Picture This: Lost Memorial in the Caithness Highlands

by Keith Savage · 5 comments


Far to the north of Scotland, past bustling Edinburgh and Glasgow, past long and brooding Loch Ness, and beyond the final outpost of Inverness lies a wide swath of undulating bald hills, boggy moorland, and windblown montane. This solemn journey through Sutherland and into far Caithness is one too seldom taken, one mostly reserved for transients en route to Wick or Orkney. Myself included. But around every perilous switchback and blind hairpin turn a hair’s breadth from head-on collisions with semi trucks, epic landscapes unveil themselves. The works of men are limited in this region to subordinate roads and, all too frequently, tiny castellated stone towers on cliffsides: Cairns. Memorials.

I pull the car off the road and gaze south across the narrow valley I had just crossed. Late morning sunlight and a brisk North Sea wind clear the air and call into detail the forlorn marker with the Moray coast just visible in the distance. Does it mark the edge of an ancient lord’s territory or the memory of a recent road victim? Could it be the monument of a displaced clan or the fleeting whim of some moneyed lordling? I return to the car and resume my trek to Orkney, but this scene represents everything that makes Scotland wonderful. Upon every hilltop the drafts of history throw wide the doors of the imagination.


SimmieNo Gravatar August 7, 2015 at 8:22 AM

I just returned (7/1) from a wonderful visit to Scotland. By far, my favorite area was the north highlands, including a day on the Mainland Island of Orkney – visiting Skara Brae. What a wonderful neolithic site! Driving through the Glencoe National Park (National Trust for Scotland) with wonderful green (and brown heather not yet in bloom) mountains was a breathtaking journey. Scotland is much more than Edinburgh and Glasgow and so worth the travel and time.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2015 at 9:13 AM

I daresay the best lies beyond the cities.

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Addison S. @ Visa HunterNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 8:41 AM

What a fascinating road trip, and one I need to take myself very soon. The feeling of being alone with nature is one that should always be savored. I hope you had a whiskey waiting for you at the end of the road.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar October 17, 2012 at 11:37 AM

Indeed, I had a whisky distillery waiting for me (Highland Park).

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KenNo Gravatar October 12, 2012 at 7:01 AM

So true. I need to go back even though my driving in the UK risks my life and that of innocent Scots.

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