How did you discover it?

It was where I wrote my very first book, stretched out under the low ceiling of our attic bedroom. By then I was 12 and we had been coming to Leiter cottage each summer for five years, ever since my uncle had renovated the old but and ben near the shores of Fishnish Bay on Mull.

He'd bought it for £100 and laughed when I asked him in all seriousness if I could have a penny share in it. But money could never buy these three weeks of freedom I experienced every July.

Why do you go there?

Leiter was a magical place, about five or six miles from the nearest village, but in truth it was as far away from civilisation as I could imagine. The air smelled sweet and fresh, bleating sheep on the hillside or birdsong the only sounds. There was no running water in the cottage, and my elder sister and I were tasked with filling buckets from the freshwater stream behind the house.

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Toilet facilities depended on what was required; up the hill and crouching behind the willow tree for a pee or into the little hut my uncle had built and squatting over a bucket of kerosene that my dad emptied every few days along the shore.

But we didn't mind that, or the lack of electricity. Paraffin lamps and the log fire gave a much warmer glow.

What makes it so special?

The moment we arrived I was in my wellies and off to the shore, eyes gleaming, looking for tiny creatures in the rock pools then gathering wildflowers like harebells, meadowsweet and marsh orchids to bring back and put in a jam jar on the byre windowsill.

The cottage was still in two halves back then. Access to the kitchen meant coming out of the front door and walking a few steps to the byre. Once upon a time, animals would have been kept here and my uncle still shot game and kept it hanging in the corridor outside the kitchen.

My soft heart balked at the sight of those bloodied rabbits, but I never turned up my nose at fresh trout or prawns harvested from the waters nearby.

What are your favourite memories?

There is a huge oak tree near the cottage and my uncle hammered pieces of wood into its trunk so I could scamper up and sit in its branches. I taught myself how to play the guitar in the arms of that tree, a teenager half in love with Bob Dylan, but only high on the freedom of Leiter.

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I remember once seeing glinting eyes looking up at me from the marshes, only to find that they were field glasses belonging to a squad of soldiers on an exercise who had taken the cottage to be empty when we were away for the day.

Why do you return?

My cousin modernised the cottage with electricity and a proper bathroom, comforts to be enjoyed as we all grew older. But that view remains the same, the curve of water hugging the dark pines of Fishnish forest, the Sound of Mull beyond and Lochaline's gentle hills shining beneath ever-changing skies.

When Shadows Fall by Alex Gray is published by Sphere, £14.99