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Unto The Hills
Dusk on Loch Duich

THE light was fading, changing across the water as the shadows advanced. Now the loch was a sheet of silver, now ash-grey, now purple where the reflections of the hills deepened with the coming of night.

From where we stood, high on the hill road to Kintail, not a ripple was visible, save where the small motor-ferry chugged lazily back to its moorings on the Totaig shore. Eilean Donan Castle, that curious blend of the old and the new, stood up starkly in the waning light, like a fortress defying the legions of darkness. The new toll-bridge at Dornie gleamed faintly in the last rays of the setting sun.

Our eyes were drawn irresistibly to the great slopes of the hills -- the Five Sisters adjusting their crowns of mist in the still mirror of the water. Then, in thought, we followed the long line of the loch away out towards Kyle of Lochalsh and the open sea. Somewhere down there, beyond the dreaming hills, the big ships rode at anchor in the dusk, their lights winking like faery lanterns, reflecting a million facets of shattered gold on the quiet surface of the outgoing tide. Below us, a heron flapped drowsily along the shore -- a cormorant dipped and dabbled among drifting weed. The wakeful gulls called plaintively across the evening air, as if they mourned to see so lovely a day die so soon.

The loch was now a still, black pool of shadows; the castle an enchanter's stronghold, old as the rock on which it rested. Only the bridge still glimmered, ghostly-white and unreal, as if it had not yet been absorbed into its surroundings.

In silence, the Sisters put on their night-caps. The shadows closed in. Night was triumphant.

A minute passed -- or a hundred years. Nobody counted; nothing moved.

Loch Duich had fallen asleep.

Eilean Donan Castle at the entrance to Loch Duich

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