Saturday, June 25, 2011

192 minutes of breathtaking beauty, and the best "Brandy" we've ever "tasted"...

Joan, high above Loch Brandy..."connecting".
When the human spirit is wounded, healing most often comes with connection - often in the company of others, but also by spending time in a natural environment of remote and breathtaking beauty. Yesterday, for Joan and I, it was a soothing and welcome balance of both.

A "marker", built over time - that helped us find our way.
We spent the morning at St Margaret's Parish, meeting and greeting folks, at the Friday morning coffee hour.

Such times are good "listening" times. I enjoy hearing folks speak about their lives, their families, their passions, their travels, their hopes and their dreams. The act of listening is also a valuable opportunity to affirm and value others. In so doing, we communicate to them the preciousness of both their stories and the "markers" that they have left behind - without saying a word. It just happens...whenever we listen with attentiveness and care.

Following coffee, we had scheduled two visits - the second, with a couple of delightful folks of "wiser" years who kindly offered us a glass of whisky, prior to a cup of tea and a plethora of tasty sweets.  (Gee, that doesn't happen in Canada - the offer of whisky, I mean!) We so wanted to accept the offer, but the truth is, neither one of us has ever acquired a taste for the legendary Scottish beverage. Heck, to show you how totally uncultured I am, I thought "single malt" was like ordering a "single" shot of espresso in your latte! Well...apparently, that's not what it means.

Filled with delicious tea, shortbread, apple tarts, and our hearts warmed by the hospitality of our hosts, it was time to make another connection. We had been looking forward to the possibility of a hill climb around Loch Brandy. It promised remote beauty, breathtaking views, and a suitable "calorie-busting" hike - a grand recipe, anytime.

The Clova Hotel - it brought back memories 
of the Lodge at Lake O'Hara in the Rockies.
The hike begins at the tiny little "outpost" of Clova, just inside the boundary of Cairngorms National Park. It is here that the Scottish terrain begins to take your breath away - literally. Leaving the trailhead and the Clova Hotel, the ascent is steady as you rise in elevation, the views becoming increasingly dramatic.

What's not to love about a Garmin 305 - it's just such great company!
Looking down into the panorama below us, we could see the River Esk, winding its way through the ice-carved valley towards the North Sea, amidst fields of cattle and sheep. Every so often we paused, not only to catch our breath, but to take in the vast beauty before us...and to listen to the calming music of the wind as it brushed the terrain.

The slopes are covered in heather and the peaty moorland "oozes" with the weight of the recent and ample rainfalls. We shared the lonely slopes, once again, with only the sheep, the wild goats, and soaring birds.

A couple of locals - so lucky, they get to live up here!
When you finally reach the tarn of Loch Brandy, the world becomes suddenly silent. The water is dark and still. The towering slopes bring shelter from the wind - and you feel the warmth of this magical place.

Loch Brandy and the ridge above and beyond.
You try to take it all in and capture the vista, both in your mind, and "digitally".

And then it is time to go higher.

It seems the top of the ridge will never come - but we are just impatient, for the scenic reward that we know awaits. The winds increase again - and it is time to add another layer of clothing from the backpack. Finally, reaching the top, the view is as promised - stunning. The neighbouring peaks of Dreish and Mayar, two "Munros", beckon from the west - perhaps another possibility before we leave this marvellous country.

Looking west from the ridge.
Above the sheltered and quiet loch, it is time to pause...and connect.

High above Loch Brandy...a source of wholeness, health, and joy.
And then it is time to complete the ridge walk, descend the steep path, and return to the trailhead. It was a time of "connection", of healing...and a source of renewed strength.

192 minutes, 8.74 kilometres, 684 metres of elevation gain - and a "taste" of what has to be the finest "Brandy", anywhere.

That's my kind of "spirits". :)


PS Applying a little common sense, we found some nice light hiking boots at Tiso for these sorties. Sure made life a lot easier on the feet - there were some steep and rocky places to negotiate. Tiso is the UK's answer to MEC and REI - pretty nice.


  1. Oh so beautiful...I wish I was there with you! So nice to hike up so high and be able to see all around you ...not in a forest of trees!

  2. Sounds like just the hike you two needed. But the weather! And we're complaingin here about summer never coming. The alpine-seeming vistas are quite something -- quite different, stunning in their own way.

  3. And it would be nice to have you here, L, you would be hill walking every day. There are forest hikes but so refreshing to be "above the tree line" right from the start!

    It was, indeed, just the thing, Andy. And we've been "driving" an umbrella pretty much every day since arriving! We've learned some impressive techniques with the "brolly" in tight urban environments! Yes, the landscape is dramatic yet so different from our Canadian mountains - but just as breathtaking.

  4. Take the time to heal up brother. And take the time to cry. You have so much inspiration to give to those in need of spiritual uplifting it is an amasing thing for a person to be able to do regardless of religious creed. And ensure you get some you time at home. Again you are in my thoughts brother. shalom.

  5. Your words mean a great deal, Lee, thank you for that. Some day, we'll all get out paddling together - we'd find a lot to talk about, I know. Peace be with you, my friend.