Wednesday, 31 August 2011
I’ll Take the Low Road
It's official, I am going senile. Not full blown, running down the street without clothes senile, but senile enough to mess up one of the most important dates in my calendar.
Every year for the past 3 years I have been lucky enough to get invited to the West coast of Scotland, for the final week of the stag hunting season. This week is a little piece of heaven here on earth. It matters not a jot if we stalk or we don't. It looks very much as though this year stalking is off the menu as along with a lot of upland Scotland, the Ardnish peninsula suffered a massive, catastrophic fire, which saw off most of the heather and a good deal of the rest of the vegetation. However, as I said, the stalking is not the point, the point being good friends and new friends getting together in majestic isolation, for a little time away from the madness of the world. No electricity, no telephone, no mobile internet. Water from the loch, food from the land and what you can bring in by boat, a few crabs and possibly a lobster if you are very lucky. Light from oil lamps and the shipping forecast at twenty past five in the morning.
Ardnish is the most magical place I have ever been. I have been lucky enough to see a great deal of the world during the time that I worked; some of it was good, some great, some of it wasn't so; but for me nothing comes remotely close to this place. I suppose it is too near to so called civilisation to be called true wilderness, but when the wind is blowing across the loch and the stags are roaring, it seems a very long way from the city.
When it comes to getting around, you have two options; walk or sail. The terrain is too tough for an ATV and the only path was built by one of the previous occupant of Lagan (the only house on the peninsula) out of great slews of stone.
Out to sea, heading off towards Ardnamurchan Point in the Sound of Arisaig is Goat Island, a hunk of rock jutting up from an unpredictable stretch of water. Sitting at the heart of Goat Island is a vitrified fort, literally a fortification made out of molten stone, turned to glassy enamel. Quite how the intense temperatures required to melt solid rock were achieved, no one knows – a skill lost to time perhaps. In a sense, the whole of Ardnish has been lost to time, from the ruins of the black houses, to the natural beaching grounds for Viking Longships at Paenmeanach beach. Ardnish is the point where Bonnie Prince Charlie left Scotland after the Jacobite Uprising in 1745, a peninsula steeped in history and folk tale.
So why am I going senile and why am I writing about this on a blog that ostensibly should be about dogs. Well, I have just mated my young bitch Trilly. I mated here without a second thought as to the date she would be due to whelp, which happened to coincide precisely with the day that I was due to head north for Ardnish. Bugger! What an idiot. So now, assuming that she has caught, I'm torn between the delights of another litter and recharging the batteries. Of course, there is no choice, the dogs come first.... Ardnish will be there for another year. Yet a little piece of my heart will be there in the middle of October. Maybe I will forget to pay the electricity and water bill and stay at home and just pretend.