Scotland has always been close to our hearts; but more because of its subtleties than its well documented tourist trails.
Who could possibly forget the softness of rain, the intensity of changing light, the swirl of mist and the constantly altering scenery of the Scottish highlands?
The clean air remains in the memory as long as the unforgettably smooth taste of fine Scottish whiskey.
It gives you an urge to breathe deep: to suck in and retain as much of the crisp atmosphere as possible.
We had been in Glasgow, a fine city where stately art galleries and museums rub shoulders with lively eating and drinking places and where – like much of Scotland – it can be difficult to separate past and present images.
The silent glory of Loch Lomond
Highland-bound, we found that green countryside, criss-crossed by streams and rivers, was upon us while the city could still be seen in the vehicle’s rear-view mirror.
Picturesque towns came and went: Dumbarton, Alexandria and Helensburgh – before the splendour of Loch Lomond opened before us like a picture-postcard.
And what a scene it was! Barely a ripple disturbed the mirror-like surface of the famous waterway, as we picnicked by the bonny, bonny banks.
By now, the compact variety of Scotland was obvious.
Lowlands were gone; replaced by an amalgam of moors and snow-topped mountains.
Cliffs towered above the roads as we passed Tyndrum and Glen Coe; the latter, of course, made infamous by the MacDonald massacre of 1692.
How could we forget?
And, to this day, the final few miles into Fort William, late in the afternoon, is imprinted on our memories.
Behind stood the western end of the shadowy Grampian Mountains and their host of springs, streams, waterfalls and rock columns.
If you haven’t enjoyed this sight, I suggest it be added to the Bucket List. It is natural scenery at its most breath-taking.
Refuges from the everyday
Our rambling then took us further into the highlands, stopping at the village of Newtonmore, where much of the television series ‘Monarch of the Glen’ was set.
Experiencing the gentle friendliness of local residents convinced us that highland life was truly at one with the incredible natural environment that revealed more of itself every day.
Highland body clocks run slower than ours and are seldom wound as tight.
As we walked village streets and obligatory golf courses, stress was replaced by a sense of serenity.
Nature’s refuges from the workaday world were all around.
Alas, for us, there were still deadlines – and, reluctantly, we left the highlands behind and headed for St Andrews and the elegant city of Edinburgh.
Wonder and appreciation
In our journey, we had travelled from seashore to highland; across rivers; through forests; beneath mountain ranges; past lochs; and into cosmopolitan and entertaining cities.
The over-riding impression had been one of wonder and deep appreciation of this unique country of many landscapes and remarkable natural environment.
Letting go and trusting our senses
As in no other travels, Scotland had been a case of trusting our senses.
Walking down highland roads, inhaling the Scottish atmosphere, tasting the food, listening to the music and feeling against our skin, the soft resilience of the famous local wool, had been sensual in the true meaning of the word.
We left the country marvelling at the Scottish environment, convinced that this was squarely behind Scotland’s reputation for producing the very best natural products.
There’s a popular Scottish tune that suggests that when the Garden of Eden was put on earth, it was “north of the Tweed”.
We’re firm believers – and plan to return to this Eden.
“Amazing loch lomond” by Abubakr Hussain – Digital Camera. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amazing_loch_lomond.JPG#mediaviewer/File:Amazing_loch_lomond.JPG