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Monday, 30 December 2013

The Mystical NW Highlands



On our way to Durness
It was but a dream… and it seemed to continue as such even as we found ourselves on our way to Ullapool and then farther north, to Durness. The rays of sun still shining on us in Inverness would swiftly disappear. Instead, a cold wind and scattered drops of rain would be our companions. By Ullapool, we would have a real storm on our tail. The farther north we drove, the more dramatic the scenery and weather got. Shades of grey, deep mists, thick layers of rain, and zealous gusts were perfected by dashes of pure green and reddish brown. On the serpentines to the northernmost part of Scotland’s NW mainland, with not a soul in sight, we were already hooked by it all. And we were listening to BBC Gaelic and the harsh sounds of this mystical language to continue and be hooked.
By the time we reached Durness and our campsite, it was already dark, the wind was blowing rather hard and we could hear the roar of the waves on that amazing whitish beach, sprinkled with giant rocks reminding me of southern Iceland. We fell asleep to that roar that night and we woke up to it the following morning.
Durness Beach
The sun was red, its rise was glorious and I could barely say goodbye to that place. Luckily, we were heading to another landmark of our journey: the craft village of Balnakeil. I had first heard about it during one of my Highland History modules and I was so keen to discover it on my own: a collection of buildings from the mid 1950s, erected as early warning stations in case of a nuclear attack. However, these were never commissioned, so advertisements were placed in several newspapers throughout the United Kingdom, to find artists that could populate this remote location for a minimal rent. This is how today’s Balnakeil was born, trading the fears of war for a solid amount of creativity. Among others, the village hosts Cocoa Mountain, one of the finest chocolateries I’ve visited in my life and my target for the day. With the white chocolate and the toffee of my über-delicious croissant melting on my lips, my mind stopped for a second – I realised where I was and how grateful I was for my wildest dreams coming true.
It wasn’t over. As we left to Tongue, heading farther south, I couldn’t stop the wows cascading in my mind: rain and sunshine mixed in a crazy morning’s dance, infinite rainbows, and landscapes so stunning that – even though in a great hurry –, we couldn’t help but stop our car and take pictures. On many occasions. With the steep yet mellow and simple lines that the mountains of the region drew in the clear sky, the mid-October green, brown, and red seemed even brighter and added mystery and drama to this place already described and sang as such.
When, finally, we even spotted some deer grazing in the meadows nearby, we were in awe. It was a fantastic show put on for us alone, or so it seemed. Wonderful was at the time a word made up precisely to describe our journey, that morning, and that part of the world so sublime that I still feel it calling me back there.   

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