The sheer size of the rugged mountains in the Scottish Highlands immediately makes us feel like tiny ants. Endless miles of empty inhospitable landscapes, rolling out into the distance, forces the dawning realisation that we are small and insignificant. Tiny passing moments in the big sweep of this ancient place.
The roads wrap around the edges of lochs and glens like fragile threads barely connecting the tiny fragile pockets of human life, huddled in the soft warm glens. The emptiness begins to soak deeply into your bones, and then just as you begin to feel utterly alone, a majestic stone castle seems to have grown from the rocks. The ancient stones match the surroundings, showing signs of extreme weathering in salt, wind and snow. Walls which have sheltered many lives in this harsh environment.
These Five Sisters have towered over the head of Loch Duich for millenia. Their heads are dusted in snow, like sweet icing sugar, but the sharp angles of their bones speak of cruelty and death. The safe way through is via the cattle pass, trodden into the hard earth by thousands of hooves clinging to the lower slopes, on their way to markets in the distant south.
There is another way over the mountains into the soft isolated glen of brochs and otters of the Knoydart peninsula. It’s a military road, built by the might of Royal will, forcing its way in hair-raising bends and inclines. It brought soldiers marching into this wild area, breaching the protection of the high mountains, suppressing a previously free people. It paid no heed to natures trails, and has left us with an astonishing route through the hills.
The sides of the glen take on a warm golden hue as you curl down into the protection of the valley. The air warms and life feels less on a razors edge as the earth extends her protection once more.
The surprising majesty of Nike, towers up into the vast and empty sky of the Sound of Sleat. Victorious she gathers the fallen heroes of this patch of earth beneath her protective wings. These soldiers veins were filled with highland blood, spilled on a foreign field thousands of miles from home. But Nike will return them here and let them rest in peace on the soft earth where they were born.
The scale of the landscape drops back down to human sized, and warm sunshine fills this sheltered spot.
Life feels slow and safe, comforted by natures soft walls and roof. Ancestors of these horses may have sheltered in these trees in the distant past, filling the air with a timeless feel.
Our ancestors certainly sheltered in these stone walls, still standing majestic and awe-inspiring after all those millenia. The bones of the surrounding hills, shaped into a protective circle, by hands long since buried. The sense of safety and stability flows through the place, and you can almost imagine the sounds of footsteps running for protection from invading hoards from the sea. Safe within these walls people survived and life endured in this glen, with nature providing everything which was needed. History waves from the shadows, full of unspoken tales, and we feel our true size surrounded by all this might and majesty. One small life in this vast rolling landscape. Our unimportance releases and frees us into the common pool of shared humanity, deep within the mountains.