We spent the weekend up in Wester Ross. This is a truly beautiful part of the world.
And despite it being a holiday weekend, it was also incredibly quiet. For two days, we had this glorious landscape pretty much to ourselves.
One of the many lovely things about this area of Scotland is its native woodland. The trees here are many hundreds of years old, and were once part of the ancient Caledonian forest. Visitors to Scotland often think that dense plantations of sitka spruce and lodgepole pine are what makes up the “Scottish” forest but this is not the case. In fact, such plantations are of relatively recent appearance, many being the result of a Thatcherite loophole, which, a few decades ago, allowed the wealthy to shelter capital from taxation by investing it in forestry. Large swathes of the West Highlands, Sutherland and Caithness were covered with densely-planted non-native species so that Terry Wogan could continue to line his pockets.
To get a true flavour of the old Caledonian forest – less than 1% of which survives – then you need to go somewhere like Beinn Eighe, where the native woodland has been protected since 1951.
Scots pines are the ecological backbone of a woodland environment that supports many important species: capercaillies, pine martens, red squirrels, Scottish crossbills.
Some ancient pines remain short, hugging the hillside, while others grow tall and majestic. Together they lend the landscape great variety and drama.
. . .perhaps particularly on a murky, misty day. . .
. . . and these trees are just as impressive at close quarters.
I remember, on childhood holidays, how much I enjoyed collecting pebbles. The best pebbles were always wet – found in rock pools or at the waterline. When I brought my treasures home, I was often disappointed in how their bright colours faded to grey as they became dry, so I took to storing them in a bucket of water, in order to admire them as I’d found them. Many people, I imagine, don’t like being out and about in the rain, the mist, and the wet. But to my mind, they are missing something – water lends a clarity to objects that is really pretty amazing.
And a wet walk is just fine, if you have a cosy van to dry out in , some tasty fare, and a delicious glass of cherry perry to enjoy afterwards.
Thanks for the perry, Jen! Slainte!