Saturday, November 16, 2013


A rainy November morning, a hot cup of coffee, and a story I have been waiting to tell since last summer.

It's a sad, fascinating story, and one of the reasons why we decided to visit Scotland last August. And it's also the story of the original Mijbil, the extraordinary creature that inspired the name of this blog.

There is a large peninsula between Loch Duich and Loch Hourn, on the coast of the West Highlands, directly facing the southern part of the Isle of Skye. No other way to get there other than a narrow, winding road that climbs over the Mam Ratagan Pass and descends to the sea (and to the ferry to Kylerhea, where another steep climb connects the coast to the main road that runs on the opposite side of Skye).

The traveller that reaches the peninsula can pass the tiny, peaceful village of Glenelg and follow the old military road until reaching a little bridge over a tumultuous torrent.

 From there, nothing but a path trough the forestry leads down to one of the most beautiful beaches of the West Highlands, Sandaig.

Sandaig was for many years the home and shelter of an extraordinary person and talented writer, the Scottish naturalist Gavin Maxwell. He lived there with his dog, his ducks, and some of the most amazing creatures of the animal realm - otters.
Mijbil was his first domestic otter, that he brought back from Iraqui marshes and kept as a pet - or a friend - until it was killed by a roadmender.

There is a strange, heartbreaking contrast between the light-hearted, amusing style of Maxwell's most famous book - The Ring of Bright Water - and the tragedy of his story. After many years of struggling, his remaining otters died in the fire that burned Camusfearna to the ground, and the writer himself died of cancer shortly after. 

We got to Sandaig (or Camusfearna) on a gloomy, rainy morning - just like today.
The place is said to be immensely beautiful on sunny days, when the light sparkles over the water and reveals the incredible colours of the beach. And still, the sight of the torrent under the rain, and the small rocky islands coming out of the sea, the misty mood and spectral silence were somehow a way to get closer the the wonder and melancholy of the place.

The house is no more - destroyed by the fire many years ago - but some older stone buildings still remain, half covered in grass.

But the Ring is still there - the point where the torrent bends right before joining with the sea, surrounding a portion of the beach that separates the green of the grass from the blue of the water.

We wandered on the beach, and then crossed the torrent barefoot to reach the islands while the tide was rising..

..and remained there in silence, finally looking at a place we read about so many times, and trying to imagine Gavin's otters playing between the waves.

Until, of course, the time came to climb back through the wood and up to the road and the car.

So, now you know the story of Mijbil the Otter, who lived his life between Iraq and Scotland and was the favourite companion of a brave, lonely adventurer.
One final note: there is still a little museum in Kyleakin devoted to Gavin Maxwell.
And if you want to know more about him and his story, "The Ring of Bright Water" is the book to read. 

Ps: these two final pics weren't taken in Scotland - among the many amazing creatures we saw last summer, there were unfortunately no wild otters - but in Skansen, Stockholm's open air animal park.

Wish you a lovely weekend,
big hugs,

Mijbil (the human)


  1. Dear Mijbil,
    What a story!! A nice and sad story. I didn't know your named after an otter. ;-)
    Hugs Dorien

  2. Speciali le foto e la storia. Grazie... buon fine settimana anche a te!

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  4. Le foto sono bellissime e anche i colori (che tra parentesi mi stanno ispirando molto u_u). Povere lontre, ma bella comunque l'atmosfera del post ^^

  5. que historia mas bonita, gracias por compartirla , igual que las fotos



  6. I remember reading about that when I was very young and crying when the otter was killed. The area is spectacularly beautiful and untouched and your photos are beautiful. I have been thinking about telling the story of how my blog came to be named Myrtle Manor Miniatures. Maybe I will do that. Not as beautiful a story as yours. You obviously have a passion for that history.

  7. Hello from Spain: great pics. Keep in touch

  8. Beautiful photos and beautiful, although sad, story. Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs, Drora

  9. Una storia delicata e triste, non la conoscevo, grazie. Ma le tue foto sono al pari poetiche!!!!

  10. Thank you for sharing your lovely sad story. Your pictures are breathtaking.
    Hugs Maria

  11. Hello Mijbil,
    What a lovely post. It is wonderful that you got to visit such a beautiful place. As always your pictures are incredible.
    Big hug,

  12. Beautiful Story, Astonishing place. What a luck for you have seen this landscapes. I read all the story eith pleasure and emotion. thanks for publishing

  13. Gorgeous photos. Scotland looks so much like the Pacific NW of the US--amazing the similarities! xo Jennifer

  14. I have spent the last 18 months searching and contacting the characters that surrounded maxwell at that time.i have now found them all.

  15. I really love your pics... I can see these places, thanks to you!!

  16. Bellissime foto, complimenti!! E che emozione vedere questi posti, per chi conosce la storia di Mijbil...

  17. Finalmente ho scritto di Mijbil la lontra anchenio. Se vuoi, trovi il post sul mio blog, dove ho parlato anche di te :)
    grazie ancora per questo racconto!

  18. What a lovely post, with wonderful photoes! Thank you.

  19. Lovely post. We were lucky enough to stay on nearby Loch Duich back in April 1989 and took the pilgrimage to Camusfearna. We were so lucky with the weather, everything was bathed in sunshine, unforgettable. We were also lucky enough to see wild otters swimming on the sound of sleat. Would love to go back one day.

  20. Gavin Maxwell....a legend..and a string of beuatiful books.
    There is an amazing Biogrophy of him which I have tried to find can anyone helpplease?

  21. Gavin Maxwell....a legend..and a string of beuatiful books.
    There is an amazing Biogrophy of him which I have tried to find can anyone helpplease?