A Pilgrim’s Pilgrimage

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K: with Foxy, our mascot (a gift from Joshua), taking up the best seat, we set off on a journey… heading north, to the wilderness that is the Scottish Highlands.

R: lead the way, oh curious fox.

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K: once out of Fife and on the A9, the landscape opened up for us.  the sun shone in the sheltering sky above.

it was  a lonely road, but we had music inside us and we sang our hearts out.

R: not so much the open road as get out of our way as we make our escape.

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K: we stopped in Pitlochry, for a glass of cold cask ale.  the air was incredibly warm for a late August evening.  time out to chill, and reflect…

R: two pints of old remedial should do the trick. a dark malty honey fruity caramel (English) ale served in a Scottish inn. lovely though.

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K: we sat in the beer garden, the sun warmed our bones…

R: a replenishing experience.

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K: …and we shot each other.

R: not literally, of course. honing our skills on the cameras.

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K: back on the road; surrounded by so much beauty, it wasn’t long before we began to feel humbled by Mother Nature.   the hills looked lonely and remote.

R: sometimes you just have to stop the car and get out. marvel at the simple beauty.

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K: this is where we wanted to be, where we felt drawn to, in our great escape from the grey towns and unsmiling people…

R: the pull of the wilderness. the great escape.

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K: graced with the solace of the warm evening sunshine, we stepped out of the car…

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K: … where we were set alight,  fuelled with fresh air and tranquillity…

R: don’t just stand there taking pictures! my head is on fire!

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K: …and silence…  we hadn’t seen any other vehicles in over an hour…  a lonely road for our vagabond souls.

R: bliss, really. my favourite kind of drive.

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K: the lonely road beckoned…  storm clouds behind us and the sun setting before us… a truly magical, peaceful time.

R: the open road.

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R: …and the open urethra.

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K: three hours later, we could see the almighty peak of Stac Pollaidh – where we planned to spend the night.   chasing fast-fading light and with, still, two hours to drive, we made our way – following our hearts and the call of the wild.

R: we played a game. sing a song with a particular word in the title. such as – rain. so…Purple rain…Why does it always rain on me?..Singing in the rain…etc.

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K: we exited the main road and took a single lane road with passing places,  road signs written in Gaelic and stray sheep…

R: we really should be taught Gaelic in our schools. why shouldn’t the people of this country learn their native tongue? needless to say,  i couldn’t understand the damn signs!

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K: we could physically feel the stresses and strains of town life fall away… the Scottish Highlands opened up before us.  we needed this. we were there, amidst the wild of the bracken and heather; the sheep and the sheep shit; the silence and breath-taking beauty.

R: a welcome respite from the humdrum of towny existence.

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K: where to stay?  in midge-proof head gear and tick-proof footwear, we checked out a few sites…  maybe here?  maybe not…

wild-camping here was not as easy as it first seemed.  spoilt for choice.

R: testing the ground. too boggy. nice beach and view though. pity. oh well, onwards!

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K: alas… peat-bog.

R; exactly. squishy under thine feet.

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K: we drove and drove as night began to fall around us.

finally, we found our ‘bed’ for the night.   Achiltibuie & the Summer Isles…

R: only slightly panicking as the light faded and we still hadn’t found ‘our spot’. but then we arrived. “get the tent oot!”

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K: after pitching our tent, on the sheltered side of a hill, we lit a fire and cooked dinner.   we sat and admired the moonlit view over the water.

silence…

we marvelled at the thought of night and how, at that moment, we had our backs turned to the sun and were facing out into deepest, darkest space… infinite space.  no light pollution, only the fire light.

silence…

R: fire. must build fire: light, heat, cooker, midge-repellent, hypnotic vision-provoker. camping isn’t the same without a fire.

we sipped wine and absorbed the warmth of the fire and our conversation. before long, sleep called to us.

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K: a little rainfall through the night… this was our home.  and it felt like home.

peace, quiet and…

R: our home from home protected us from the downpour. but what an extraordinary and comforting sound to fall asleep to.

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K: breakfast tea…

R: … and a semi-naked Kat reflection in our kettle. love that wee stove by the way. perfect.

K: … as exhilarating as it was, gallivanting amid the heather and peat-bogs with bare legs in the late August early morning sunshine made me easy quarry for those pesky midges!

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K: and  a swift hike up ‘our’ little hill…

R: not so much hike. more like a one minute stroll!

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K: “Just wait ’til you see the view from the top…”  said Rob

R: but what a view.

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K: cameras in hand, we headed upwards…

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K: and he was right…  there they were… resplendent, in all their morning glory…  The Summer Isles

R: i would have loved to have taken one of those wee boats out and explored the isles. but we were headed for Ullapool.

K: next time… i swear.  just look at that water.

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K: a little on the cold side, but the sky looked full of hope.  the sun had already brightened the skies.  it looked like it was shaping up to be another warm day.

R: and so it was. warm and bright.

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K: such a beautiful spot…

so inspiring…

R: photography and filming. fresh air and nature.

right, get the guitar oot!

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K: we sang… we filmed… we packed up – leaving as small a ‘footprint’ as we possibly could…

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K: “Kat…!  Kat!  Come see…. Quick!” Rob said.

R: you’re not going to believe this!

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K: “No fear of trap nor pin…!” Rob added.

a small tortoiseshell butterfly – like the ones residing in Rob’s home and in our hearts had found its way into our car.

R: such a bizarre and blessed occurrence. a welcome guest. a stowaway.

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K: we set it free… and we headed for the beach.

R: off it went, fluttering its wings, out of sight.

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K: Achnahaird Beach, near Achiltibuie.   what a wondrous place…  was this our spiritual home?   was this real?   so much space and solitude.

R: another potential spot for camping, should we return one day.

K: one day, we will.

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K: we parked the car and headed out into the open space.

R: an excellent opportunity to get the cameras out again.

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K: the fresh air filled our lungs, the sun shone on our backs and the open space beckoned….  run!!!!

R: yeah, the fresh, salty air. rejuvenating!

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K: there were runes carved into the stones  and paw prints in the sand; man and beast had left their mark…  this place left its mark in our hearts and minds.   the memory of its beauty will not be washed away like the tide swipes footprints or like winds and sands erodes the stones.   this place will remain inside us.

R: very true. carved in our memory, like runes carved in stone.

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K: this unspoiled beach was unbelievably beautiful…

R: indeed. beautiful. we had to tear ourselves away from it.

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R: a crab’s eye view!?

we wrote our name, in the sand…

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K: and danced on the breeze…

R: a content Kat walking on the sky.

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K: after a while, we got back on the road…

R: lookout, sheeps!

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K: heading south to Ullapool…  lunch beckoned.

R: stomachs rumbling.

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K: “good-bye, Stac Pollaidh…. until we meet again.”

R: a striking and daunting-looking mountain. basically death.  i was happy to drive around it. not climb it.

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K: B & B?   where’s the fun in that?

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K: Ullapool, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, was the perfect spot for lunch.

R: the old and the new. fishing boats. a port for fishing and tourism.

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K: a leisurely stroll by the harbour, beneath the crying gulls and wind-dancing bunting…

R: it’s Colin the seagull. our mate. follows us everywhere.

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K: and photo-opportunity, #267

R: anything for a weird photo opportunity. got some smiles and some dodgy looks from passers-by.

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K: Ullapool caters well for vegans.   the Frigate Cafe & Bistro did not disappoint.   we relaxed in the sunlit restaurant/bar; with portobello mushroom burgers and herbal tea.  we are so rock ‘n’ roll…

R: wow, that burger. so meaty, juicy and flavoursome. who needs dead cow?

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K: … and admired the quirkiness of our surroundings.

R: yes, a pleasant atmosphere.

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K: we sat by the shore, soaked up the sun and chatted, albeit briefly, with the natives.

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K: the four-legged natives being the friendliest…

R: smells like haggis!

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K: as #5 took to the waters, we took to the open road again…

next stop, Corrieshalloch Gorge – the deepest gorge in Scotland.

we parked up and headed into the surrounding forest – keeping our eyes peeled for ravens and rare butterflies…

R: again, a perfect time to capture film footage.

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K: the towering pines…  as swallows filled the falling skies…

so close we could reach up…  and…

… but the sound of gushing water… a waterfall began to herald our arrival at this ‘ugly hollow‘.

R: majestic.

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K: soon, we arrived at a bridge.  a swinging bridge across the gorge…

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K: “look down…” Kat said.

“fucking hell!”  replied Rob.

R: i was distracted, filming.

i joined Kat on the bridge. there is no preparing for the shock in seeing the sheer drop below your feet.

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K: at a little under 300 ft up, you need a head for heights when visiting Corrieshalloch Gorge – and you must not get freaked out by the swinging bridge across its narrow  span.

R: yes, in the hands of engineers. only six people allowed on the bridge at one time. that rule was broken many times. precarious much?!

gorgeous though.

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K: after forty awestruck minutes, we headed along the gorge-side walk to the gravity-defying viewing platform…

R: tempting fate, really.

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K: and here we are…  out on a limb, high above the river.

R: smile, you might fall to your death at any moment!

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K: the Falls Of Measach tumbling down behind us…

what a wondrous place…

we soon found ourselves back in the car, heading south towards Fort William.

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K: a rubbish view…

R: cue comedy rim-shot – ba dum ching!

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K: a flower…  for love… for peace…

R: it joined Foxy on the dashboard.

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K: comfort break #2  saw us stop by Rogie Falls

it had been raining, and the river was swollen.  the Falls were a torrent.  such beauty.

R: nature just unabashedly displaying its wonderful curiosities.

[snap snap snap!]

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K: and the rain continued…

we couldn’t even see Loch Ness – the largest body of water – Hell’s teeth – at one point, we could barely see the car in front of us-  the visibility was so bad.

but we did see rainbows…

R: i’ve never driven through such a downpour. a frightening but exhilarating experience. twin rainbows to boot!

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K: we soon found our ‘bed’ for the night… by the shore of beautiful Loch Oich.

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R: lovely place.

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K: we made fire.

R: a fire, a must.

“thanks for the loan of the crappy saw, Mother! i lost half a stone trying to get through one branch!”

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K: we made peace with ourselves.  we made memories…

R: we also made curry! midst the midge bastards… i mean, beautiful nature…

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K: what a beautiful ‘bedroom’…

R: are we in a jungle, by the Amazon perhaps?

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K: what a beautiful ‘bathroom’…

R: very trippy. which way is up?

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K: but those damned midges….!

and we cut our hair, with a Samurai sword…

R: the midges and the hair were irritating. i couldn’t get rid of the midges but i could deal with my hair. get the sword oot!

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K: Sunday morning, we escaped the midges and headed to Fort William for lunch.

R: don’t mind me. i’m just your lunatic boyfriend, clutching a sword.

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K: finding a vegan-friendly eatery in Fort William proved to be a little more difficult, but we found a place.

R: the Grog & Gruel, as i recall. peculiar wee joint.

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K: not quite vegan-friendly, with the spoils of a deer hunt adorning the ceilings and a stuffed boar’s head, staring at – judging us,  from behind the bar…

R: is this culture? or cruelty? still, they might have just found the deer and boar, dead already from natural causes?… what kind of maniac sticks a dead pig’s head on the wall? wait a minute…Cameron?… #piggate

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K: but with vegan-friendly real ale on tap, and a lovely spicy bean-burger with hand-cut chips on offer at least they were making an effort…. ?

R: ’twas a nice pint and the burger wasn’t bad either. i think we chose the best of a bad bunch. satisfied and refuelled.

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K: back on the road, the lonely road through Glencoe… and the desolate seat of my ancestry.

R: stunning views, once again. the ridge reminds me of a shark’s tooth.

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K: Kat’s eyes…

we needed a break; some time-out from town life and the stresses and depresses of our lives.  we needed the fresh air – away from the stranglehold of bills and buses.  we needed to escape the noise and find music.  find silence.  play the rest.

and we did…  a short, but splendid breakout from reality;  our escape…

we will return to the rugged and lonely beauty that is the Scotland’s wilderness.

R: a wonderful trip. soul-enriching. memories and midge bites. music and scenery and love and the open road. bliss.

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K: we made music, we made love, we made pictures and films, we made plans….

R: plans. where to next? i know we will travel around the Scottish wilderness again. soon enough. but i feel we will be leaving this island for our next trip. exciting times ahead.

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K: and… we made soup!

R: turmeric soup…on the stove…in the car… 🙂

ALL IMAGES & WORDS COPYRIGHT OF PILGRIMS, ROBERT DAVIDSON & KAT MCDONALD 2015

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