Hello reading friends!
Those who know me well, know how much I am inspired by travel, but events of 2020 have made foreign jaunts impossible and over the summer I was content to enjoy long walks close to home. But by September, my mojo was flat-lining and I yearned for a change and to try something different. So, Hubs and I decided to go glamping. Two nights on a site near Dornoch, an area of Scotland we had yet to explore.
En route, we took a short detour to the Falls of Shin, known as one of the best places in Scotland to view salmon leaping. Over the years, we’ve trekked to several falls across the country, hoping to witness just such an event, but with no success. This time, it had been bucketing down for days meaning the falls were spectacular. But surely no salmon would attempt such a risky manoeuvre as flinging themselves upstream with the river in spate? Imagine my excitement when we spotted the first dark flashes as they battled against the relentless rush of water, trying time and again to scale the sides of the river, avoiding the worst of the torrent. The fish looked small against the might of the falls; their journey perilous. It was a mesmerising sight. But more than that, it was a reminder to never give up, even though the odds may seem stacked against you. A fabulous message from nature.
As the sun was shining, we decided to make the most of the day by climbing the small hill that makes up Balblair woods, which provides stunning views over the Kyle of Sutherland.
It is a mix of walking and mountain-biking trails, through Scots Pine and larch, where luck was with us for a second time when we spotted a red squirrel. Not too far in, we came to an intersection and chose the trail not marked, the road less travelled. And I’m so glad we did as we came to a lochan tucked just off the track, dark and still, its surface a mirror for the surrounding trees.
The silence was broken only by the gentle hum of dragonflies mating, as they flitted and danced around us, and the wooden jetty we stood on. The sunlight glistened on their fairy-like wings. It felt a special place, where the world fell away and it was easy to absorb the peace of nature.
After a full day, it was time to make for our glamping pod. With underfloor heating, a hot shower, microwave and fridge, it would be wrong to give the impression we were roughing it! Far from it. Our accommodation was pretty and cosy, immaculately clean and exactly what we needed to unwind.
Day two dawned bright, so we donned our hiking boots and headed for the sea, walking the long stretch of sands from Dornoch to Embo, where we enjoyed a coffee al fresco.
We took a pretty woodland walk, following the disused railway line, back to Dornoch for a spot of lunch, where we checked out its famous cathedral (where Madonna and Guy Ritchie were wed in 2000, before a star-studded congregation of guests).
And, of course, no trip would be complete without a browse in a good book shop and the Dornoch Bookshop ticked all the boxes on that score.
With one afternoon left, we opted to visit Dunrobin Castle, the seat of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. It’s a dream confection with conical spires, so magnificent that it reminded me of the movie, Shrek. There were no ogres or dragons here though, instead we found the most amazing formal gardens, inspired by the Palace of Versailles.
But the flowers I liked best were tucked away in a corner – a carpet of lilac autumn crocus in full bloom.
The other plant that caught my eye (in honesty it was hard to miss) was the patch of Gunnera manicata, or giant rhubarb. A native of South America, its leaves measure around 8 feet long! Who would have thought a member of the humble rhubarb family could pose such a display?
But what has all this to do with writing? Well glamping reminded me of how important it is to keep trying new things to help fill that creative well. Although I didn’t come back with any specific story ideas, I felt more focused and energised by spending two days observing nature in all its wonderful glory.
So, how do you keep life fresh and interesting, during these difficult times? And what simple tricks do you use to help banish those same-old, same-old blues?
Until next time, stay safe and be like the hardy salmon, never giving up on your dreams.