We leave merry old England for the highlands of
Scotland. Our destination is the northern most stop on the Great North Eastern Railway
line, the town of Inverness. About halfway through the trip, I have the heavy urge to let
the rocking of the train help me drift off for a light nap. I do my best to fight the
feeling, as I do not want to miss even ten minutes of the incredibly enchanting scenery
passing by my window.
The Scottish countryside delft us a developing panorama of nature, beginning our show
with rolling hills covered with lush, moist, and spongy pasturelands full of puffy, lazy
sheep busy munching on the thick, cool, and wet grass. This gradually transitioned into
bumpy dunes of sand the color of aged tanned leather with crowned with sprouts of dark
green sea oats as we passed by the coast. The next course of this feast for the eyes were
the crags of jagged black rock jutting forcefully through the rich soil and thick coating
of soft moss and glacier fed streams bubbling through the smooth rocks and under the white
ice and snow that had formed, hanging on, around them.
so slowly, the patches of scrubby brush and moss yielded to full forests of birch trees
wrapped round with white paper-bark spotted with knots of ink-like black dots. Intermixed
were the leafless hardwoods, with their twisted and contorted branches, naked and exposed
to the chilling wind. Lastly, there were the pines and other evergreens opting to keep
their coat of dark green needles through this, and each, of the changing seasons. This
entire scene played out before us on front stage, and against the majestic backdrop of
snow covered, flat-topped hills whose once proud and towering stature as mountains had
been violently abbreviated by shifting glaciers thousands and thousands of years ago.
north of Perth, the conductor comes the PA on to tell us of mechanical difficulty with the
train ahead of us (one of the problems with rail travel is that its difficult to
go around an obstruction in the path ahead). It seems there will be a slight
delay for us as they work on that train. By this time, weve struck up a friendly
conversation with a car mate sitting across from us. We find out his name is Neil, and
that he claims Inverness as his home. We pass the time comparing notes on travel and our
impressions of the differences in the cultures of the places weve visited. Our
conversation is interrupted by another announcement, as apparently things didnt look
too promising for the train up the line, it becomes doubtful that well be able to
continue this night. The railway then transfers us to two busses for the remainder of our
journey. Upon arrival in Inverness, our new friend insists upon not only walking us to a
nearby hotel, but also greeting us to Scotland with a pop of - you guessed it - Scotch
whiskey, to warm our chilled bones. Now THATS hospitality.
to make the most of the opportunity to take in the crisp, clean highland air and sunshine,
we spend the next day exploring town and the surrounding countryside on foot. As the sun
sets, we stroll along the banks of the River Ness, kicking up the fallen leaves of the
trees which line our path. The naked, contorted branches reach out like crooked, aged old
fingers grasping at what's left of the sun's fading light. Beyond their reach, light wisps
of clouds dust the horizon glowing in the afternoon's yellow, orange, and pink light.
river and its banks are shrouded in a heavy, wet fog that adds to the mystery of this
bewitching scene. The foggy haze seems to organize the soft sunlight into fuzzy rays that
breach the top of the tree-line and shoot down to the river's flowing water in diagonal
white frost still remains, blanketing the patches of landscape that have been shaded from
the warming rays of the sun that day. The still frozen grass and leaves crunch under our
steps as we explore the banks, leaving the only footprints of the day.
As the sound of a church bell rings in the distance, we are reminded that we too will
be covered by frost if we spend too much more time after the sun has set, out here by this
sleepy river. Time to head back towards town. Time perhaps, for a bit of a nip to warm our
chilly, but very content, bones.