A Treasured Outdoor Moment - Richard Hartland
My wife and I spent Christmas in the Scottish Highlands this year. We were blessed with some good weather - clear skies and snow on the tops. On both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we walked together. On Christmas Eve we walked up the old Road to the Isles from Tomdoun to Loch Loyne. The weather was wonderfully clear, but with an icy wind. The forest above Tomdoun was like walking through the forest of Fangorn in Lord of the Rings, with lichen and moss hanging from the tree limbs in great clumps. Upon reaching Loch Loyne, the water level was so low we were able to walk across the old bridge to what is usually an island. I would guess that the level of the loch was not much above the original level before the dam was built in the 1950s.
On Christmas Day we walked up into the Lost Valley in Glencoe. This is a place I have been many times, but my wife had never been and it had been on our bucket list since we got together 6 years ago. My wife has always loved walking but Breast Cancer and the Chemotherapy treatment which followed took their toll and she is neither as fit nor as strong as she once was. Consequently, this was not an easy walk for her. Needless to say, with good clear skies and snow on the tops it was stunning, though again there was a very 'lazy’ icy wind. We were surprised by how busy it was as we’d reasoned that Christmas Day would be quiet; we probably saw about a dozen people. But everyone’s spirits were high and there were plentiful greetings of “Merry Christmas”.
We found a sheltered spot out of the wind amongst the boulders in the glen, sat down for lunch and were promptly joined by a very large Raven.
I have ‘experience’ with Ravens; many years ago a group of them stole most of the food from then tent in Coire Leis when I was ice climbing on Ben Nevis, all while one of them was keeping watch on us at the summit. So I know that these birds are highly intelligent, but also very wary and usually very shy.
This was a real privilege, to be joined by one. To be fair it stayed about 10 yards away but did venture a bit closer to eat some morsels we threw for it. After lunch, we said our goodbyes to the Raven and set off back to the road.
But that was an experience both of us will cherish forever, it certainly helped us forget that the hot soup we had brought with us turned out to be stone cold!