As the daughter of an ex-army man and keen Munro bagger, I’d spent my youth traipsing up and over Scottish hills in sunshine, rain, sleet and snow. I started young, when my dad, a devout Scot, convinced the family that three years old wasn’t too young to hike to the top of Lochnagar, a large Munro just past Ballater. Defying the odds, I made it to the top – 1156 metres high – and back, and thereafter spent a day sleeping in recovery. Several shoulder rides had eased my journey, but Dad still likes to retell this tale to this day, of what is possible at any age . . . forgetting that not everyone is destined to be a paratrooper.
Like my father, my mother’s love for Scotland was without question. Her devotion to Deeside and the tumbling glens past Loch Muick was always clear, and when she wasn’t there, she talked of them, wrote of them and tried to escape to them whenever possible.
Perhaps my fate was always sealed, then – that I too would live in adoration of my Scottish home; feeling a deep connection to the land, its voice, mither tongue and folk. I bonded with my home from the start, and love the rich colours of Scotland; the soft landscapes of the East, the rugged hills of the West; dooking in burns and rivers in summer days and picnicking in forests and parks.
And my first trip to Skye with my father, one of these such spots, was simply love at first sight. Driving through Glen Coe, the Great Glen and on through Glen Shiel, the mountains grew more extreme, the landscape more dramatic, and soon we were driving to a land on the sea. I knew after that first trip I’d return to this island.
Several years later I was on my way back, this time a husband in tow, who I was sure would marvel at its dramatic backdrop, too. We’d been trying for a baby for six months and were excited that together, two might soon become three. After 11 years together, we were ready. Could the magic of Skye be our lucky charm? As each mile passed and we got closer to the island, I dared a bit to dream.
Sunshine blessed us upon crossing the Skye Bridge over Loch Alsh, and our first stop was the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle. Towering, jagged peaks – the Black Cuillin – greeted us as we neared the beginning of the hike, framing our destination like a piece of art. To the right a Highland cow stood in a field, posing for pictures with tourists as if it was his day job, proud to highlight his home like a keeper of a precious treasure. We of course obliged him, then started up the winding path.
As we walked past clear pools, the sun beating down on us, I thought of Dad whistling ahead of me, years ago, when I was 19. He spoke of these hills often, but I had never fully taken in his tales until we got here – in his home, his heritage, the place his heart always led him back to. Just as I am now, I’d been spellbound. How did such a place exist? Over the years, my husband and I have travelled to Thailand, Bali, Australia, the Maldives – but this part of Scotland beat them all.
At last, after walking for two hours, we finally found a quiet spot and, without hesitating, we dunked into the cool water, our sweaty bodies suddenly feeling refreshed and our minds invigorated.
The afternoon slowly passed. We jumped in and out of the pools, swam and relaxed on the surrounding rocks. However, as I was enjoying the freshness of the waterfall on my back, the late-afternoon sunlight golden, I looked at my husband and wondered: Will we ever be able to come here and share the experience with a child of our own? Aged 34 and 39, our clock was slowly ticking.
Eventually, as the sun was setting over the Cuillin, we found a campsite.
Perhaps the fairies blessed us as we swam in their clear blue waters and soaked in the magic of this beautiful, remote part of Scotland; or the uncontrollable aspect of fate, where you don’t choose the moment, but it chooses you. Either way, nine months later we were welcoming our baby girl into our lives, with a name that had been gifted to us: Skye.
Six years have now passed since that trip and each day we watch in wonder as our girl grows up, full of excitement and youth. Together, we are always to be found in Scotland’s wondrous spots, camping along its riverbanks, picnicking on its coast, road tripping around its winding roads with the window down in Glen Coe, playing Caledonia.
And I see the look of adoration in her eyes for Scotland as we roam around. Am I passing on the ‘love of Scotland’ baton to her, as my parents once did to me? Or is this a deal that has simply already been made, a whisper to the soul like DNA being passed on through the generations? Perhaps we all inherit a piece of the love that runs through our parents’ hearts.