not many people come here, not in winter.

There is only one way in and out, a single track road that ends on the cliff rim, then a narrow trail tilts steeply to where the sibilant sound of surf on shingle dies with a hiss. Rocks, ragged and jagged, guard the bay from all but the most experienced sailor. Cliff faces curve around the rocks and the seething water, sheer and dark and dotted with the nests of the sea birds that swoop and dart and hover in the air, watched over by the sea eagles, huge and majestic, sitting in their lair like sentinels at post.

And when the clouds billow in from the Atlantic, stained with rain, and the winds howl and rage against the island’s western shore, the waves hurl themselves against the rocks to erupt in a swirl of salt water, the sound echoing and booming around the towering cliffs like thunder.

Island lore has it that this is where the souls of the dead come to be taken across the water into the west, to the afterlife. There are those who claim to have seen them standing on the shore, waiting for the boat to spirit them away.

There has been blood spilled here. Monks, hiding from Norse raiders, were slaughtered where they stood.  Their screams can still be heard, they say, but more likely it is just the shriek of gulls.

More likely but perhaps not the case.

It is a lonely place, even in summer, for not many tourists brave the steep downward path. The closest most get is the cliff edge, from where they snap their photographs then return to their vehicle and bounce back along the rutted track to the island’s main road.

Only the sea birds remain a constant, their cries, like the screams of the dead monks so long ago, becoming one with the wind and the surf.

Only the sea birds and the dead are at home in Thunder Bay.

 

Thunder Bay will be published by Polygon in paperback and ebook in March 2019.