Louis MacNeice Creative Writing Prize: Winning Short Story

George Adams Morning at the Cullin Hills Hotel, Portree Harbour

There were many boats on the water. The boats moved with the water which moved with the wind. Where there were patches of dark water there was no wind. The boats were moored to flesh-coloured buoys. A boat rolled down the from the house and slipped into the water. Seagulls eyed the scene atop the masts of the boats and squawked intermittently. There were black lines on the concrete steps of the pier where they were wet from the rain. The water broke on the rocks. Above the rocks the sky was grey. From across the bay the hotel looked empty.

It was breakfast time. People sat and looked out of the windows across the bay at the boats on the water. They were mostly Americans. An attractive couple sat in the seats by the window looking at their smartphones. On the table were two cups of coffee with milk and toast with melted butter.

“What are we doing today?”

“Planned a walk along the cliffs and then going out for dinner, remember.”

“Oh, there won’t be room.”

“I’ve found somewhere, don’t worry.”

“Should’ve taken some more photos when I’d the chance, but I didn’t know.”

“You didn’t know, honey. How could you’ve known?”


In reception the radio was on. The reporter listed the number of cases last week. It was slightly higher than the week before. He had a soft voice. It mixed with the sound of the water breaking on the rocks outside. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and pulled her lips back to reveal uneven teeth. Unsatisfied, she glanced across the bay at tiny orange waterproofs pressed into boats. They were giving tours around the island.

“Wish they’d turn that off...What’s the time?”

“Nearly eleven.”

“Should’ve gotten up earlier. When do we need to leave? I won’t be ready.”

“Before we leave I’ll grab another coffee first, need the caffeine. Gotta make the most of this walk. We’re leaving tomorrow morning, remember.”

“Tomorrow? I can’t leave. You know I’ve got nothing to wear for Sunday. Black is always so depressing.”

She sighed. Across the bay the boats with orange waterproofs moved on the water. The tours were going ahead as planned. The rain had stopped. The sky was breaking. For a moment the light was silver-blue.

“I’ll get a dress that colour,” she thought.