Groatie Buckies: Good for the Soul
The ebbing tide leaves beautiful treasures behind on the shores of Caithness, one of which is a cowrie shell known locally as the Groatie Buckie.
Small molluscs (or sea snail creatures) create these porcelain-like shells with a narrow opening along one side and delicate ridges along the back. Their shells grow to around the width of your pinky fingernail (or 6 to 12mm) in size and are pale pink/white in colour. There are over 250 species of cowrie shells in the world but only two can be found in the UK: European (recognisable by three dark spots along the back) and Arctic cowries (no dark spots).
In Caithness, Groatie Buckie shells are considered to bring good luck to those who find them and its a popular activity among weekend explorers.
In my opinion, bringing good luck merely scratches the surface when it comes to the benefits of a good Groatie Buckie hunt.
Whether you realise it or not, the activity encourages you to subconsciously tune into your surroundings and switch off from everyday thoughts...
... mindfulness in a shell if you will!
Your senses come in to play. Hearing the rhythmic waves crashing, the distant melodic birdsong and the tinkling of sifting shells as they softly tingle the palm of your hands. Before you know it, you're nowhere else but in that very moment, no niggling thoughts or worries, just you, your surroundings and your wee treasures that may or may not want to be found. I never fail to come away feeling rejuvenated... until one of the children face plant the beach at least!
Here's a list of beaches in Caithness we've been lucky enough to find Groatie Buckies on so far:
Thurso East Beach by Thurso Castle (not the easiest to find but they are there!)
Murkle Beach (plenty here along the tide line left on the sand last time we visited)
Ham Harbour (a beautiful spot with resident seals and large Groatie Buckies)
John O'Groats (plenty here when the tide is on its way out)
Dunnet Beach (towards the Northeasterly end)
Thurso Beach (extremely rare here - but possible)
So if you're considering a Groatie Buckie searching trip remember to bring a picnic, a hot flask of tea and that its not only good for your luck, more importantly, its good for your soul.
I'd love to hear of your Groatie Buckie success stories in the comments below!
About your host
I'm lucky to have grown up in the Far North of Scotland surrounded by vast open landscapes and beautiful coastlines. Groatie Buckie shells are said to bring good luck to those who find them and is an activity our family have enjoyed for many generations, even inspiring my work today as a digital artist. Before becoming a full time artist, I gained experience working in tourism and hospitality. I'm passionate about sharing my local knowledge, stories and experiences with others while ensuring beaches are left as they're found.
What we’ll do
Join me at mainland UK's most northerly settlement as we stroll along the shore past coastal farmland to a secluded beach brimming with shells. I'll share my sustainable and mindful Groatie Buckie hunting skills with you here as we explore the natural landscape.
The walk is 2 hours in total so I’d encourage you to bring your favourite hot drink in a flask and a snack.
What else you should know
Wear comfortable shoes and take Scottish weather into consideration. I recommend bringing a waterproof jacket, as well as a hat and gloves incase it gets chilly.
What to bring
• Waterproof jacket
• Comfortable outdoor shoes
• Your favourite hot drink in a flask
• Plenty questions and a smile :)