“I don’t do dams” the lady said dramatically, clasping the back of her hand to her forehead. “Er why is that?” my friend asked somewhat nervously.
“Dams! Can’t bear them. I can’t even look at them!”. “But you keep your eyes on the road, surely? You don’t have to look”.
“No, no, I just can’t even look. I know its there!”.
“But, you don’t have to look; it’s away to the right of the road; which bears left!” “No. Can’t even drive along the road. Nasty things. My husband drives past it no problem. The children and I have never been further than Tulloch”.
My friend looked nervously down at the two innocent children who were destined never to see any further east along the A86 and the stunning landscape – nature reserves, biking trails and mountains including the Cairngorms that would have been so rewarding.
Laggan Dam, completed in 1934, is a stunning example of early 20thC quality and craftmanship; careful attention paid to the finished appearance that is pleasing to the eye nearly a century later – close up you can see the beautiful detail in the cast bronze plaque that was set in place, showcasing the heyday of our industry.
Scotland’s heart is still relatively new to us and so David, having discovered this road whilst driving back from dropping a friend off at Inverness airport came back open mouthed at the drama and beauty along the route, not to mention the vast sweeping skyscapes which we never got from our lovely home tucked in under Helm Crag at the back of Grasmere. There, one looks up to see the sky.
Our next free day allowed us to head out and explore back along the route. The Scottish Highlands are incredibly varied; drive in any direction and you get a completely different feel to the landscape. The day for us became a blend of happy reminders of the Lake District, touches of the Alps and images of British Columbia; like all the best bits of the world one has ever been to.
Creag Meagaidh lies on the north shore of Loch Laggan, half way along the A86 road between Fort William and Newtonmore and is a beautifully managed and maintained nature reserve that is successfully regenerating the natural birch woodland and other flora such as the rare mountain willows.
Coming from the barren fells of Lakeland where hill sheep are intrinsic we see everywhere strong examples of what can be achieved when sheep are removed from the landscape. This is not partisan propaganda – rather a snapshot of what is being shown to 2 individuals who come from the heart of Herdwick country.
Lichens festoon the branches here; taking nothing away from the natural beauty and adding a mantle in their own way; almost like snow.
There are regular happy reminders of home past in elements such as the dry stone walls, the boulders being much more rounded here; keen evidence of the vast rolling and tumbling of heavy river cobbles slowly worn down, then fished out of the rivers to provide the stone walls.
Follow the Allt Dubh Trail that winds through the birches and across a boardwalk to emerge above the reserve to the start of the path onwards to the Loch which sits snugly below the vertical crags of Coire Ardair.
Humans are natural pattern seekers and for us Creag Meagidh is such an abundant provider of shape and form that it will repeatedly draw us back to explore the changing shapes, patterns and colours of the whole reserve and mountain. It is a Ruskinian leaning – there is beauty in nature if only we take the time to quietly experience it.
It is wonderful moment to chance upon wild daffodils growing here as strongly and prettily as they do on the shores of Ullswater. What a great start to Spring in the Highlands. Can’t wait for the bluebells to come through; we’ve already seen signs of them starting to appear amongst the primroses…..