Now, I’m going to be totally honest here: despite the fact that I was born in Scotland and have lived here my entire life, up until this year, everything I knew about the Highlands came from:
B) The noughties TV show Monarch of the Glen.
And, I mean, it’s just possible that neither of those were 100% accurate in their respective portrayals of Highland life, isn’t it? Like, obviously everything in Outlander is 100% true, and that’s why I never touch standing stones if I can help it (Don’t get me wrong, I love Jamie Fraser and his clan, but then again, I also love penicillin, the internet and civil liberties, you know? But I digress…), but as for Monarch of the Glen, there was literally a person named ‘Golly’ in it? And he was a ghillie, so he was Golly-the-Ghillie? And he ended up with someone named Molly, so that would’ve been Golly and Molly, and everything I just wrote sounds totally made up now, doesn’t it?
So, I had some pre-conceived ideas about the Highlands, is what I’m saying, and the main one of these was that, once there, we basically wouldn’t be able to turn around without walking into a giant mountain. This idea, at least, I thought, was bound to be pretty accurate (Unlike the notion that everyone would have names ending in “olly”, say…) – so I was actually a little bit disappointed when we managed to drive all the way to Inverness without seeing many of the dramatic peaks I’d been imagining. Oh, we did see some mountains, obviously, but, for the most part, the landscape wasn’t hugely different to home, which came as a bit of a surprise to me.
“Where are all the mountains?” I asked Terry in confusion. “I want to see mountains, dammit!”
Then, on our way home, we drove through Glencoe.
Now, THAT’S what I was talking about, people. THAT’S what you call mountains, and they were exactly as I’d imagined them: i.e. they looked like something right out of Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones, say. I would not have been in the least bit surprised if a fire-breathing dragon had appeared over the top of them and tried to chase down the car. Even without that particular detail, though, the scenery is absolutely breathtaking:
I grew up hearing my mum’s stories about being driven through Glencoe (Which, for those of you not from around these parts is, as the name suggests, a glen which is famous both for its dramatic scenery and, well, for its historical massacre, sadly.) (Also for being the one-time home of Jimmy Savile, but we don’t like to dwell on that, for obvious reasons.) on childhood holidays. “And then we drove around a bend in the road,” she always says, “And the mist was hanging over the glen. Honestly, it was like the massacre had just happened!” Which, now I come to think of it, isn’t that great a recommendation, really, but, having seen it for myself, I know what she means: the entire valley has an otherworldy feel to it, somehow, as if you’ve stepped back in time, and are about to see Stone Age man emerging from the mists or something. It’s also just ridiculously picturesque: seriously, I can’t even tell you how many photos I currently have on my camera roll, all featuring a road surrounded by mountains. Here is one of them:
As well as being one of the most iconic drives in the country (I mean, I totally just made that up, but I suspect it’s probably true…), Glencoe is also popular with hill walkers and mountain climbers, and it’s easy to see why. Unfortunately for us, the weather wasn’t on our side for this part of our trip, so we stopped only to take some quick photos – and by that I mean, “It was absolutely FREEZING, so I only got out of the car for long enough to get one photo with that mountain backdrop, then Max and I went back to sit in the warmth, while Terry took the rest”: thanks, Terry!
Speaking of photography, Glencoe is, as you can probably imagine, something of a photographer’s dream. We have friends who regularly make the drive north early in the morning, just to capture the sunrise over the mountains, and while I wouldn’t go quite that far – early mornings are not my friend – I would like to go back fairly soon, to spend a bit more time there, and get a few more shots. Because, as beautiful as it is to just drive through, I somehow don’t think I’d ever get tired of that view…