A special place (Loch Morar)
There are places still in our crowded land where one can go, and not meet another person, only sheep and rabbits, deer and soaring eagle, still some wilderness left. I discovered one such place, on the west coast of Scotland, when I was quite young, about 13 or 14. I was on holiday with my family, and we came there early one evening. We had been driving for some miles through forests and glens, and then suddenly and unexpectedly the most wonderful scene lay before us.
The sun had set but it was not yet dark. Sky and sea were silver, merging into one. Magical islands were dotted about, with wonderful Gaelic names Ė Eigg, Rum, Skye, and tiny anonymous islets, rising in black silhouettes as if floating in space. Little bays fringed the coast, washed smooth by the tide, and even the sand was silver. The air was fresh and clean, and there was tranquillity about the place, peace and stillness such as I had never experienced before. It was heartbreakingly beautiful, and the delicious shock of it moved me to tears.
We had planned only to spend a couple of days there, and then to go further north, but we could not tear ourselves away, and stayed the whole week. I have returned many times since, and although it has become so familiar, it never fails to affect me as it did that first time. Some changes have occurred, of course, in the name of progress, new roads, buildings, and the like, but its essential character has not altered, and there is much of it where the modern world will never be able to intrude, thank goodness.
I would rather go there on holiday than almost anywhere else. Lying on some exotic beach in the sun holds no attraction for me. A gentle, heather perfumed breeze to stir the senses, ancient mountains, brooding glens, and the wonderful soft light are preferable any time.
The seas are shallow here, shallow and clear, hence the numerous tiny islets, some little more than heaps of rocks, which jut above the waves. Yet only half a mile inland lies Loch Morar, the deepest lake in Britain, if not in Europe, over a thousand feet in some places. It is a place of wild grandeur and great beauty, steeped in mystery and legend. They say a monster lives in its murky depths, akin to its cousin in Loch Ness, and when one has heard the tales first hand and seen the loch at its most forbidding, dark steel grey, wind-driven waves battering the rocky shore, it is easy to believe.
I have known the loch in all its guises. Balmy and benign, on a warm and lazy summer day with not the slightest breeze to ruffle its surface. I have lain there beside it, eyes closed, in utter calm and solitude, when it would have been easy to imagine myself on that exotic beach, had I cared to do so. But I have been there too on days when it was moody and cold with low mists hiding the far reaches, an uneasy air about it, and when it was playful, sparkling and beguiling.
I love all of this area, from the Ardnamurchan peninsula to Mallaig and Skye, and further north to Sutherland, but it is the loch which calls to me the most. Each time I am there I feel it is saying to me, ďItís okay for you to be here. You understand me. You belong here.Ē
Maybe one day I might live there, but perhaps not. Maybe itís better to have it as a place to think about, to escape to when I need it.
I have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs over the years, but none can do justice to this place. I wish I could capture the scent of the heather, the sound of the waves, the taste of the air, the feel of the pebbles under foot. But I canít. One needs to be there.