Before dawn, two young couples - Mel and Chloe, and Hamish and Serena were hauling themselves out of their creaking bunk-beds and staggering towards the boot-room to kit out for a bracing destination: the whistling sands of Clachtoll.
Having tumbled out of the Hostel door, the four-some were greeted with a drifting mist that spilled over the sea wall and onto the harbour road. The chill air cast a spell over the travelling friends which dispelled the torpor from the excesses of the previous night and sharpened their senses in anticipation of the challenges ahead.
Peering into the darkness, Chloe was startled by a sudden flurry from the shallows, as a Heron flapped furiously before gliding mysteriously into the darkness from below the harbour wall. The others hurried over to see what was happening, as the ungainly enigma vanished from sight across the waters of Loch Broom.
First light was starting to show as the party bundled into their jalopy and sped off up the road, heading Northwards towards Coigach. The road wound round through some spectacular scenery, which was only fully evident as they motored beside Loch Assynt, unveiled in full splendour with the rising sun.
The girls had made some preparation for this adventure. Serena had cobbled together some turkey sandwiches and Chloe had filled a huge flask of hot tea before they set off. But the men had other ideas. Both Hamish and Mel were plotting to make a detour via Lochinver and a certain pie shop.
Sure enough, first in the queue for the famous pies that morning stood this itinerant band of gluttons. Breakfast would be the most substantial and memorable that they could experience in a long time! This was fuel to prepare them all for what was in prospect -some icy waves and biting winds on a mid-winter sea-shore.
When they finally rolled through the caravan site at sleepy Clachtoll, some of the caravanners were stirring. A cold wind was blowing and everyone was braced for some shocks to the system.
They found a sheltered hollow in the sand-dunes to shed their garments and one by one, like parachute-jumpers, each made a break for it, streaking across the sand and plunging head-long into some huge breakers crashing onto the shore. The surf stung to the quick, and the shouts and screams were a mixture of agony and ecstasy but their exhilaration was unmistakable and excitement intense, elemental and profoundly climactic.
The girls re-emerged together, with a hand for a fig-leaf each, hastily retracing their steps towards the sand-dunes out of the wind with the comfort of towelling bath-robes enveloping them before the men sidled coyly back into the fold with cloying sand stuck to their parts and sheepish grins to cover their embarrassment.
This was an undeniably invigorating experience - but what could possibly lie in store around the next corner?