A bonny day at Loch Lomond

Posted By on Aug 20, 2012 | 13 comments


Oh, you’ll take the high road
And I’ll take the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland before you.
For me and my true love,
Will never meet again,
On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Early Friday morning, with rain pelting my umbrella-less head and the sky in a grey-faced snit, I set out for the long-imagined banks of Loch Lomond. With cup of hot chocolate in hand, I curled in a train-seat as far back in the carriage as I could, and watched the miles slip by until I arrived at the station for Balloch, and made my way down to where a little boat waited to carry me up the Loch.

When first we sailed, the storm sank down to the surface of the water in a dance and lilt of mist. Nothing could be seen more than a few feet off and I began to despair of getting my fill of the scenery with which I long to shape my story. But half way to our landing point of Luss, a thin, pearled light began to dissolve the darkness and soon, the storm withdrew its brooding face. Slopes of startling green blinked through the fog and a high, sapphire sky sliced through the rain.

I left the cabin on the boat and perched against the rails in the prow of the boat, loving the cut of it through the rippled, inky water, the sting and spice of the cold wind, and the slow, but constant widening of the air as the storm withdrew in ponderous dignity. I began to write feverishly, for the landscape around me was just what I had come to Scotland to find. A sense of place is vital to any good novel to me. In my story, the earth itself is as much a character as the human souls rumbling about in my head, and it was to meet this land, to touch and taste and hear the great heart of this place, that I have come my long way from home.

To give you an idea of what I saw, I’ll just record the jottings I scribbled in my notebook. Haphazard, unedited, but what I snatched in the moment.

“Remember,” I wrote, and proceeded to list:

-deep, undulous charcoal of the water

-hills like a curious face behind the veil of mist

-the vibrancy of the green fields and the navy swathes of fir forests slashing up the hills

-the way the land advances and retreats through the mists, seems to speak, then lapse into silence, so that you feel enclosed in an echoing world of faces and voices you tilt forward to hear, but can’t quite catch.

-the rain like a force of assimilation, so steady, determined, soaking, as if to make you one with the lake and sopping ground around you.

-the fresh green right next to the hoary brown patches of rock or the velvet deep of heather – like a child head and an old man’s  bent next to each other.

-the sense that the land is never wholly to be known because it is so swift to change and always seems partly hidden. When the mist dips and lifts, what you see is always changed. No wonder this is a land full of folklore about slipping into different worlds!

-the lilt of the Scottish accent – such wonderful trills.

I finally arrived in the tiny village of Luss, with curved streets crowded with grey stone cottages all with riotous gardens and walls and windowboxes and beds of flowers. I found one of those red Scottish roses and remembered the old poem, “o my luv is like a red, red rose…”

After a ramble, I found a tea room where they served me “Edinburgh Royal Blend” black tea in a pot with heather and green plaid stripes. With sandwich in hand and an hour to write, I set to work. There’s so much to be written when one has such scenes to fill with stories.

When the last sip was snatched, I ran for my boat, for the day was coming to a close, a ship had to be caught and a train after that. I am housed with the loveliest hostess in the world, and she had a dinner of fish and chips and veg, and yes, strawberries and cream on the table when I stumbled in after my venturesome day. May I just say that Venetia is one of the dearest people in the world, and I will treasure every minute I have in her home.

And now, I’m off for a cup of  tea, and another writing hour.

You take the high road, and I’ll take the low…

13 Comments

  1. you are indeed writing again, Sarah!! Gorgeous in every way. Thank you for a glimpse into that brilliant mind and soul of yours.

  2. Not being able to see the land some of our long ago ancestors came from to settle in a new land, I can’t think of a better way to see it than through your eyes and words, my dear niece.

  3. Beautiful. I’ve read it over twice already. With the description of your day, I can see, hear, and smell it all. Thank you for making my day dreamier.

  4. I want to be in Scotland now!There is a wee bit of Scottish blood in me(a Buchanan is in the ancestry somewhere)but I am mostly Irish and English.This was a lovely post.Thank you so much for writing it in such a way that I feel as if I am there with you,having tea and shortbread,feeling the mist and hearing the lovely brogue.:)~Sharon in Oregon

  5. As soon as I get over the nausea that these antibiotics are bringing, I am going to make a batch of shortbread! I will tell my husband that he is getting tea and buttery cookies to remind me of Sarah’s travels through Scotland. :)

    I, too, love the fact you are writing again.

  6. You are such an amazing writer. I love to read how you go about describing the very fragrance and beauty of what you are seeing. I love ya bunches and can’t wait to get my hands on your book when you are done..

  7. “the sky in a grey-faced snit”. Okay, that’s just a brilliant line right there. I may have to steal it.

  8. Giving a voice to the land is something I believe you were created for. Oh I cannot wait for your book!

  9. Sarah, you absolutely have to hear Matthew quote that poem, it would charm the woolen socks off Burns himself!! He has the accent DOWN! That and a modern Manchester school boy…thanks ever, Charlie & Lola!!

  10. lovely and filling. I cannot wait until the story weaves itself to a finish and I can enter into your world anew. so soothing. Thanks for this, sweet one.

  11. So excited for you that you are in Scotland for a month of writing! Couldn’t be a better place! Can’t wait to read your novel — it sounds wonderful. And, looking forward to hearing more about your time in Scotland.

  12. “the vibrancy of the green fields and the navy swathes of fir forests slashing up the hills” -tremendous! Makes me want some Walker’s and a cuppa. You have a gift for description!

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