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A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Leaving the narrow park road behind me quickly, mainly in fear of being mowed down by another bus, if there was one, I pushed through a bank of heather and found a tiny trail that sloped downhill between the tall pines.
If I was to find Loch Morlich, or any body of water for that matter, going downhill seemed to be the sensible course of action.
After tripping over a few tree roots and lifting fern branches that appeared displeased at human interference, I burst into a clearing and found a clutch of holiday caravans. Aside from the demonic bus driver, this was the first sign of life I’d detected since leaving town.
I resolved to look as though I knew what I was doing – tall Englishmen lunging unannounced out of forests might be quite normal in Scotland, after all – and strode purposefully through the campground. No one paid me the slightest bit of attention. Three or four children ran past with sticks; a man in an undershirt prodded half-cooked meat on a grill; two elderly ladies in housecoats gossiped at each other without pause. Where these people had come from or why they were here remained a mystery.
Above all, it seemed as though they were entirely oblivious to their beautiful surroundings. They could have been parked behind a factory in Hull and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
The little path gave way to a broad gravely driveway and then narrowed again before disappearing into a deeply forested area. I followed it and caught a glimpse of shimmery water between the tree trunks. The soil underfoot became sandy, and presently the trees thinned to reveal a wide beach around quite the most fetching body of glassy water I have ever seen.
Dark hills of deep purple and green shouldered around the shore while taller mountains reached high into the hazy blue in the far distance. The lake edge was sunny in parts where beach-like areas were exposed, dark and shadowy in others where the pines stood above the water.
Not only was the scene one of almost unparalleled beauty, it was virtually devoid of people. A cluster of families sunning in various stages of dangerously red burn; children running into and out of the water with a dog; someone rowing a little boat; a couple strolling between the trees that leaned over the sands; I felt as though I had discovered a completely new world inhabited only by two dozen caravaners.
It took over three hours to walk all the way around the loch, but I wasn’t in a hurry. The air was cool despite the September sun, the shade was welcoming, and at every turn in the path I was afforded ever more stunning views of the clear water and the beauty of the hills beyond.
Untouched by progress for millennia, untrampled by mankind, spotless the way Mother Nature designed it, Loch Morlich languished like an uncut emerald in a velvety quilt freshly shaken and settling over the stony Highlands.
I resolved to return, perhaps with trunks or at the very least a towel.
It was time to find another bus. I followed the trail back through the ferns and pines until I reached the road, which was just as empty as when I’d left it.
A bus timetable stained by many a winter storm clung to a post beside the wooden fence. Buses every 51 minutes, it said, on alternate weekdays in any month without a ‘b’ in it, otherwise 27 minutes past every third hour except three and five o’clock, and only twice on Sundays, or something.
I didn’t bother checking the time. Either a bus would come or it wouldn’t.
The trees whispered in a light breeze. The sky stayed turquoise. I ate a piece of chocolate.
It doesn’t matter what’s on your mind in Scotland. It doesn’t matter what worries or chores lie in wait, beyond the far shadowy hills in your real world. For now, you are carefree, unnoticed, insignificant, tiny and alone.
In those silent moments, beside that little road, between those princely pines, nothing mattered at all.
I would have been fine waiting for hours, or as long as the chocolate lasted.