Get Back: Take time out to skim stones

A monthly series following Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley as they reconnect with the simpler things in life

We should all take the time to skim stones. In an age of complex demands and sophisticated pleasures, too few of us allow ourselves to slow down for a moment and reconnect with nature.

All you need is a relatively calm stretch of shore and a smooth, flattish, roundish stone measuring anything from 5cm to 10cm in diameter and about half a centimetre thick. Hold it between the thumb and forefinger of your stronger hand and take a moment to trace the proposed trajectory through the air.

Imagine you are going to post the stone through a letterbox three metres offshore, angling your hand so the front of the stone is pointing slightly upwards. Keep the throwing elbow close to the body and swing the stone from hip height, whipping the hand around and driving the skimmer in as straight a line as possible.

This basic technique gives the stone the energy to keep going, but the trick is in the spin, ensuring the stone remains stable in flight after each impact and achieves the maximum number of skips.

You may need a few goes to pick up the knack, but the satisfactions are well worth it: the first successful bounce, the first leaping of an incoming wave, the first series of five, now 10, now 15 skips, will draw whoops of joy from somewhere deep inside the soul.

This power to delight first hit us in the Highlands of Scotland. We set out on foot to negotiate the Knoydart Peninsula's 200 sq km of wilderness and spent a day fighting our way through patches of scratchy heather and sharp gorse along rough, stony tracks no wider than a boot.

By mid-afternoon, we knew we wouldn't make it to the hamlet of Inverie, the only nod to civilisation on the peninsula and our proposed destination. Even worse, it was too late to turn back. There was only one option: to camp where we stood, on the only bit of flat ground around, next to a deserted sandy bay.

A mix of excitement and nervousness rose in our stomachs at the thought of sleeping somewhere so isolated and far from help. Perhaps seeking some reassurance, we began idly throwing the odd pebble, but this quickly turned to something neither of us had done for a long time: skimming stones. Suddenly it didn't seem such an unfamiliar world. With the tang of salt heavy on our tongues and dirt under our nails, we started to see the terrain through different eyes.

The following morning broke brightly with birdsong. A beach that we had initially been "trapped" on now displayed a very different aspect. By passing time in this place we had shared in some of its nature. It had left its mark on us, like ripples from our stones merging into oncoming waves. We both took a good skimmer with us as we continued to Inverie, not so much a memento as a promise to ourselves to experience this again as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Skimming stones around the Knoydart Peninsula's breathtaking coast required us to stare into rockpools teeming with life, from dancing blooms of sea anemones to olive-green shore crabs. It also made us realise that we all too often visit the great outdoors in the wrong state of mind. We set targets, marching across the landscape from A to B before jumping in the car and returning home.

To spend time doing something as simple as skimming stones leads us to become more absorbed in the moment and the place. Whether in the rugged beauty of the Highlands or on the sandy shores of Sussex, a vital connection is restored.

Top spots to skim stones

Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland

A tidal island cut off twice a day, this magical coastline is great for incidental discoveries while you skim. Grey seals nose out of the water and the rock pools are plentiful and filled with exotic flora and fauna.

Trevone, North Cornwall

Like much of North Cornwall, Trevone has both rocky areas sporting many good skimmers and a sandy beach. When the wind is right the sea can be almost still, although watch out when there's a north-westerly wind funnelling waves into the bay.

Easdale Island, Argyll and Bute, Western Scotland

This island is the site of the World Stone Skimming Championships every September. As we found out, like many coastal areas around the west coast of Scotland, it features superb quality slate, perfect for skimming.

Beer, South-east Devon

Sheltered from the winds by picturesque cliffs, skimming stones in this cove is like trying your arm in a natural amphitheatre. A still sea and plenty of skimmer-rich shingle present themselves on this stretch of Jurassic coast.

Rob Cowen and Leo Critchley's book describing their journeys around Britain will be published in spring 2012 by Hodder. For more information, follow them on their blog at getbackuk.com

Suggested Topics
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Knaresborough ...

    Beverley James: Accounts Payable

    £23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

    Recruitment Genius: Cleaning Manager - York and Bradford

    £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The post holder is a key member of the V...

    Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Drivers

    £18000 - £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Breakdown Recovery Driv...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower