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It is August 2002 and I need a massive break from work, a change of tapestry so to speak. Now a nature travel has always been a great stress reliever for me and thus it was natural to do exactly that; a travel to nature. But where to go? And most of all where to go to when you only have 10 days? This planet is simply too big to travel for one lifetime and my list of countries I haven't been to is a real long one.
So I did what I usually do, I let my favourite film/TV series decide. I went through the cast of the LOTR films and looked up where they come from. Now, New Zealand has been on my list since 1985 but I don't want to hurry through there I want to take my time and it's already written in stone that I shall go in 2006. So that left USA, Denmark, England, Wales, Scotland - Scotland? I had never been to Scotland before. And since I'm kind of spontaneous, I went to the travel agency, booked a ferry and in October 2002 I finally hopped into the car.
See, I don't need a fancy hotel. I rather stay among the locals, go to the pubs, eat their food, drink their drinks and listen to the local legends and fairy tales. And that was exactly what I did. I arrived in Scotland early in the morning and simply chose the smallest roads (all the B ones) I could find on the map.
Thus I eventually arrived in Moffat by pure accident. Complete strangers invite me over to their tables in the local pub and I don't remember how but somehow we came from Lord of the Rings to the King Arthur legend. I spent half of the night listening to tales and all the tips what I must see (brilliant tips no holiday guide features). Packed with hand-drawn maps and a ton of well-wishes I move on the next morning, further north.
At the Isle of Skye a fisherman took me out, just for the fun of it. I was thrilled. You park your car off-road and climb up a hill to take pictures and by-passing tractors honk and the driver waves.
You stay at a B&B owned by a 75 year-old lovely lady who kisses your forehead as a good-bye; you run into a bus driver, who tells you where the most beautiful waterfalls are; you come into a village where many trucks with live-stock park and you stop, being the only tourist and nobody minds when you watch them unloading the sheep.
And where else do you find a garage right in the middle of nowhere willing on a Saturday evening to charge your car battery with the remark: "I don't want you to spend money on a new one when it's maybe not necessary" and then taking all the time that is needed to have a chat. Later on I meet his wife and a bit later on I give tips why that old computer is not working, which brings me a dinner invitation. That day I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.
And aside of those very warm and welcoming people and their hospitality I find something that touched my heart even the more - this awesome landscape.
This fantastic light that's up there. Even in bad weather you get this wonderful dramatic sky. The rough landscapes, rocks and moor, the calm waters that mirror their surroundings perfectly, those steep mountains and hills and it seems I picked the right time of year, too. A lot of tourists were gone and the heather was in full bloom. Everything was pink or lila. Combine that with a bright blue sky with scattered really white clouds. Those adventerous single track roads with passing places where you come around a corner and your jaw simply drops just by the sheer beauty that unfolds right in front of you. Dang - I think I've got it bad. Thanks a lot Mr. Boyd - bowing - I found a second home.
The worst, did you ever try to drive through landscape where you're almost alone on the road having classical music playing? It's a wonderful emotional experience. I've been doing ever since I started to travel, only I usually have film scores running, which in my opinion is the classical music of today.
Thanks to all those wonderful score composers out there for their wonderful work.
While touring Scotland I had one tune running forth and back: Gloomy Winter's Now Awa performed by Dougie MacLean, I heard somewhere in a pub and just had to buy that CD it was on (Celtic Connections with its accompanying yearly festival in Glasgow).
Be warned though, I at least have the tendency to tear up when an especially beautiful view comes into sight combined with this kind of music.
For Scotland, Runrig's "Long Distance" album is a must. Drive along Loch Lomond to the live recorded hymn Loch Lomond and you get goosebumps...
To help nature a bit out: carbonneutral.com