Up from the town of Pitlochry. Up and over the golf course sliding off the hillside. Up through the forest of towering Scots pines and fallen limbs blanketed with resiny perfume. Up onto the stony heathland where butterflies flicker in the air like leaves alive. Up the weathered rock stairs swallowed by the summit to an empty stone bench with a view. At 1,300 feet, Craigower Hill soars above the more famous Queen’s View hiding somewhere in the foliage below. I pull the earbuds from my head, peel off my buttoned shirt, and let the high winds cool me. Loch Tummel lies at the foot of Schiehallion, the fairy hill of the Caledonians. Farragon Hill and Loch Rannoch are out there, too. Somehow, magically, through the thick curtains of ultraviolet light stand the three sisters of Glen Coe.
The fires from this old beacon hill would have been seen on the west coast – across southern Pictland – just as I now look 75 kilometers across the breast of Scotland. I stand enthralled for what feels like hours. Nature roars in silence. There is no finesse here, no color needed to flush out meaning. I wish I mustn’t turn my back on this kingdom and descend, return to that whirlpool into which we’ve all swum.