My Favourite Place in Scotland

Susan Cunningham
6 April 2016

“The cairn sits in the lee of the southwest of the summit, facing the Angus hills and his Clova, built with love, tears and laughter in the late September sun. The kids scramble over and under to collect stones for Grandpa: their Grandpa with whom they’d adventured these peaks and heathered trails since before they could even walk; and our dad, with whom we’d been dragged across hill and glen (‘Know your country, love your country, girls’), where, in turn, we drag our children, until they too begin to know and love their country.

Each carefully picked stone captures a memory. We let them out, to float in the autumn air, mingling with the sun-shafted silence. The German exchange students who stopped for a ‘fag’, unseeing, careless to the rough majesty of this Scottish hill, not even reaching the ‘tap’ - sacrilege of the highest order; sliding down its blanketed brae in the deep December snow under the star-daubed winter sky; our teenage thirty-minute time trials to the top; our disguised adult ambling appreciation now; a flask of tea, a softie, a mars bar; a cool, clear scoop from the tumbling waters. And always, always the infamous short cuts (‘Don’t tell your Mother’) as we louped burns, splashed streams, balanced bogs and shanked in snow: but that’s why he taught us to always, always take spare socks and boots.

On this upward climb through the sentinel trees (‘Look around you. Observe.’), off the woodland path we noticed a feather-fight, wondering-witnesses to this particular battle of nature. Now we look north towards ‘The Knock’, its familiar mound raised reassuringly, like an upturned hull; north-east to the farms and hamlets spread amongst the earthed hues; east to the famous – but not quite the highest – peak of this hill, the mither o’ them a’; and south-west to that magnificent old man himself, Lochnagar, imposing in his very existence. As columns of sunlit air filter down, we feel, we know, we love - we turn.

Sheltered and protected, the cairn sits in the lee of the southwest summit of Oxen Craig, at the back o’ Bennachie.”

Read more postings about Bennachie in the Save Bennachie Blog.

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