The moorlands of Scotland go on seeming forever, days and days of driving and I can’t breathe it all in. The craggy rocks jutting out from green, the endless views of open glens, mountain sides covered in peat bog, heather and thistle. It is near impossible to walk here when it is wet, (which is most of the time) you can sink in waist high at times. Hill walking in the Highlands of Scotland is not like a walk anywhere else. Most of the area I have travelled for the past few days is made up of bog with a few trees interspersed every now and again. I am driving by the deep freeze mountains (Chan e Fuar-bheann ach Reothte) and indeed, last night there was frost. I am so far north now that the sun set due west last night (around 11:00.) It doesn’t really ever get dark right now, just twilight for around 4 hours. At 4:00 a.m. the birds start to sing and I am up with them. I decided to camp ( I come prepared to the highlands) as there was no room at any inn – Ullapool was full up. I continued on the steep mountain road just out from town and found this beautiful spot – Ardmair point, campsite number 7 (see picture above). It was so cold (July 1st) that I decided to sleep in the back of my car for whatever shelter from the wind and warmth it could provide. The forecast was for lightening and hail. If there was any, I slept through it, but woke up early because I was cold. This site is pin drop quiet. On a tidal slip of ocean – no wave to speak of, but with a full view of a string of mountains to the north. With a few campsites left open between each car or caravan, unlike Ullapool, this hillside is not bustling. We campers snap pictures of the unbelievable views and watch in silent awe as the sun sets into cloud then clear again, reflecting streams of color. I was trying to make it all the way to Achiltibuie, but started to get tired, so thought I should pull in for the night – just a nap, really. Achiltibuie is only 15 miles from the campsite but 15 winding miles of single track road could easily take more than an hour in these parts and I need to sleep.
July 2nd - The early morning light is so gentle, bringing just enough glint to deepen the green of the moors. There are clouds to the far south west but they have not reached here yet. I am going to take my time and drive this road slowly as no other cars will likely be on it this early. This is the deer hour, when they are most likely to either be crossing the road or sleeping on it for the delayed warmth the ground provides. I know I am the only human for miles. In this wilderness I move with each turn, notice each view, follow the sun. It is not 10 minutes out on the route, when the first stag I have ever seen leaps out in front of me – then, carelessly, airborne, he hurdles a high fence. I pull over. He stops in his tracks and looks back. He moves towards me. We both stay a long time watching each other, communing.
From the road to Achiltibuie I can hear the water rushing alongside. Far behind me, the mountains surrounding Ullapool are now in full sun, with the shadow of one mountain lazing across another, stretching towards the peak, just reaching high enough to warm the deep freeze mountains that go on to the west. Two more stags and a doe pass by, travelling together – it is wide open here, I can see them coming. A morning bird sings. Three Kittiwakes fly up - the ocean is getting closer. A young buck, separated from the group lingers, curious. Velvet covers the nubs of what will be a fine rack of horns someday. The early light is now reaching the top of the first pinnacle of Stac Pollardh, her rock face still wet with rain. The low slung gorse bursts a bright yellow out from the roadside. Brilliant purple heather swags cascade off the ledge above.
Here it is: Quoigach, Wester Ross, Wonderland.