Loch Morlich holds the sky at Cairn Gorm’s feet. The lake surface is a sheet of frozen glass thawing at the edges where the mountain winds fail to scuff the reflection. A perfume of snow rides the air shivering from the mountain tops. I bend down to stare at the black rocks flecking the shore; they are mountains to whatever looks up to them. I had passed from the fecund darkness of Rothiemurchus Forest where slats of daylight periodically pierced the entwined arms of ancient oaks to this wide vision. The contrast is almost too much: the air frosts my lungs; my pupils constrict to black pinpoints; my reflection wavers in Morlich’s visage.
I have a curious habit of comparing real places like Loch Morlich to those that exist only in stories. Surely this is what Tolkien had in mind for the Mirrormere. It’s a reverse hope that there may be something out there even more fantastic, more wondrous. The clouds blaze in the sun and I clasp frozen hands beneath my windbreaker. It is robbery to think such thoughts here with this sight before me. This, with all the heavens cast in the water, is fantasy. This is wondrous. So I go on shivering.