|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.
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|