It's now seventeen days since we arrived in Scotland yet it feels as if we have been here an age; not in a bad way but for possibly the first time ever on an overseas holiday, I have learned to relax. Of course, places such as Wester Ross have that effect on you.
Remote, wild and beautiful Wester Ross is dominated by it's harsh and rugged landscape. The main road skirts the edge looping around mountains and lochs and any digression leads straight to single track roads and tiny villages that appear to the untrained eye to have been placed there merely to look picturesque. There are few big tourist attractions in the west of Scotland; no Whisky Trail, no Loch Ness monster, no big city nightlife, no department stores or shopping malls - instead it is the landscape itself that is the attraction. There are countless mountains to be climbed and trails to be walked, hidden beaches and secluded settlements to be discovered and, above all, a feeling of timelessness that is good for the soul.
The urge to "do" comes a distant second to the craving to just "be". To enjoy the simples pleasure of watching the waters of the loch as the wavelets gently lap the rocky shore of the shingle beach or feel a thrill at seeing a peregrine falcon take flight while secretly hoping it hasn't marked the baby rabbit, playing innocently on the hillside, for its next meal.
Today, seeing the mist roll over the loch, blurring and smudging the opposite shore and shrouding everything in a soft blanket of grey, it is easy to feel content. With no demands to go to work, to fight traffic on the freeway or, indeed, be expected to do anything to a timetable, there is a profound sense of peace in this solitude that is a restorative in and of itself.
Within a quarter hour the weather changes again, rain and mist clearing to reveal small patches of blue dotted across the sky. Within an hour the outlook is different yet again in a pattern to be repeated throughout the day, changing and inconstant. A huge rainbow appears outside the window seeming to have it's foot planted firmly in the grass outside the cottage. I don't need to look for the pot of gold - I already have it.
There is no point in coming to Scotland and complaining about the weather; as the saying goes: "there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing." It is no mistake that the weather forecast here is updated on an hourly basis, as it can change multiple times in a day and is finely nuanced. It may be overcast or it may be cloudy - and no, they are not the same. In any given hour the forecast may show symbols for heavy rain, sun and cloud. In short, especially on the West Coast, it's pot luck but rain, hail (which, by the way, is forecast for Friday) or shine, people are still out and about being active. A bit of rain never stopped a dedicated hiker! Unlike Perth (the Western Australian Perth that is) where the slightest bit of rain has folk running for cover as if it's the apocolypse and behaving as if being touched by a drop will dissolve them like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
I love Scotland but more, I love the Highlands. I love the rugged, harsh beauty of it and always feel as if I belong here. My roots lie here and I always feel as if I am coming home.
It is no coincidence that I'm wearing a t-shirt that proclaims:
"You can't buy HAPPINESS but you can go to SCOTLAND and that's pretty much the same thing!"