A friend from the States came to visit this past week and it was so enjoyable having her here. Not only was her company most welcomed, but it gave us an excuse to show her some of the incredible sights here on our Highlands doorstep.
|Light on the hills |
We were lucky to have the weather cooperate beyond what had been forecast. Our first trip was up to Lochinver. What a joy to see the twin peaks of Suiliven rise out of the landscape before us. The hills were flooded with diffused sunlight and the variation in the heights of the hills gave them such dimension. We stopped in Inchnadamph so that Chris and Salle could get some photos of the hills. I love the way the light hits the hill behind and not the one in front. As we watched the hills, we heard strange bellowing sounds. It is the rutting season, and no doubt these were the sounds of lonely stags trying to entice does to join them.
We traveled on to Lochinver and had a lovely lunch at the Lochinver Larder. Sounds much less appetising than it is. The food and atmosphere were terrific and we enjoyed speaking with our waiter, who has always lived in Lochinver. He told us of the morning his then 7-year old son came running into the bedroom shouting that Suilven was on fire. Apparently the morning light was hitting the “hill” in such a way that it was bathed in purple and red light. How I would love to see that. I am sorry I have no photograph of Suilven, but despite the sunshine, there were no good views of it as the sky at the top was quite hazy.
|Tree island on Assynt|
We drove back along Loch Assynt and Chris captured this image of one of the tree islands on the upper end of the loch. Here the loch spreads out across the landscape, with the hills of Sutherland offering the perfect backdrop. Just as the loch itself seems larger here than at the lower end, so the tree islands are larger and taller. This one is far larger than the one that was photographed before. While many of Scotland's lochs feature these tree islands, for some reason, the islands here on Loch Assynt touch me more than any others. They are so filled with a sense of earthly spirituality and ancient wisdom.
We continued down from Loch Assynt, along the road to Ullapool just as the sun was setting. Chris captured this incredible image from along the A82. It is here that the views are so incredible, with the munros in the distance. To the south is lovely Ardmair Bay. Chris has THE photograph of Ardmair Bay on his website. It was too dark now to even try to get a photograph. But, as my friend said, it was a picture that will live in our minds' eyes always. To Ullapool and back to Inverness and home. I was so excited, because I knew that we would be visiting Skye the next day.
|Eilean Donan at low tide|
We awoke to grey skies, with occasional patches of blue, but were happy to see the skies clearing as we traveled west. We first headed south to Eilean Donan Castle. This iconic castle that stands on its own little island was not standing alone – for the tide was out and the vegetation that usually sits beneath the waters was visible – with golds and browns that complemented the colours of the trees. Eliean Donan may be one of the most photographed castles in Scotland and we watched as cars pulled into the parking lot, the occupants getting out to capture and image and move on. Chris came back from taking pictures chuckling at a phone conversation he heard while walking back to the car. An elderly gentleman, no doubt from Yorkshire, was on the phone muttering, "This isn't a castle. You call this a castle? Pshaw, this isn't a castle." Made me laugh. If ever there was a castle, Eilean Donan is it. (He also complained of a poor mobile signal because of all the "bloody" hills. You're in the highlands, sir, what do you expect?)
|The ruined church on|
the road to Elgol
We left Eilean Donan and, as we approached the Skye Bridge, we could see the sun hitting the sides of the Cuillens. We headed to Portree first, to have lunch at the Aros Centre. Then we took the road south again until we reached Broadford and the road to Elgol. How I had missed this drive. The old church, standing in ruins, where sheep often graze amongst the headstones was our first stop on the road. Such a peaceful place – I have dreamed of being here for the past three years and here we were again. Nothing had changed, but it was as if I were seeing it with new eyes. I think I just appreciate it so much more having been away. As I watched the sheep grazing on the hills across from the ruined church, a hooded crow touched down on the top of a farm gate just feet from our car. Of course, by the time Chris returned from photographing this gnarled tree growing by and into the church walls, the crow had flown away. One day I will get a photograph of one to post here. I love to watch them. Their plummage of black and pewter is enchanting.
|The Black Cuillens across|
We drove the long, single-track road slowly, taking in the sights, until we reached Elgol and the peerless view it offers of the Black Cuillens across Loch Scavaig. The autumn sky was pink in places and the sun was starting its decline, so we made the journey back along the narrow road and took the turn down to the south so as to drive by the Five Sisters of Kintail. We could see the peaks this time, and the setting sun would hit in patches here and there. In the fading light of dusk, we caught sight of several stags grazing in the fields that appear beside the road, with small lochs, or lochans, appearing dark and deep. The darkness fell quite quickly and we made our way home, having had a lovely day of sharing our favourite places.
On Wednesday, we took our friend to Glasgow so that she could see Glencoe and Rannoch Moor. She was impressed by Ossian’s Cave and all the other glories of this melancholy place. I told her the story of the massacre and the Campbells and MacDonalds. Once more the weather complemented the landscapes, with just plumes of clouds at the top of the hills. It was, as always, so very beautiful.
I don’t think I will ever grow bored with this beautiful country. Each trip out and about is such a joy for me. I love this country more and more each day and it was with great happiness that we told our friend that our ashes would be scattered in the Lost Valley of Glencoe and that we would live out the rest of our days in this country that touches our souls.