What comes to mind when one hears the words, “Scottish Highlands?” Probably a romanticized version of brave men in tartans and green hills and craggy rocks, perhaps one hears bagpipes playing. It’s a pretty picture. But though the Highlands are romantic and green and craggy … they are also cold, wet, and terribly out of the way.
We had spent a few days in Edinburgh touring castles, churches, and walking the streets. We’d bought our tartan scarves and explored the museums and galleries, and somehow my traveling companion got the Highlands on the brain.
Without much discussion on the topic, he reserved a car, decided on a route and the next morning, off we were. The first challenge was getting out of Edinburgh, with its labyrinthine passages of one-way streets. But once we were out, almost immediately, the landscape was green and the grasslands on either side of the road was dotted with cows and sheep. We sang along to the radio and drove, and drove … and drove.
And drove. Our destination was Glen Coe, and a range of peaks called the Three Sisters. My companion had identified a path between two of the peaks that would lead us to something charmingly called the “Lost Valley.” After a little more driving, stunning scenery, and a few head-scratching moments about whether or not we were there yet, we pulled the car over and stepped out.
I should have known that there was a problem when there was no sign at all that said “Path to Lost Valley” or anything of the kind. In fact, there was no information at all – just a few different places in the brushy foliage that looked as though a human may have trespassed there before. My companion though, was jubilant. Wasn’t this wonderful? Wasn’t it gorgeous and amazing and awe-inspiring?
Well, it was. But … where was the path?
It turned out that he was certain he could find it, if we just wandered away from our vehicle for a while – farther and farther away, until it was no longer in our field of vision. On and on we wandered, up craggy steps and jagged rocks, through boggy grass and up, up, up. The rain came in fits and starts and the wind blew one way, and then jerked your body the other. “Isn’t this beautiful?” he called down to me. “What a gorgeous view!” he exclaimed merrily as he scrambled up ahead of me.
Now, I was wearing leather lace-up shoes with no traction. My coat was not rainproof and my hair was tangled in front of my face in a hopeless mess. I was fighting tears and though, yes, it was beautiful, I was cold. I was wet. My feet were slipping, I couldn’t see the car, and I’d almost fallen off the cliff several times. The “Lost Valley” was certainly up this peak we were climbing, and every step away from the car was one I would have to take on the way back, and the path wasn’t getting any less treacherous.
And then I slipped and fell … and the climbing hike was over. He pulled me back to my feet, and I cursed through clenched teeth all the way back to the car, and most of the way back to Edinburgh.
When you see them in your mind’s eye, The Highlands are a gorgeous, romantic and windswept place. Beautiful to drive by, or to stop and marvel at. But looking for the “Lost Valley?” Perhaps there’s a reason why it’s lost.