Then spree

poetry & diary by Nia Davies

Tag: Highlands

Skye, November

Camasunary and the Black Cuillin

Skye. For me it’s Katy Morag land. With Granny Mainland and Granny Island. Skippers steering through the mid afternoon dusk. Sunsets as rum-red as the island’s Cuillin red ale.

By the time we reached Camasunary – a beachy crook in the Cuillin’s deep pockets – it was too late to climb the last leg to Loch Curuisk. The bothy, where we ate our sarnies, had been bagsied by three excited demobbed marines. Having abandoned their open-roofed jeep on the rocky road, they were now stumbling down the hill carrying their weight in Stella.

Several times I think: don’t even try to take photos, they come out too flat, the colours dimmed. And how to describe now the light in dark without resorting to grey? Do we leave the gradation of colours to the Romantics? To Elgol-visitors Turner and Scot? In paintings the ‘warped’ perspective of multi-angled wrap-around  viewpoints seems appropriate here, more living. We made a steady crunch of onwards before dark.

In Elgol you can find what is possibly the world’s most picturesque primary school, looking out over the Black Cuillins and the shifty sea and that Lofoten-like crashing of mountain into Atlantic. A big red cow chews seaweed off beached pontoons. As soon as we reached our car, parked in the village’s small harbour,  a huge curtain of squall was rolling over the mountains we had just left.  As if we knew too much of a secret thing and now it was being withdrawn. The marines would have to light their fires early and bunk down against the battering storm.me on a log

Driving back the snow began.  A white shred of shroud slid up the dark sides of Bla Bheinn; a strange backlit mist hugging the black rock. On the other side of the peninsula the skies were still clear.

Weather races here. Be careful, they say. The glows in the crofter cottage windows came on through the dark. Many houses stayed unlit; holiday homes. It was the off-season, and didn’t we know it.Elgol Primary and sea-cow

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The Highlands, 21st November

Loch Lomond 2pm

We are driving north, out beyond the flat-fronted housing of Glasgow. Stuffed with the city’s finest ‘Nuclear Beans’. Into the Trossachs and there is an unexpected straggle of late colour, copper clinging to twig, golden needles in their final throws.  At Luss the scream of gulls and lap of loch. We are free of work for one week, and woollens and fleeces and no makeup never felt so flush. I had forgotten the purple of bare birch.

Loch Tulla 3pmLoch Tulla

Last show of bright sunlight in the grass, burning out the edges of the peaks. The trees grow wizened in the beginnings of a great bog. There is the drift of snow like a flag streaming off the tips of the mountains, or is it a snag of cloud? Here is the drama of northern light that bursts and fades so early.

Fort William 6pm

Standing on the pier looking back towards the town. The lights and sounds that reach us, come to our senses from a dark distance. There are the sounds of students shrieking and of roostless mud birds calling over the invisible expanse of water. The luminescence around each coloured lamp bravely strikes out across the night, nearly but not quite reaching us. We stand at the edge of the deep shadow, the 18-hour shadow that is the loch and mountains behind our backs, the shadow that these almost painfully bright streetlights and illuminated forecourts are up against.

Fort William at night

Parked up next to The Underwater Centre is a huge red bottle. Bruising metal, inch-thick red paint, rungs to climb over a curved back. Tiny portholes built for pressure. We can only guess that it’s an old decompression chamber, or some deep-water bathysphere.

The sense of sound chiming out from the bottom of an inky amphitheatre is wiped clean in the Grog n’ Grill with its piped folk ‘Singing Kettle’ CD and over-scrubbed wooden furniture. The bored staff seem genuinely shocked to see us. None of us would like to swing their partners round and round on a Monday night. But the Birds n’ Bees ale is good and my nose finally feels warm again.unidentified deepwater chamber