I love Scotland. I’d forgotten how staggeringly beautiful it is. My memory and my passion were rekindled last week when I went on a mini tour of some of Scotland’s stunning countryside.
I’d bought my husband a ‘Beach Landing on Barra’ as his Christmas present. I’d never been to the Outer Hebrides, the islands furthest away from the Scottish mainland, so it was a bit of a present for me too – I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to land at ‘one of the world’s most spectacular and most beautiful airports.’ And my Christmas present from him was a night where I could ‘discover centuries of history and a beautiful landscape’ at a hotel on the shore of Loch Lomond.
We flew to Barra on Thursday afternoon, soaring high above the West Coast. It was a beautiful day when we set off from Glasgow Airport, so I could see the contrast in the landscape from the flat, full, fast Clydeside to the sharply rising mountains further north before we crossed the jagged coastline, cruising over tiny islands dotted like diamonds in the emerald green North Atlantic. I was astonished to see parts of my home country I’d never seen before, and from a perspective that allowed me to see a bigger picture, how it all fitted together.
Landing at Barra, I was touching down on the outskirts of my homeland, the furthest point from it’s heart, and it was breath-taking. The white beach sparkled with tiny fragments of shell, the wind blew the long sharp grass in a rhythmic rustle and the water shone brilliant turquoise all the way to the cloudy horizon. I felt like a child in a toy shop; my eyes must’ve been huge, as one of the other passengers smiled at my amazement and commented, ‘It’s surreal isn’t it?’ And it was; beautiful beyond belief; I’d never seen or experienced this part of my land before.
After a cup of tea and some cake at the airport café (which also doubled up as check-in, passport control, departure lounge, and arrivals) we got back into the Twin Otter and flew back to Glasgow. The weather was closing in by then, the precious landscape below covered in a thick veil of cloud.
It didn’t matter though, because as soon as we landed, we jumped in the car and drove to Loch Lomond. It was dark, so when I woke up in the morning and peered out the window, I was gobsmacked at how tranquil and mysterious the loch looked. This had been one of my favourite places as a child, and I’d forgotten the sheer majesty of it. The waters were dark and deep, reflecting the winter colours on the hills across the loch. Wisps of mist trailed across the lower banks, blurring the peaks and giving the whole scene a shimmering magical feel. I breathed deeply wanting to suck up all the beauty around me – how could I have forgotten this amazing countryside? I felt a little bit overwhelmed by how I must have ignored this splendour, or at least pushed it out of my thoughts for so many years.
And it didn’t end there. We drove in a winding loop around the Trossachs to visit long forgotten landmarks, finishing at another spot I’d frequented over 30 years ago, with a stunning view down the glen from Aberfoyle looking back towards the blocked, flat landscape of busy civilization. How could I have forgotten all this, and more, is inside my country?
What have I learned from this mini tour? I’ve learned I love my home country, and I’ve learned how easily I can ignore the beauty, the brilliance and the bounty that exists in my own ‘back yard’.
And it made me wonder, what else might I be overlooking?