I’ve spent a few days on research trips over the past week, visiting some of the wilder places in Scotland to get a feel for the landscape and the atmosphere.
There is something special about the Scottish mountains, whatever the weather, but if you can catch them on a sunny day then they are spectacular. I was lucky, and saw them at their best this time.
My first trip took in one of the more remote parts of the central Highlands – Glen Lyon. Glen Lyon is huge – over 30 miles long – and its single track road ends at the foot of the Lubreoch Dam, which holds back the waters of Loch Lyon. The glen has been inhabited since the earliest times, and you can see many standing stones, cup-marked rocks, a couple of castles and what is thought to be Europe’s oldest living thing: the Fortingall Yew, which is reputed to be 5,000 years old.
The glen is stunningly beautiful and the drive up to the Dam is well worth it for the views alone.
But if you have the time, and the energy, it is worth taking the north path along the side of the loch and following it to the point where the loch kinks round. Over a ford and up slightly to the right is another path, which takes you to an even more remote valley. Halfway up and nestled between the path and the river you will find a tiny sheiling with a turf roof – a shrine to the Celtic creator goddess, the ‘Cailleach’.
There are also stone representations of the goddess and her family and these are found inside or outside the sheiling, depending on the season.
It is a fascinating sight to see, particularly when you consider that someone local must take the time each year to move the stones under cover in autumn, and bring them out again come spring, continuing a tradition that is thought to date back hundreds of years.
Watch out for the midges and clegs though! They were out in force on our visit, so we did not stay long…
What about you? How far afield has your research taken you?