He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water/Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea,/He has married me with a ring of light, the glitter/Broadcast on the swift river. KATHLEEN RAINE. From The Marriage Of Psyche.
This is Sandaig on the Glenelg peninsula - halfway up Scotland's indented West Highland coast. The writer and adventurer Gavin Maxwell lived here with his beloved otters during the late 1950s and 1960s. The old lighthousekeeper's cottage where he used to live no longer exists, for it burned down in 1968 (Maxwell's otter Edal died in the fire). The site of the cottage is the patch of long grass you can see centre-right in my 2nd pic. The 3rd pic shows a different view of it - the patch of long grass is now centre-left. (In Maxwell's day the slopes behind would not have been covered with larch and sitka spruce as they are now.)
Part of the time Maxwell lived here with the poet, critic and scholar Kathleen Raine. (The title of his famous book Ring Of Bright Water comes from one of Raine's poems, The Marriage Of Psyche. This 'ring' of water, made up of freshwater stream and saltwater sea, almost encircled their cottage - in my 2nd pic you can just make out the course of the stream, which runs behind the site of the cottage, beneath the grassy headland and into the sea.)
Raine was besotted with Maxwell - she's on record as saying he was the love of her life - but their relationship ended tragically. Despairing of his homosexuality, she laid down a curse: 'Let Gavin suffer in this place as I am suffering now.' Not long after that she accidentally 'lost' his otter Mijbil which he'd brought home all the way from Iraq. This led to Mijbil's death at the hands of a roadmender. And Raine also blamed herself and her curse for the cancer which killed Maxwell in 1969. He was only in his mid-fifties.
Forget the film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. Go back to Maxwell's book - it's a classic of natural history writing and romantic autobiography. Maxwell is an eternally intriguing and controversial character, a man full of contradictions: a loner yet possessor of numerous, diverse friendships; a despot whom many described as unfailingly generous and kind; a homosexual who was nevertheless drawn to women; a restless adventurer and traveller, who tried to create a permanent home for himself and his otters; a passionate conservationist ahead of his time, yet also a harpooner of basking sharks. (He once owned the island of Soay off the Isle of Skye, where he attempted but ultimately failed to set up a viable shark fishery business. Basking sharks are sadly prized for their their huge livers, which yield copious amounts of oil, and for their fins, which are used in shark's fin soup. Scotland's basking shark population has still not recovered.)
On the site of Maxwell's former cottage stands a boulder, scattered with shells and stones which pilgrims have placed there...
... and in the centre of the boulder there's a simple slate memorial...