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The village of Portpatrick, on Scotland’s serrated western coast, doesn’t so much lie around its harbor as embrace it for dear life. On a map, the harbor resembles the head of a cartoon bunny gnawing its way inland; the main road runs around the muzzle and past one of the ears before curving away from the sea. Nearly all of Portpatrick’s establishments — its inns and pubs, its village hall and tennis court — are on this road or just off it. Portpatrick Hotel, stately and broad on a bluff above the coastline, gives its guests a gull’s-eye view: the rocks scarring the harbor’s outer lip, the brief beach that emerges during low tide, the boats bobbing about on the water.

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is the author, most recently, of This Divided Island: Life, Death, and the Sri Lankan War (Thomas Dunne Books). He lives in Dublin.

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