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Wilderness

Wilderness is relative, and a visitor to our shores from the near continent may sneer at the lack of carnivores in our ancient forests, and join us in universal deflation when confronted with the over-intensification of our countryside in favour of farming. Having said this, one cannot sit by the shores of Loch Morlich looking up at the snow-capped peaks of the Cairngorm Massif and not feel utterly in awe and that little bit smaller in the world. Only the brightly coloured water-proofs betray the reality that civilization is close by, but just a few mindful moments and the call of a Diver are enough here.

Being a regular visitor to the Scottish Highlands, the likes of Morlich, Garten, Findhorn and Rothiemurchus all feel familiar and generally are the places where my Highland experiences begun. I will always go back to them. But what struck me on this trip, albeit a family holiday, was the wealth of habitat as yet unexplored. The Badenoch Way and Insh Marshes, off the beaten track in Glen More and our local patch for the week, Glenfeshie. A deserted forest clinging on to the past, the sounds of chipping Crossbill and chattering Redpoll overhead. It was here that I finally caught a glimpse of the turkey of the woods and symbol of wilderness, the Capercaillie. 100m away from me, deep amongst the pines, a large black fan. A snake-like neck and head emerged to the side, and the bird alighted from its perch. I recall my heart beat rising, and feeling hyper-aware of all around me. I managed a further look at the bird as the trail bent round, before losing him into the gloom. Later that morning, another male was seen wandering from a clear area of heather into the woods, consumed, gone. Truly memorable moments.

Closer to home, close enough to watch from the balcony: Red Squirrels, Osprey on nest and Red-throated Divers. Only in Scotland! Wilderness on your doorstep. Wilderness how you wish to find it, be it a walk in a 'new' glen, a stroll down a forest track or distant view of a Golden Eagle soaring over its domain. Back at Claxton home, we are planning next year's trip. How wild is Skye, I wonder?

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