ne of my earliest memories of the countryside is of a family camping trip to Glen Etive, which is an off-shoot of Glen Coe. I remember it as a valley of incredibly steep sides lidded with a deep blue sky, of a magically clear River Etive gargling great pink gobstoppers of granite, and of mountain tops looming above and around me like Greek gods gathered in stern conference. It was at once heart-soaringly glamorous and bowel-freezingly forbidding – a world for bigger folk than me (well I was only seven or so at the time).
In a way I think that set the template for how I would grow up feeling about Scotland – the country that was Too Big For Me. (My friend the OS map seemed to desert me too – leaving almost all those mountains without the reassuring stitch of a path. And where did that nice Mr Wainwright go?)
Planning walks in places like the Lake District or the Peaks by comparison seemed as easy as slinging a meal in the microwave. But I grew up wondering about the inchthick steak, exotic veg and purgative roughage I felt a diet of Scottish walking might provide. Which is why I love this issue. It’s the host I wish I’d had at the feast to which I wasn’t sure I’d ever be invited. And do you know what? It turns out all I needed to bring along was my appetite!
This month I’ve been... 1 Revelling in the heat and the light and colour of a characteristically lovely May. And that stream that was warm and deep enough to swim in.
3 Reminiscing about a camping trip to Glen Etive in the Highlands, where my mental poster-image of Scotland was formed.
2 Dozing among a million dandelions – a reliable and important source of food for bees and butterflies.