07 – Lake District and the Scottish Highlands ’13

The Campsie Fells. Deer escape. Most heavily fortified Italian restaurant in the country. The UFO hotspot of the UK. Towns. Clearcuts. 


About 12:10 am

Meikle Bin

That evening, driving the Campsie Fells, we turned onto a narrow lane behind a deer. It glanced at us for a second before breaking into a run. There were barbed wired topped farm walls on either side and a long straight road ahead. The deer slowed, decided on the left side wall, and leapt over, belly clearing the barbed wire by millimetres. One smooth movement.


The clouds were heavy and they made the landscape sombre. We listened to music; abstract, sparse arrangements. Radiohead and Bjork and John Frusciante, as we past waterfalls and valleys, wind turbines, abandoned farm buildings and stone houses, grid-work forests and the clear cuts they’d become and around them marshes or rolling fields to the horizon. Everywhere a depressed pallet, browns, dark greens, yellow, mauve. Sheep as pinpoints of white or black spread intermittently over distant slopes.

Here, beauty is left alone to exist; the wilderness spreads endlessly in all directions. In the Lake District, the wilderness has a nail salon and Starbucks attached. I’m not sure they even know what Starbucks is this far north, outside the cities. We drove for hours but past only four cars. This is exactly what I wanted, to drive and see no one, no street lamps, no estates, no polystyrene coffee mugs, just the world; brown fields under diminishing red sky and grey forests, impenetrable in the night.


The towns here are no different to back home though. Passing through Bonnybridge, a town famed for UFO activity, the question lingers; what do the aliens want here? This is the Scottish equivalent to claims made by the inhabitants of the boondocks in the deep south and the lonely trailer residents of New Mexican desert stops. It is more deprived than working class estates at home. Even the goal posts on the playing fields are rusted brown.

All the towns we past were like this; packs of kids in tracksuits in front of perfectly square, uniform, pebble dashed council houses, or hanging outside boarded up shops and petrol stations. The alleyways slashed with graffiti, the dog walkers trudging along paths next to high fences of cold steel, razor wire borders. Every garage caked with anti-climb paint, every face over thirty with deep cracks and exhausted expressions.

During the drive, we came across a complex with a barb wire perimeter full of army vehicles. According to our sat-nav, this was Frankie and Benny’s, New York style Italian food. We drove up to the barricade and looked over like, I don’t see no chain-restaurant here. It had a series of signs at the entrance. “Passes must be shown on demand” and “All cameras to be deposited at Police Office.”

There was another sign by the entrance, next to the barricade, also of some interest; “Threat Level: Responsive.”

What does that mean?

And next to this place where the threat level was responsive and the razor wire polished, was a kid’s playground. Rusty fences, of course.

If there was a Frankie and Benny’s inside, it must have been the best defended, most security conscious one in the world.

We past our second clear cut today. A few splinters of tree trunks, like bony corpses, left in a boneyard of grey stumps. We passed also the young forests that replaced them—trunks still protected in cylindrical guards—planted in lines; sterile. Bred to be killed en masse. A factory farm of trees. Around the boundary of the clear cut, some had dislodged from the ground. Probably ripped up during the ground stress of deforestation. They leant on their neighbours like fallen soldiers.


About Luke Smith

I travel around and write about it. When I'm not travelling around, I write about whatever seems meaningful to me at the time; these are usually meditations on current events, finding ways to survive the crushing existential grind of modern civilisation or vaguely philosophical musings.
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1 Response to 07 – Lake District and the Scottish Highlands ’13

  1. Pingback: The Lake District and the Highlands ’13 – Complete Contents Page | Journeys Through Pre-World War 3 Britain

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