Friday, 26 August 2011

A Spiritual Homecoming

Scout Rock - looking a bit Easter Islandy
“I want to see mountains again, mountains Gandalf! And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.” – Bilbo Baggins

On Monday, after some sixteen months absence, I returned to my spiritual home of Lochgoilhead – a small village located deep into the Arrochar Alps, at the head of the tidal Loch Goil, surrounded by arguably the most breathtaking and picturesque scenery in all of the Highlands of Scotland.

This was the area I travelled to live and work in not long after my awakening, in February last year, and it will always be a very special, magical place to me, both in my heart and in my mind.

I woke up that morning with an impulse for mountains and, initially, planned to go through to Borrowdale, in the English Lake District, but balancing up travel times, Lochgoilhead was only an extra hour away… and my return had been a long time coming.

I looked online and booked a cheap room for a couple of nights, did some hasty packing, then set off on my Bagginsesque adventure.

After a relaxed train ride up to Glasgow, then another to reach Helensburgh, I boarded the bus that would take me into the mountains… and what a journey that is. The route skirts the banks of the immense Loch Lomond – the largest lake in all of Great Britain - where I worked from February to April of this year, and that stretch alone had me grinning like a child on Christmas morning.

Passing the mighty Ben Lomond, I looked up at the 3,196ft summit that I hiked to in the Spring, and it was almost as though I could feel myself staring back down. I remembered standing there, gazing at the road far off in the distance, across the loch… the same road I was travelling on… and there not being a sound. Almost a kilometre up in the sky, the bustle of the busy world is silenced.

Ben Lomond

Approaching Lochgoilhead itself – after travelling six miles along a twisting single-track mountain pass – I was filled with a supreme sense of euphoria. I had a huge smile on my face as the bus pulled up outside the village post office and I stepped down, planting my feet on that sacred ground once more.

It was surreal to be there again after so long, while at the same time feeling like I’d never left – as though those sixteen months had passed in a heartbeat.

After booking in to my room at the pub on the edge of the loch, dropping off my bag, I went for a wander around the village, then back to the scout centre I’d worked at last year. My old boss, Mike, had a big smile and a man-hug for me, and I saw a few more friendly faces before heading up to my meditation post on the mountain, the wonderful Scout Rock.

Scout Rock is a place of such immense peace. Though only around 400ft above the village, it offers a tranquil viewpoint on the world, and without moving my head, I could see all of my old haunts… from the building I used to live in, the post office and the pub, to the hotel across the loch where I’d go to the gym.

I sat there, meditating and smiling, just soaking up the view, filled with joy.

One tragic change I learnt was that one of the women I used to work with, Anne, had died this May from pancreatic cancer. She’d been a support to me when I went through my own cancer scare, up there, last year, so it was particularly poignant. It seems there was only a space of weeks between her diagnosis and death – she’d declined treatment because there was nothing they could do to save her…

In such surroundings, though, we’re reminded just how fleeting our time is in this world, and that even mountains crumble and fall. None of us know how long we have here, so it’s important to remember to make the best of each moment… and life is filled with beauty, if you choose to look at it the right way.

As far as I can be, I’m sure that it wasn’t my last visit to Lochgoilhead. I hope someday to return there to stay. It’s a writer’s paradise, with scenery that inspires and nurtures creativity. Until then, it will always be my spiritual home, always calling me back.

Here are a selection of photos... click on them to see the full-size images:

Lochgoilhead, under The Steeple - Scout Rock at the centre

66 comments:

  1. Lovely! Live for the moment!

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  2. Beautiful, Les.

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and pictures.

    eden
    xoxox

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  3. Beautiful. How lucky to be able to walk there.

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  4. "Even mountains crumble and fall", brilliant Les, love your blog updates

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  5. It's a very nice post about your hobbit like trip! I wish I could take one too! I am sorry for the loss of your friend. That must have been difficult. I could almost smell the air myself and I thank you so much for allowing me to see the pics you took! I have a lot of Scottish in me, perhaps that's why I'm so drawn. I know it's not the same as being from there. Still it is a beautiful place, I can see why you are inspired!

    Your friend and fan,
    Patti

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  6. So glad you were able to make the trip and absorb the serenity. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. We were there last year for a weeks break and it truly is the most serene beautiful place, your photos have brought back memories for me to. Thank you

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  8. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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  9. Thank you for sharing! When one awakens, everything is even more magical!

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  10. I do not know you but I know you now. The loss of a wonderful and exuberant friend has touched us both and your words were such a comfort because she will not be forgotten. She loved Lochgoilhead too.

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  11. Les, you have to be a writer to write as beautiful as you do! So deep and right. Looking at your second picture, the one with the turnstile, reminds me of a visit to Ireland in 2008, where I hiked up volcano Slieve Gullion with my daughter and two friends. We started out in fog and rain, then the curtain lifted while we were on top and presented the most unbelievable panorama for a minute, long enough to take pictures. The fog came back, we got hopelessly lost on the way down, fog lifted, found our path, then hiked down in the biggest downpour every experienced. Ah, Irland...
    I follow you on twitter, I am Katzbrui
    Would like to send you some pictures of Slieve Gullion, where to? Later, Uta Burke

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  12. Thank you, as always, Eden - you Hobbit-sized bundle of loveliness! :) xoxox

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  13. Thank you, Ellis! Yes, I feel fortunate to have returned. It's like my batteries have been recharged with the magic of the place. :-)

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  14. Thank you, Neil - I really appreciate that. :-)

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  15. It is, Patti. There's such a peace to places like that, but this is my favourite of them all. Would happy to be your host if you came over here, some day, to see them for yourself! :-)

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  16. Ah, Penny, I'm glad they took you back for a moment. I'll never tire of looking at those mountains. :-)

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  17. Thank you so much, Lola! Loved yours, too! Can't find the follow button, though. :-S

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  18. Thank you for reading, Joan! :-)

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  19. Beautiful words, Anon. Yes, she did. :-)

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  20. Hi Uta! That sounds literally breathtaking. Must have been wonderful to behold! I was caught at the top of Ben Lomond in March as the weather turned. It was spring 1000ft lower, but I got blasted by winter and sideways snow up there. Was amazing to see, but I wish I'd worn arctic gear. :-)

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  21. I enjoyed reading about your spiritual experience. Funny how mountains can reach through to your soul. Nature has her way with us. Sometimes it isn't pretty. Still, She is always honest. I lost my lovely Sister to fast moving pancreatic cancer. You have my deepest sympathies.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister. :-(

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  22. Beautiful photos. I'd like to see these places for myself one day. :)

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    1. I hope you get the chance! It's a magical place. :-)

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  23. An amazing dose of early morning reading for me, erased all my negative thoughts, precisely what I needed. Thanks x

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    1. Glad I could be of help, Emma - though sorry for the shocking delay in responding!

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  24. What a beautiful post; makes me want to jump on the train right now! RIP Anne, what a sad loss.

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  25. Beautiful photos! Scotland is the one place I've always wanted to visit. Even just the pictures are inspiring. I can't wait to actually see them. I will get to see them someday. Thank you for sharing. :)

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    1. Lochgoilhead is such a magical place. I hope you get to see those mountains soon! :-)

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  26. As a woman raised in the fifties in Canada, I accepted the chauvinistic world. I adored my father and two brothers. Imitating them,I lived and worked using my logical left brain.

    Now I am a writer, and dig deep to awaken the emotional and creative right brain. Your post stirred me, and filled me with longing. A bit of mist in the eyes as well. Thank you for the gift, and the pictures.

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    1. Ah, I'm so happy it moved you, Marion. Thank you so much for taking a look! :-)

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  27. I dream to visit Scotland someday. I am always happy to resd something you tweet....Thank You~~
    Cyndy (@coffissa on twitter)

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  28. A great part of the world, I know it well. The holiday complex is owned by a friend of mine.
    Far removed from this rolling landscape here in SW France, not many days go by when I dont mist the mountains of West Scotland. October is my favourite time of year there, the colours and the air are just prefect.

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    1. Ah, yeah - and no midges in October, either! :-)

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  29. Such legendary landscapes! A visit there is at the very top of my personal bucket list! Thank you for sharing...

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    1. Most welcome! I hope you get the chance to visit someday soon! :-)

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  30. Oh, Les, you have absoulutely made my resolve to travel to Scotland next summer fueled. Mother Earth is the great healer, for both body and soul. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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    1. Thank you for looking in! Hope your plans have advanced! :-)

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  31. This is amazing Les. Scotland is so beautiful and breathtaking. We used to travel to Loch Lomond every year, but now I am hankering to go further to see this! Certainly a piece of paradise. Thanks for sharing.
    Jane Isaac

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    1. Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond are wonderful, but going those extra few miles really makes a difference to the mountainscape. It's wonderful. :-)

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  32. That's a gorgeous shot you're using for your background. Simply stunning. Thanks for taking me back to Scotland and the highlands. I've been a couple of times but it has been too long.

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    1. The background shot is actually of Borrowdale Valley in the English Lake District, taken from the Watendlath path. I used to go meditate here each day. :-)

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  33. Fantastic! I've hiked the West Highland Way on the other side of Loch Lomond, but have never been to the west there. It looks beautiful! Can you recommend any hiking trails around your old town?

    OK HW

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    1. I'm not so sure of any routes around there. I think a web search would be of more help. I used to work at the Rowardennan Hotel, just at the base of Ben Lomond - you'll have passed it on your way. :-)

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  34. hello Les, i spent 2 weeks with my school as a child, it is a place i will never forget, i am a scot, a fifer actually but have spent all of my adult life south of the border, it is only flashbacks from my childhood that keep me away from my home and family.i read about your awakening and it makes me want to strive for that life.the trouble is it always ends badly for me and i feel like a failure all over again.keep writing and inspiring others,you are indeed a rare gem,bless you. best wishes, mary x

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    1. I would imagine you were at the scout centre? The feeling that you're failing comes from the ego - the trick is to identify that this is false, so you can let go of it. I really hope you find your way and stay there, Mary. :-) x

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  35. What a beautiful, magical place, Les. Scotland has always been on my list of places to visit, your words and your pictures have jumped the visit up the queue. I've tried to convince my writing group that a summer spent in the Scottish Highlands, in a haunted castle, preferably, would make the perfect writing retreat. Not sure how much writing we'd get done...

    Rest in peace, Anne.

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    1. Hehe, I think there's a 'haunted house' on the shore of Loch Goil, if that helps convince them?

      Thanks, Sherry. Anne was a truly good soul.

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  36. Beautiful! I visited Scotland once, and I think the entire country is magical. As a writer myself, this sounds like a place I need to visit for a little inspiration!

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  37. Thanks for the photos, I live in Florida originally from Alabama, of Scots-Irish descent. When I see your pictures, it feels like home. Dan

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    1. I hope you get a chance to see them yourself before long, Dan! :-)

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  38. Gorgeous, Les! One of these days ...

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  39. wonderful... makes me wanna go there.. loved the photos

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  40. Oh how beautiful - I loved reading this. I'm on the Scottish South West Coast and LOVE my trips up north. I look forward to reading more x

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  41. My Mum, Dad and I visited there on our massive world trip from Oz with my Scottish cousin many years ago..Your description brought back some very fond memories and I will certainly return there again : )

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  42. I am fascinated by this Les. I think I started reading your blog before the "awakening." May I ask, what was the catalyst? My mother's family is from Scotland and I have always wanted to take her for a visit. She turns 71 this year. My 14-year-old son Alex also really wants to go to Scotland. Have you ever read "Kingdom by the Sea" by Paul Theroux? One thing he says about Scotland is that it was the one place he visited that he wanted to return to with someone he loved.

    For now, I am living vicariously through you :-) Thanks for this post.

    Dana

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  43. Thanks Les,

    I have loved that place since I first visited over 40 years ago. Much easier to stay now given the expansion of the chalet complex which has not spoiled the beauty of the loch and the mountains.

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  44. Loved this post. Brought back memories of many family holidays taken there when our kids were young. Special place indeed.

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  45. Hi Les, Happy New Year to you first of all ;-) I was fortunate enough to catch your tweet which led me to this post, and like before, I'm always greatful that you shared your vision and musings. This was awesome, I could see what you were seeing and feel your peacefulness. It is a spectacular location, I'm happy for you that it's a part of your experience. Thanks for sharing another great piece.

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