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Special Edition

Cladach Sàmhach: A Peaceful Shore

My favorite place in the entire world sits at the inward-most point of Moray Firth in northern Scotland. And there, along that bay that feeds into the North Sea, just 17 miles east of Inverness, is a small, beautiful town called Nairn.

Photo by Tessa Swensen

Finding Nairn was a complete accident. That day, I spent hours wandering around the countryside with my mother and grandfather. And for all the wonderful things we saw that day, the best part didn’t come until the end: the beach.

Now, normally, a beach in northern Scotland might not sound like the most enjoyable place to be due to the cold winds and even colder water, but you must understand one very crucial aspect of my personality: I love beaches. East Coast or West Coast, Mediterranean or tropical, I don’t really care—I love them all. But the beach that was waiting so patiently for me in Nairn . . . well, she changed everything. With her moss-covered rocks, her murky blue water, and the sunset painting her a beautiful backdrop, she ruined every other beach for me in a single moment.

My whole life, my mother has emphasized the importance of having a happy place. For a long time, I didn’t know what that looked like. Because I moved around so much as a kid, I have grown to identify small parts of myself with a lot of different places. For years, my go-to was a white-sanded Florida beach (surprise, surprise) during a hurricane (which might actually be a surprise). But now, when I need a moment of calm, I think of that stretch of beach just outside Nairn.

I don’t think my time in Scotland would have been complete without visiting the castles and lochs, but I’m painfully aware of the fact that if I hadn’t ever wandered away from hubs like Edinburgh and Inverness, I never would have found havens like Nairn.

When traveling, it’s important to find the places that mean the most to you. For some people, that might mean going to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, Giza to see the Pyramids, or northern China to walk along the Great Wall. For others, that might mean bypassing all those places in favor of a more secluded, less beaten path. I think there’s an intrinsic value in both approaches.

In such a fast-paced world, the appeal of quiet, undisturbed places can sometimes be overlooked. In a time when we give great attention to our planet’s climate crisis, the effect of noise pollution can be ignored or disregarded. Problems like heart disease, sleep disturbance, hearing loss, and even death can be caused by excess noise in our environments.

But there’s a solution we can embrace, quiet places. There's a certain magic in stumbling upon hidden places like Nairn, places where the rhythm of life slows down a little bit. It allows us to connect with ourselves and the world around us. Nairn taught me that a happy place isn't always going to be in the most obvious of destinations; sometimes, it's in places where the beauty lies in the subtleties.

In our seemingly never-ending quest for memorable experiences—for places and things that can be easily admired—it's easy to overlook the value of seeking out peaceful places. I view these hidden sanctuaries as a chance to recharge and reconnect with the essence of travel: the exploration of new places, cultures, and perspectives. They remind me that true adventure isn't always found in the obvious places but in the small moments and simple beauty of everyday life.

So, as you plan your next trip, I urge you to carve out time to wander off the beaten path and seek out those quiet corners of the world. Whether it's a secluded beach, a still forest, or a small town tucked away somewhere, embrace the opportunity to experience the peace and serenity that only quiet places can offer.