The road from Royal Deeside northwest to Speyside is little more than a trail swallowed in the folds beneath the Cairngorm Mountains. The centuries have yet to surmount these highlands where the capricious winds slash and thrust like rapiers in winter’s dark. The sound in my ears is the sibilant language of lost souls gliding over the barren hills and dry riverbeds. Far below in a sheep-flecked valley stands the shining countenance of the star of the Strathdon, Corgarff Castle. This 500-year-old tower house with its eight-point-star curtain wall will be an alien wonder in the distant future.
The history of this place blows like leaves from the branches of my memory. I am letting tales of the ’45 and the Jacobite uprising and all the bloodshed fall. I am forgetting that these hills used to be blanketed in forests and struck through with mountain streams. In that new vacancy, this view, like so many in Scotland, defies our habit to believe we understand. It overflows. Atop this distant hill, a stone stands to my right, engraved with a simple poem I haven’t yet forgotten:
take a moment to behold
as still skies or storms unfold
warm your soul before you go
in sun, rain, sleet, or snow