May in the Highlands: Calm waters of the brightest cobalt, ginger reflections of reeds and grasses in the dark tanin corners of silent upland lochans. Huge swathes of primroses are joined by violets under the birches; bright celandines line the damp edges of pathways, marching down to rocky bays, crashing surf, wheeling gulls.
This month is a very special time here on the northwest coast. Usually heralding the best weather of the year, the tiny shoots of bracken are just appearing , a gentle green softening the greys and browns of early spring. The first lambs are bouncing around in the cool, clear sunshine and I have not yet met a midge, although I am sure they have their bags packed in anticipation.
As lockdown continues for the time being, it’s a little frustrating not to be able to welcome visitors, and especially to have to cancel my two sketching holiday itineraries, ‘Windswept Wildnerness’ here in Assynt and ‘Field of the Yellow Haired Boy’ just down the road in Coigach.
These trips run in May and June, my favourite time of year and I shall sincerely miss showing my guests the fabulous, hidden painting spots, picnic spots and simply-sitting-and-gawping spots. To everyone who had hoped to join one of these itineraries, I am truly sorry, and I do hope you will consider booking again next year. The mountains, lochs, beaches, waterfalls and woodlands will still be here, waiting for you and your sketch books.
I confess that I have enjoyed getting out and about during some wonderful warm sunshine (along with a few cloudier days and even a brief flurry of snow last week – yikes – the annual ‘lambing snows’). Even after 30 years I am still discovering new corners and new inspiration. Yesterday I had to drive a short way up the coast to collect a package and decided to stop for a walk along the shoreline at Culkein. It was quite a breezy day and the white foam swirling through bright, clear turquoise around the rocks below the cliffs was mesmerising. Sitting awhile on the rock ‘stack’ across the narrow bridge above the natural sea arch I watched a skua and a pair of gannets diving into the waves, while on the beach a large flock of dunlin were enjoying the tidal influx of seaweed and a lapwing noisily defended its nest. There were no humans in sight.
The walk, taken on a spontaneous whim, turned into one of those rare, immersed in the moment, life-affirming experiences which stay with you forever. In every direction I looked, it was simply perfect. So much so that I decided I must try to incorporate it into the Windswept Wilderness itinerary. My next mission will be to work out how! Tempting though it may be to keep a place such as this quiet, it would be simply selfish but shhh…don’t tell everyone!
Although we are still officially closed to visitors in the Highlands, we are keeping our fingers crossed that you might be allowed to visit before the end of the summer. If you would be interested in joining a sketching day trip – or two – contact me at any time to discuss the possibilities.
Until next month, stay safe and hold the dream!