Starry Nights in the Scottish Highlands
In February this year, we had one of those magical moments that you can’t plan but just happen now and then - if you're lucky. And when they do happen you just have to be quiet and focus on being in the moment so you soak up every last bit of it. That’s exactly what we did when, on a bitterly cold winter’s night on the shores of Loch Lubnaig in Stirlingshire, the clouds departed for the night and the universe presented itself to us in all its twinkling glory.
It would have been too cold to stay outside for long, but we had a hot tub to sit in so we just leaned backed and took in the celestial display. Sitting outside in warm bubbling water on a winter's night is a ridiculously pleasurable experience. I felt my earthly cares drift away as I gazed up at the infinity of stars above me. And yes, I did see a shooting star or two.
It was one of those existential moments when you suddenly become very aware that you're part of something unimaginably bigger than yourself. The universe seems so absurdly beautiful that you can't help but feel a deep joy at being alive. Sometimes, when our own little worlds feel like they're falling apart (to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen), existence can feel like a drag, but spontaneous moments like this remind us what an incredible gift life is. And it’s all the better when you have your favourite person in the world to share it with.
I've had two other comparable experiences like this in my life to date. The first was when I camped out in the Australia outback. The land was so flat that there were stars above my head and all the way to the ground, the view only interrupted here or there by the odd bush. The other was watching the Northern Lights silently dance across an Arctic sky. I was so enraptured that for a while I stopped caring that it was at least minus ten degrees and my hands were rapidly freezing.
I totally lost track of time, so I don't recall how long my wife and I sat and gazed at the stars that night, but I remember that when we got out of the tub it was much colder than when we got in. So it must have been late. The moon had shifted a fair way across the sky too.
The next morning delivered its own delightful moment. Slipping out of bed, I peeked behind the window blind and was stunned to see a winter wonderland. A generous amount of snow had secretly fallen in the night. Our surroundings on the shores of Loch Lubnaig had taken on a whole new look and feel. Tree branches hung heavy with snow. The surrounding hillsides and mountainsides were heavily dusted with the white stuff. Yesterday, we had arrived in classic Scottish scenery, but now our cabin now felt more like a Swiss chalet and the view looked more like the Alps.
After breakfast, we went for a walk along the Loch Lubnaig trail which spirals upward through a spruce forest. The snow made the walk harder and wetter, but it was worth it to have our very own forest of giant Christmas trees to stroll through. The stillness, the crisp air, the crunch of our footsteps, the trickling sound of melting snow, the warmth of the mid-morning sun on our faces - we couldn't have hoped for more beautiful scenery or a more pleasant experience.
A day and a half later, the snow had more or less melted. The trees no longer slumped but stood tall and the local wildlife sprung back into action. The very changeable weather that week gifted us the opportunity to see the Stirlingshire landscape in two contrasting guises. Two landscapes for the price of one, as it were. I'm sure the snow isn't so enchanting for the locals, but for the photographer in me, it's always a delight.
The wildlife was plentiful, as you might expect. Throughout the week we were visited by the usual variety of birds you commonly see across Scotland - tits, robins, chaffinches etc - but we also got some rarer sightings, such as red squirrels. The hoot of an owl emerged from somewhere in the distance most nights and a mysterious bird walked around on our cabin roof in the wee hours of the morning. Curiously, it made a sound that reminded me of an old digital telephone. (I never did find out what it was). Perhaps the most exciting wildlife encounter that week, however, was with a deer that spent ten minutes or so foraging around our cabin.
Strathyre is just within the Southern boundary of the Scottish Highlands and is part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. (Wikipedia tells me William Wordsworth once stayed there in 1803). After two trips to Strathyre, our next trip will be to Ardgartan in Argyll, which is 30 miles further north-west on the shores of Loch Long.
We can't wait for our next trip to the magical Scottish Highlands, which, incidentally, has just been named in Lonely Planet’s top 10 travel destinations in the world. These are the kinds of magical Scottish experiences that inspire our creative projects - my photo art and my wife’s jewellery designs.
We’ll soon be launching these on Patreon where we’ll provide exclusive experiences and content to our patrons. If you’d like to become our patron, then please join our mailing list and we’ll let you know when we go live on Patreon. Until then, keep on eye on our blog for more magical Scottish moments to brighten your day.
P.S. To find out more about where we stayed on this trip, visit the Forest Holidays website.