Essay: Up a bonnie, bonnie hill by Loch Lomond
It was a day calculated to turn anyone into a hiker.
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I then realized that he was more used to hill walking than I am.Skip to next paragraph
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"That's what we are going up," he announced with surprising certainty. "I thought we'd start with an easy one."
To me Conic Hill loomed gigantic against the blue sky.
"Ah, right," I said.
"Do you want to start straightaway?" he asked, handing me a lightweight telescopic walking stick. "Or should we have scones first? They do really good scones at the restaurant just over there."
I opted for scones. They were good ones with cream and jam, eaten in front of a large log fire. And then, delay tactics over, we set out.
The first part was through trees – larches and pine, the ground under them virtually a moss garden. The path had been much used. It reminded me of wooded parts of Switzerland, and a group of keen ramblers humming, "I love to go a-wandering/ along the mountain track...." might not have been totally unexpected. They would undoubtedly, however, have made me feel inappropriately dressed.
My boots were OK (if a couple of decades out of fashion), but otherwise I might as well have been dressed for walking the dogs. And instead of the requisite knapsack on my back, I had slung a camera bag over my head to carry sandwiches, and as the path grew steeper and stonier – at one point, requiring the use of my hands as well as my feet – this single-strap bag swung round in front of me discombobulatingly.
"If I ever do this again," I thought, "I will visit an outdoor pursuits kind of shop first."
Once above the trees, we paused now and then to turn and gaze at the extraordinary sight developing below us.
"You will never have a day better than this." The Electricity Man was definite, and I suspect he knew what he was talking about.
Gradually, as we moved higher, the loch spread out widely to our view. Its surface was immaculately still.
Left over from the early morning was just enough mist to soften shapes, and the luminous islands, completely united with their reflections, were like clouds floating in the intangible light, as if loch was transmuted into sky.
Some Japanese artists have caught a hint of such a view – such a space – in their paintings. But the real thing, here and now, was beyond art.
I think it was probably beyond photography, too, though we will never know, as I forgot my digital camera, and the Electricity Man's old-school contrivance turned out to have no film in it. We stored it as an intense memory.
If anything was calculated to turn me into an enthusiastic hill walker, that day was. It was breathtaking in the best way. And when we managed to come down the right side of that beguiling hillock and walk back to the car along the loch side, I didn't feel remotely weary.
Energized would be the right word, I think. Battery recharged.