The Heart of Winter

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We travelled North and West a few days ago, heading right through the heart of the Cairngorms, the high cold heart of Scotland. Here the Blue Hag of Winter has her home, and here she makes her last stand against the rising light and warmth of Spring. The air is stubbornly cold with snow and ice still clinging to the mountains

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The thin air seems to suck the snow from the high ridges, weaving it into clouds of liquid light. This field of cairns seems to stand watch over the glowing waters of the loch far below. After this point the road begins to drop down into the softer warmer glens on the western side of the Cairngorms. A place to be thankful for having made it this far across terrain which claims many lives each winter. A place to appease the mountain spirits if you are travelling the other direction, for here you cross into the territory of the Mountain Cailleach.

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a few glens and ridges later we had dropped down to sea level and we passed Eilean Donan Castle wreathed in golden daffodils beside the salty waters of the sea lochs. We had reached the west coast and were nearly at the end of our journey, the beautiful village of Plockton in Wester Ross. Spring was waiting for us, but winter still clung with all her heart to the mountain tops, as she is want to do.

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About greenmackenzie

Hi, I'm Seonaid, and I share my home with my husband, my son and a collection of cats and dogs. I am forever snapping shots of things which catch my eye. I love art which is here now and gone tomorrow...like food and nature...but also have a passion for vintage and the ancient past! Nature is my favourite muse, with her wild ever shifting seasons. I have been using and teaching mindfulness and relaxation for over 12 years, and have yet to become any sort of expert :-) I'm a Psychotherapist, and run the Maggies Highlands Cancer Centre, in Inverness, Scotland.
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78 Responses to The Heart of Winter

  1. Aquileana says:

    Remarkable set of photos. I am glad that I randomly came across our blog today,
    Best Regards, Aquileana ;D

  2. colonialist says:

    The picture of Eilean Donan Castle and mention of Plockton bring back such memories – once seen, never forgotten.
    Every minute of our single brief spell of motoring through Scotland and Skye was sheer magic.

    • Delighted to reunite you with your memories….it’s a landscape so filled with beautiful combinations of sky, sea and mountain…everywhere you look another beautiful shot. My memory card fills up quickly when we visit πŸ™‚

  3. Liana says:

    You are the seanachie…to the manner born.. I’ll sit around your campfire forever if you keep writing and showing me these things πŸ™‚

    • I promise I will Liana…and where did you learn to speak Gaelic?
      How close to Seonaid…she-on-itch…is seanachie….she-on-ach-ee?
      Very cool….story tellers unite across the ocean πŸ™‚

  4. Great photos! I’ve yet to visit Eilean Donan castle but definitely on my list of things to do. Cheers!

    • It’s a lovely site at the point where 3 sea lochs meet…..holding the land for milennia πŸ™‚
      The inside is a little kitsch for me….reinvented just 100 years ago….but there is undoubtably much history lurking between the rocka and soil on this tiny island πŸ™‚

    • You will love walking this part of the country…..so much dramatic beauty πŸ™‚

  5. poppytump says:

    Chillingly beautiful Seonaid … glimmers of Spring with daffodils haloed in sunlight reflection …

  6. Beautiful word and picture snapshot of our stunning but capriciously-temperate country. It is pretty wild that it can be so, so bone chilling (Blue Hag) but daffodil-dappled and warm within a few miles. I hope you enjoyed your deserved break very much. See you next week x

    • Kellie what a deliciously worded comment….I love it!
      We are still enjoying some west coast sunshine and scenery, filling up with peace and space before heading back to Edinburgh early next week. Catch up then Xx

  7. Beautiful … but, you know that! We have gone from cold, ice, an snow to milder temperatures, saturated ground and drenching rains … this is bound to bring on the lambs. Keep your fingers crossed! D

    • I’m crossing all my fingers and toes for your forth coming lambs….looking forward to some beautiful images of new life πŸ™‚
      Delighted you enjoyed the latest shots….do you think I’m improving at all?

      • Promise you won’t unfollow me? You’ve got to promise. If you’ve asked, I believe that means you expect an opinion … right? Promise you won’t unfollow me? It wouldn’t be worth it! Ok. I think, in terms of the subjects you choose to photograph and the composition of the photos, you’re spot on. All of your images beckon to me as I’m sure they do to others – so that’s great. I think that some of your shots would be improved with a bit of post-processing. Do you use something like Lightroom or Photoshop? For example .. the shots from the Cairngorms seemed a bit unbalanced. The brightness of the setting sun was blown-out (way over-exposed) leaving the foreground underexposed and lacking detail. Something like Lightroom would have allowed you to brighten shadows and cut down on the harsh highlights. That is … unless, of course, this was your intention. I can’t believe I’m preparing to push the reply button … talk about self-destructive behavior. If I’ve offended … can we just pretend this didn’t happen? D

      • David of course I’m not going to unfollow you….we’ve been blogging friends almost since I started this crazy blogging thing! I always love, in fact hang out waiting for, what you have to say about my latest posts πŸ™‚
        I don’t do much processing on my images at all….and even less when I’m away on a trip….I think I just need to get better at capturing nature at her most beautiful….I’m definitely still learning, and happy to be doing so! I love your suggestions and will see how I can improve my exposure πŸ™‚ thank you as always for your wonderful contributions. Sxx

      • Whew. I’m glad we’re still friends. You said you would work on exposure … but that’s just it … some situations cannot result in a well balanced final image … period. The only way the image can be put to right is after-the-fact, and on the computer. Do you see what I mean about the images in this post? The tonal range goes all the way from absolute white … to black … and these extremes are lacking detail. That’s nothing that could have been helped when you took the photo – it was the nature of the light which presented itself. What you can do to balance this situation out a bit (and provide more detail in the very lightest and very darkest areas) is to cut highlights (in and around the sun) and increase details in the shadows (in the foreground) … and this can be done with a little bit of post processing. And, by the way, herein is the value of a really nice camera (with a large sensor) … it’ll record all of this information. Even though the details in the shadows don’t ‘show’ in the image as you view it on your LCD the information is there in the RAW file … all you’ve got to do is tweek it to show. So, there you go. Please assure me we’re still friends! D

  8. Suzanne says:

    What spectacular scenery but brrrr – it looks cold.

    • It is cold, I stayed out of the car until my fingers were frozen white…..but the air heats up quickly as you drop back down into the sunlit glens….worth a little discomfort I think?

  9. Lucid Gypsy says:

    It’s a fabulous landscape but one I’ll never seek out, the Blue Hag is safe from me in her icy pocket of planet.

  10. dadirri7 says:

    stunning scenery …. brilliant!

  11. ladyfi says:

    So magical – capturing the essence of winter and spring – dancing back and forth.

    • And dance they do every year….I love the transitions where both are present. Even down in the warm glens if you look up the mountain tops are dusted as though with icing sugar….so pretty, especially from a safe distance πŸ™‚

  12. Such magical words and scenery, Seonaid. I could almost feel the intense cold myself, even though I’m sitting in our mild South African autumn temperatures. The last pic is just breathtaking. πŸ™‚

    • Yes the amazing scenery and the intense cold were both vying to steal my breath away….the scenery won and I stayed out until my fingers were white and numb, clicking and smiling wildly πŸ™‚

  13. ehkstream says:

    Such a wonderful sequence, the cairns and your prose are entrancing.

  14. β™‘eM says:

    Wow! These images are absolutely magical. The lighting warms the cold darkness, creating a space to simply appreciate the awe.

  15. pbmgarden says:

    How nice to meet spring toward the end of your journey.

  16. Breathtaking photos. It is no wonder so many tourists have Scotland on their bucket list of places they must see. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Judy, it’s really hard not to take a good photo when the scenery is laid out and lit so beautifully….Scotland really is beautiful….but I think there’s beauty in every corner of the world πŸ™‚

  17. restlessjo says:

    I have seen some incredibly lovely photos on your blog, Seonaid, but none more lovely than this. The cairns and that backdrop are amazing in the second shot, and the daffodils at dusk- pure genius! πŸ™‚

    • Jo you always give such lovely feedback, but this is the best yet! It’s delightful to hear how much you enjoy my photos…always great encouragement for me to keep going πŸ™‚

  18. klweston1984 says:

    That final photo is such a haunting image. Sublime!

  19. Deena Kakaya says:

    Wow, how pillow-like and the stuff of fantasies. Beautiful x

    • It’s an amazing journey Deena, and wow is exactly what I said as we turned the corner into the cairn field with the mountains and loch as a backdrop. Glad you enjoyed the view πŸ™‚

  20. .The third photo fascinated me..The Jonquils with yellow front/ blending with the colors of of the clouds, hills, the castle on the top right looking down toward the lake πŸ™‚

    Anthony
    March 27th 2014

    • Thanks Anthony, the castle is one of the most photographed in Scotland….looking down Loch Alsh towards the mountains of the Isle of Skye….a views which delights what ever time of year we visit πŸ™‚ Vikings, Bonnie Prince Charlie, St Columba….so many famous visitors!

      • I Must come to Scotland πŸ™‚

        Miss MacKenzie,
        I often as student in College…reading English Poems “The Romance Period” the word ( Lock )
        appears. exactly what is the definition:( I use Lake!!?

        Explain to me how I can send pictures of the Ocean on my side to you. I tried without avail.

        Only a five hour ride to Logan Air Port Boston, Ma

        Anthony

      • Anthony, loch is the Scottish word for a lake….a body of water πŸ™‚
        You pronounce it ‘law…ch’ (ch being the sound we make when clearing the back of our throats gently)
        You can send images to my email….seonaid@infernalmachines.co.uk
        Or post your images on your own blog with a link to mine πŸ™‚
        Would love to see the world from your side of the planet….

  21. Brenda says:

    Eileen Donan is magical. I visited there once in August when the heather was in bloom.

  22. Wowser! It looks like an illustration for a fantasy novel πŸ™‚ I can just picture a heroic warrior on his warhorse with wolves and elves running fearlessly by his side into battle with orcs and warlocks!

  23. You used such a descriptive word for that lingering winter high up on the mountain: Heart of Winter…it sounds warm but it is just the opposite, more like the frozen core of winter. I took the funicular up to a viewing platform at Cairngorm last summer. There are spectacular views from up there.

  24. Leya says:

    Winter can most certainly be beautiful too – but now we all long for daffodils and spring! Beautiful!

  25. Sue Vincent says:

    Utterly beautiful!

  26. livvy30 says:

    Beautiful as always!

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