"In all thy moods I love thee", this is how Scottish poet Alice MacDonell opens her poem titled "from Lochaber for ever", Lochaber being the region home to the highest mountain in the United Kingdom "Ben Nevis", located in the West Highland's of Scotland, this may sound pretty specific but to be honest I never knew this place existed two days before I took this photo.
So let me try set the scene for how this all came about. There wasn't a whole lot that I knew about Scotland before I decided to go other then knowing that I wanted to visit in the month of October. Also there being a place called the Highlands and you can't forget the famous Loch Ness monster, all this along with the idea of old Gaelic castles covering the land was enough for my wife and I to go to Scotland. Our first stop was Edinburgh, one of Scotland's largest cities, an amazing city, but i'm not here to see that, I want to see mountains. So as we leave Edinburgh my wife wants to visit Loch Ness, home of the mysterious monster and I want to see the Highland's, but to my surprise i'm told that the Highlands are all over Scotland and that I will need to be a little more specific. OK so Loch Ness it is, I know we have time so i'm relying on the locals to tell me where to go to find my Highland's, no better knowledge then local knowledge.
We arrive in a city called Inverness which is a city connected to the start of Loch Ness, its 10pm at night with no where to stay except in our little Japanese car. So we drive around looking for somewhere quiet to park up for the night. As I pull in to a dark carpark next to a river I see a tent pitched with a camp fire burning.
I turn to my wife and say "We have a tent should we put our tent up?" the idea didn't sound so bad to me, but unsure of who is there I tell me wife i'll go check it out. So as I approach the tent i'm greeted by a middle age Scotsman who I struggle to understand, he is happy to see me and tells me that he has been camping there for a while and he goes on to tell me that the river he is camping next to connects to the loch(lake) where the stories of the Loch Ness monster came from. I'm loving this, a Scotsman telling me stories about the Loch Ness monster around a camp fire next to Loch Ness, and with his stories he goes on to tell me of a place south/west of Inverness called Fort William, "Majestic mountains" is all I can remember and possibly understand from that conversation, but that was enough for me. Fort William was the start of my list of Highlands, and who better to inspire the next stop of the trip then and Scottish man in a tent next to a lake with monster at 10pm around a camp fire.
I decide that camping there with my wife and a man that I didn't know wasn't a good idea so I thanked the man for his stories and found another place to sleep in the car for the night.
In the morning we make our way from Loch Ness to Fort William but this isn't easy when every corner you turn the views just seem to get better and better, you can't help but think of the Gaelic people that would roam in their clans fighting for their land amongst this timeless landscape full of mountains and lochs, this journey was only supposed to take 1 hour 30 minutes, but time wasn't important, we were enjoying every second of every corner and that was all that matters.
Once we made it to Fort William two days after meeting our friend in the tent, I am greeted with mountains, it doesn't fall short of expectations, and then we see it, the mountain we would later find out is called
Ben Nevis, and thats the moment I turn to my wife and say "Lets climb up that mountain". This idea doesn't even phase her. Lucky for me we arrive at the bottom of Nevis, it's 11am and the sun goes down at 6:30pm. We are told the walk will take 8 hours so thats it, I pack my bag, Phase One camera, tripod, warm clothes and some food for the hike, had I'd have known that Ben Nevis was the Highest summit in the whole of the UK before we started the walk I may have carried less, but ignorance is bliss and once we made the summit carrying 10kg of camera gear made perfect sense.
The climb of Ben Nevis was my introduction to the Scotland I had dreamed about and as I reflect on the time we spent in Scotland I'm reminded of the words of Alice MacDonell "In all thy moods I love thee", over 100 years later this couldn't be more true, though Alice was talking more specifically of Lochaber, I choose to relate it to all of the Highlands of Scotland, mist covered valleys, black water reflecting the colour of autumn leaves and sun rays percing thought the stubborn clouds to paint light on to the mountains beneath.
To most people the perfect day is blue skies and warm sun, this isn't likely in Scotland and lucky for me that isn't my idea of a perfect day. I'm from New Zealand the land of the long white cloud where we get four seasons in one day and perhaps thats why I love Scotland so much, the opposite side of the globe yet it feels like home.