The Scot on the hill

10 August 2020

Very occasionally in life I have experienced a strange feeling of having just arrived home when arriving at a place for the first time ever! The first occasion I recall this was in 1994 when I visited Ireland for the first time. I remember very much feeling like I was at home in Ballyhornan, not so much in space or time, but in soul, comfortable, rested, euphoric. I’ve no idea why I felt like that. Maybe it was something to do with Van Morrison singing about the places around there (St John’s Point, Strangford Lough, Killyleagh and Ardglass) in his song “Coney Island”, and the craic was good.


A bothy on the road in to Glenstrathfarrer

I had a similar experience some 20 years later in Scotland when I first visited Glenstrathfarrer, on this occasion travelling by motorcycle. Both places are furnished with a good dose of fresh air and open space, free from the rancid rind of the earths urban atmosphere. Maybe at Glenstrathfarrer I was just visiting friends and that’s why it felt like home?

I took a walk up the Glen to a conspicuous Scots pine tree which sits on a prominent small knoll in the valley. Once off the formed road I was on the moor and it was very wet under foot, picking my way on drier (read less wet!) ground where I could, through the heather, sphagnum bogs and grass. I eventually found myself up with the tree and inhaling wonderful views in both directions along the Glen. The tree holds a commanding position and is itself surrounded by heather and other little wildflowers and moss.


Approaching the tree

The moor was in flower and there were misty clouds along the mid level of the valley. Mountain peaks showing above the mist and the lochs below it, a breathtaking sight. Somewhat surprisingly there was a little visitors book nestled in a small hollow in the base of the tree. When I removed the rock covering the hollow and reached in to pull the book out an enormous swarm of midges came out! As I tried to write on the not quite dry page, switching from pen to pencil, the midges had an absolute frienzied field day on my well traveled skin. I had to pull a midge net out from my pocket and put it on before I could finish writing. Midges have a voracious appetite if they get going. I guess these ones hadn’t had a visitor for a while!


The visitors book encased in the hollow base of the tree

The modest little visitors book was started in 2006 and wouldn’t have more than a few tens of entries. Still it is testimony to the nature and attractiveness of the tree and its sense of place. I found a slightly better route down from the knoll and back to the road and am happy to report the midges opted not to follow, perhaps they were already sated.


The diminutive road through the glen on a clearer day

Well I never seem to get sated with trees, finding new ones, reaquainting myself with old ones or just saying hello to the ones I see every week. A simple pleasure that I can find everywhere that I go. Enjoy the trees around you wherever they may be, you never know when they might be gone.

Share this on: