Monday, October 22, 2012

The delicious solitude of the "moody" moors...

The thoughtful soul to solitude retires.
- Omar  Khayyam
Trying to "unlock" the gate - albeit, quite unnecessarily! :)
Those sharp-eyed folks who enjoy hill-walking in the glens and Highlands will smile when they identify the "dilemma" in the above image. How do we unlock this gate? Ahh, no problem after all. There is a smaller, one-person-at-a-time, swinging entry gate on the left side...providing quick and easy access. With the breathtaking panorama of the Scottish landscape absorbing our powers of observation - we didn't even notice that it was there!

The "Minister's Path", a 12 km (return) hike from Glen Prosen to Glen Clova, is an another wonderful opportunity to be "alone" in a vast and peaceful moorland. Many years ago, the local minister would take this path (twice each Sunday!) in order to conduct services in the two tiny communities. This, of course, must have contributed greatly to physical fitness - and overall well-being. A good example, indeed, to we modern day folks!

Still enough to hear your own thoughts..
The hills are home to three Scottish heathers - ling, bell heather, and cross-leaved heath. Heather is not native to our home base on Vancouver Island but it grows well and is one of the few plants that escape the resident deer, rabbits, and our admittedly "under-developed" gardening skills. Peregrines, kestrals, red grouse, and deer are also at home here, above and amongst the heather and rough grasses of the moors.

There is a moodiness about the moors, but it's not a sadness. Rather, the very landscape has a "pensive" feel, as if it is in deep thought. Perhaps the ancient hills hold deep memories of the struggles and the triumphs of so many peoples over countless centuries. There is a palpable sense of mystery. Although we encountered only two other people all day, we felt the presence of the generations that had traversed the same hills and glacial-carved valleys.

Trailhead: The Glen Prosen Church - "modern" at just 210 years old.
Loneliness is so very different from the feeling of being alone. I can't think of any "up" side to being lonely. The experience of aloneness, however, can be simply "delicious". It liberates from the distractions of crowds, and traffic. It gives a small break to needing to make engaging conversation and having to be attentive to endless (and sometimes annoying) stimuli - particularly the siren call of our "smart" phones and televisions. Those who paddle solo or who walk the hills alone know very well the connection that is possible to the land or the seascape when there are no such distractions.

Solitude also gives opportunity to hear the often quiet whispers of our own thoughts and contemplations. It is possible that some of those thoughts have waited patiently...for a very long time. And when they are listened to, the experience can be surprisingly restorative.



  1. Hi Duncan, how appropriate that you should walk the Minister's Path! Can I recommend looking out for a book by Robert Smith called "Grampian Ways" which has loads of background info on these routes?

    I know exactly what you mean by "thoughts which have waited patiently for a very long time" too...

    Kind regards

  2. Thank you very much for that, Ian. Yes, we will definitely keep an eye out for that book. We look forward to learning more about all of these special places. Your postings continue to be a great resource. Warm wishes to you. Duncan.

  3. Excellent post. To me loneliness is something internal, a deep mostly negative feeling.
    Being outside in nature where there is no one else around, absorbing the beauty of the land, is uplifting and in those moments I don't beleive we really are ever truly alone. We all need those moments of solitude in our lives.

  4. I certainly agree with what you've said, L. I think it's also helpful for us to understand that the internal and mostly negative feelings of loneliness are often brought on by external circumstances. The good news is that it may be possible to change those external circumstances. I always appreciate your comments. Thanks L. :) D.

  5. Hi Duncan and Joan,
    Beautiful pictures and words. I enjoy catching up with the two of you. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.
    Have a great trip.
    Jen, from High River

  6. Lovely to hear from you Jen and thank you for your kind words - great to know you're there. Warm wishes to you and Doug and family. D and J.