Our trip to bountiful has taken a decided turn the past few days. Rae and I parted company last week so she could meet a fellow writer at a writing retreat near Bath. This meant the rental car is all mine, as were the Highlands and best of all, the Isle of Skye. This brings a couple very real dilemmas. First, I have the monumental task of reproducing in tiny, insufficient words, the vast and haunting beauty that is the Scottish Highlands and Skye. Second, and rather crucially, I will not have my human GPS (SatNav as they call it here) to help guide me on my way.
This portion of my journey began with a visit to Pitlochry where live two of our best friends. They moved there from Edinburgh over ten years ago, believing it to be the most central route for their high travel jobs.
I do not know whether this is an “official” title but I could easily call Pitlochry the gateway to the Highlands. In that regard, it is not unlike Calgary, who foists herself on the Rockies by means of the foothills. Similarly, Pitlochry is nestled in the ever-growing hills, poised in stately fashion beneath Ben Vrackie.
From here I ventured north to Dalwhinnie through the swelling hillsides of scruffy reforestation in the Grampian Mountains. It lies on the western edge of the starkly beautiful Cairngorms. Then, on to Invergarry, a stone’s throw from the southern tip of Loch Ness, through lonely miles on tiny roads we in North America might call glorified driveways.
At Invergarry one has options. To head northeast is to travel along the western shores of Loch Ness toward Inverness or, as I did, head northwest past Eilean Donan castle, the Five Sisters of Kintail, and Glen Shiel to cross the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh.
The multi-shadowed, green-velvet Highlands rise to dizzying heights as one approaches closer to Skye. As if it were possible to find any other choices of green, they offer more than their fair share of the same. Countless tufts of yellow Gorse, also called Broom, grace these sloping giants. That, and a sense that the light playing upon the mountains is really the presence of sinister ghosts from Scotland’s bloody past.
Skye is one of the more sizable islands off the west coast of Scotland with many secrets and much scenery one might not see anywhere else. It was one of a number of hiding places for Bonny Prince Charlie when fleeing the English, bent on his demise. Because my experiences on the island are many and complex, another post or two will be necessary to unpack them.
Suffice it so say, I have felt the spiritual topography of my soul humming the well-sung songs of Scotland as I enter the realm of fairies, goblins, and fiercely protective highlanders wielding overly large swords.
These days of exploration offer more than their fair share of soulish considerations. We have in mind what we most want to see in ourselves. Road leads to hill leads to loch leads to yet other roads. And, all the while, we journey without fully knowing what comes around each new turn.
What I can safely say however is it is all good. It is all very, very good.