The great Scottish poet Robert Burns penned a poem called My Heart is in the Highlands, an ode to his beloved home country, trying in a literary method to convey the arresting beauty of this rugged land. From the moment I arrived in Scotland the land felt almost familiar; I had tasted it’s earthy peat soul on the smooth notes of it’s scotch whisky and heard the echoes of it’s expansive valleys on straining reeds of the great highland pipes. It’s a land of brutal beauty with a heart beating warmly with the kindness of it’s inhabitants; a cheery slap on the back in a warm pub and hearty laughs as bold as the country food, warm the soul as quickly as the popping fireplace.
There is a stillness about this country. Maybe it’s the thick matted grass, forced down and knitted by highland winds. Maybe the sound absorbs into the thin layer of dew coating both castles and cows. Maybe it flees, clinging to the necks of fog tendrils creeping over verdant glens. Whatever the case, the air slips mutedly by, creeping around medieval graves between rays of cold light. Sharp, cold breaths remind me of a wildness pervading this land, it’s bones jut askance as worn stones of a derelict cathedral or an ancient aerie, but it’s there. As another Scottish poet wrote “Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us; Let us journey to a lonely land I know. There’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a star agleam to guide us, And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go.”
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