In the past few days we’ve been escorted off the grounds of a haunted castle by a friendly Scotsman and his dogs—security guards aren’t all assholes—we’ve tried to nap by a waterfall in the early hours, only for our thoughts to converge on the same notion at the same time; we can’t sleep, we should go the fall’s edge and baptise ourselves in the water. After that, we drove on and past an MOD base and some overgrown World War 2 sea defenses, now the centrepieces in a cow field. The same night, in one heroic and almost constant ascent north, we came around a curve in the road and appeared behind a startled badger, who swerved in the headlights, confused and panicked by the car. We slowed down and he rushed into the foliage. The three of us went through more mountains and valleys than I can remember. Each as complex as a face or a fingerprint. All lost somewhere in whatever part of my brain processes images.
Eventually, we set up camp in the familiar wilderness around Loch Maree, where we were attacked and swarmed by hundreds of midges. A war of attrition. A constant bombardment. After a few days, they’d won, we packed up and retreated to a campsite down the road, covered in bites and suffering low spirits.
I’ve never been more pleased to escape somewhere beautiful.
We ask each other almost every day, sometimes over and over again, is this place real? Is this really Scotland—the same island we’re from? It can’t be. We figured at some point during our travels something ripped a hole between universes and we ended up somewhere else entirely. Somewhere that still has remote places and long empty roads. An insane parallel reality where we don’t build on every free green space we find.
Here the sun never goes all the way down. It waits just below the ocean. You see murky orange from the western horizon all night. Midnight feels like a late sunset back home. The early hours merge as they pass and they have the dark blue of an English summer’s late evening. When it should be pitch black over the Highlands you can still walk through the woods by an eerie natural light.
The night is too bright for stars.