THE day was mellowing as we
cycled along the road from Dornie to Keppoch. Although the winter snows
had but lately melted, there were already signs that Spring had entered
into her realm. The gorse had lighted her golden lamps, the primroses
opened pale eyes under the dead leaves, the frail ferns were uncurling
among the rocks and crannies of the tumbling burn. Everywhere, new life
flickered and stirred and breathed.
The mountains of Kintail were putting on their robes of gold and green,
the sombre pines had been washed and dusted by a recent rain. Larch-boughs
spread out little red fans in the wavering sunlight. Only the silver
birches still stood aloof, ignoring the gentle hands of the sun.
We rounded the head of Loch Duich, tranquil and at peace in the quiet
afternoon. Then over the bridge and along the lonely Cluanie road, into
the deep gulley of Glen Shiel.
The glen was completely deserted, except by creatures of the wild. Of
these, there were many, and they made no attempt to conceal themselves
from our prying eyes. A mallard and his mate whirred up from the
whispering grasses as we went slowly by -- a heavy-winged heron swooped,
with long legs trailing, over the reedy surface of the little loch. On the
opposite bank, three deer raised their heads languidly, then returned to
their browsing without so much as a second glance. Whaups sailed in wide
circles against the pines, and rabbits played fearlessly by the side of
the narrow road. A pair of solemn "hoodies" flashed and flirted over our
heads. Every creature was so intent upon the mysterious business of
love-making that our presence was accepted without fear. We wondered what
they thought of us -- if they thought at all.
The glen was so deep, so quiet, so somehow untouched by the ways of
humankind. All around, the great patched hills watched us inscrutably, as
they would watch all who came and went in this glen to the end of time.
Only Sgurr Fhuaran, silent and serene, had hidden her face in the clouds.
It was Spring -- and Glen Shiel belonged once again to the beasts and the
birds. Only a rough granite monument; a bridge; a ruined boat lying by the
lochside, argued unconvincingly that we followed in the faint footsteps of