Ahhh, a good sleep! So quiet and peaceful…I even woke up before my alarm, raring to go and feeling well rested. The slight cloud cover from the night before had obviously kept the frost at bay but it looked like being a nice sunrise. I headed to Rannoch Moor, keen to try out another location – this time from a higher vantage point to hopefully separate the lochans. It was a morning of soft candyfloss-pink clouds and from the incongruously placed (but very much welcome) bench I brewed up my coffee, ate my porridge and watched the light change. The rutting stags were roaring on the moor, and I saw one of them chased off by its rival. This is my favourite time to be out, it always feels special.
It was another beautiful day in Glencoe, and I was beginning to think that bad weather in the Highlands is actually a myth to keep it relatively quiet! Took the tent down, had a shower and headed north. I was eager to visit another location – Glen Nevis. I’d not been there for a long time and was keen to visit it.
I’m glad I did – it is stunning. In its lower reaches the River Nevis meanders along the bottom of the glen bounded on one side by the great bulk of Ben Nevis and on the other by the Mamores. Further up the glen it starts to fall in cascades through a wild and wooded landscape. It felt alpine, wild and dramatic – even in the bright sunlight.
From the car park at the end of the road I made my way up through the birch woods and caught my first glimpse of Steall Falls which looked very far away. The path began to wind up hill along the side of a cliff, crossing burns and with views occasionally opening out from the trees into Glen Nevis. Twisted bonsai-like Scots Pines clung to the slope and hung precariously over huge drops. The valley became a gorge with the rushing water charging over and under and around great boulders the size of cars. The awesome power of glaciation and then centuries of erosion from the water could be seen on the scoured rocks and boulders. I scrambled down the slippery rocks and got in amongst them. It was quiet down there, shadowed and cold with the sky only glimpsed above through a canopy of Birch and Scots Pine.
I clambered back up the slope and rounding a corner the gorge opened up into Steall meadows. It’s a fantastic sight. A wide grassland bounded by steep mountains and to top it all the Steall Falls, thundering down the mountainside in streaks of bright white. The light wasn’t conducive to good photos though – too much contrast, but it didn’t matter. I was happy just to sit and chill, watching a few folk crossing the wire bridge over the river. I didn’t... I chickened out. Next time I’ll do it!
After a while of just sitting about I made my way back through the gorge and back to the car. The weather was turning and I was heading home.
It had been a great trip. I had visited some amazing places, experienced some fantastic light and taken time out to chill. By basing myself in one place I feel that I could get under the skin of it better, soaking it in and watching the way it changed with the light. It definitely takes time to understand a place – and Glencoe offers so much variety in its scenes and moods. It has a definite atmosphere – whether this is from its brutal history of massacre and clearance or it is simply from the lowering presence of the mountains I don’t know. It’s not a remote place, its only a couple of hours from my home in Glasgow and it doesn’t have that haunted feel of other areas of Scotland like Assynt or Sutherland where you can almost feel the absence of people. But Glen Coe definitely has it's own distinct atmosphere and drama. You could easily spend weeks there exploring and making images – there is so much to do. It seems a shame to race through, take photos from the most visited locations and then leave. I was there for three days, yet I didn’t spend very much time in Glen Etive (another magical location) nor did I climb any hills. Nor did I make all the images I needed for the book – but no matter – I’ll be back soon.