You may remember that last summer my family and I took a trip to Scotland. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to return there this summer as our last European hurrah before moving back to the States. Our first visit to Scotland, we hiked around bonnie Loch Lomond for a few days but spent most of the time jumping from city to city: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Saint Andrews. I’m so thankful I got to walk the streets of each of those, but it made for a pretty hectic vacation. This time, we spent eight days in one place. And oh, was that a good idea. Our days were calm and peaceful, and by the end we felt almost like natives of the region. (I’m sure the actual natives would have a fit of disgust at the idea, but shh, don’t tell.) I love the relaxed schedule and being able to explore in depth the land immediately around us.
We stayed in a little cottage in the hamlet of Glencoe. It sits on the western coast of Scotland on the bank of Loch Leven, twenty minutes south of Fort William. Even though it is a loch—a lake—because it’s so close to the coast, its water is salty and moves in and out with the tides. I couldn’t quite believe it when we walked on the rocks and grass lining the lake and found crab shells and seaweed tangled in amongst the moss and little pink wildflowers.
The beauty of the Scottish Highlands is indescribable. There’s this unique quality to it that I don’t think you can find anywhere else on earth. I’ve been to the Alps, and they are breathtaking, stunning, but it’s a different kind of beauty. The Alps feels timeless, whereas the Scottish mountains feel ancient. The Alps feels almost ostentatious, like they want you to gasp and applaud, while the Scottish mountains seem to take no notice of you, existing for something greater than we humans can see.
On all of our hikes, I struggled to find the right words to describe what I was seeing. I jotted on my phone:
the Highlands have this quiet understated grandeur that does not demand awe for rob of breath like the Alps but sits in sure / elegant / contented repose, unmindful of human opinion, laying itself before a higher King like gems before his throne, his emerald carpet
We spent most days hiking and made a few treks to Fort William, purported to be the outdoor capital of the UK. One day we climbed to the top of a hill—an almost-mountain hill—that faces Ben Nevis, the tallest mountain in the UK. Another day we tackled the Lost Valley hike, climbing along a waterfall up the side of another almost-mountain hill and arriving at the top to stand at the lip of a wide valley nestled high where several mountains together. It was utterly magical. Looking back, I wonder if I was transported to another world or if it happened at all, in any universe.
We also drove to the Island of Iona one day—or rather, we drove to a ferry that took us and our car to the Isle of Mull, which we drove across (shout out to my dad for handling with skill the one lane road with its endless twist and turns through the hills) to another ferry that took just us to Iona. Iona is famous for its ancient abbey where monks created the beautiful Book of Kells, an ornately illustrated collection of the four Gospels. I loved the history and how the island still maintains a calm, set apart atmosphere. Plus, it was stunningly gorgeous. The water around it was literally teal, and the grass blanketing the gentle hills was fresh, bright green and studded with yellow and white flowers. White curves of sandy beach ended in dark rock jutting into the sea. It was almost too much beauty. You can’t take it all in.
I thought a lot about beauty on this trip. I thought a lot about how desperately I want to capture the beauty I see in words and how impossible that is sometimes and how horribly frustrated that makes you feel. Maybe all those musings will come out in a later post. For now, one thing I do know about beauty is that it is meant to be shared. I hope you all can visit the Scotland someday and experience its beauty for yourself, but until then, I hope you enjoy these photographs. ❤
Some notes about the photos:
As always, click on one of the photos to bring up the slideshow where you can see the pictures bigger and read the captions. I didn’t edit any of them, which may be hard to believe when you see some of the colors.
At the bottom of the posts are included Mark Shultz’s instrumental song, “Highlands.” It’s absolutely beautiful, and I think it would be lovely experience to listen to that while you go through the photos. =)