Once restrictions were eased in Scotland and I was given a precious piece of freedom to venture outside of my county of Moray, I planned a day trip to the Cairngorms. One of my favourite sounds is the whisper of a stream in a forest – it’s the epitome of fairytale magic for me. So when I arrived at Inshriach Forest on the western flank of the Cairngorm plateau and heard that incredible sound, I made a beeline for it. I passed other people heading up a rocky hill trail that would take them into the mountains. But I’m more forest sprite than mountain goat – my place is at ground level.
Inshriach is part of one of the Cairngorms National Park’s eight National Nature Reserves. As well as ancient Caledonian pinewood it contains mountainous and heather moor habitats too. Scottish rarities such as crossbills, red squirrels and crested tits are found there. There’s also the possibility of seeing golden eagles over the mountains, but I had my eyes on the ground rather than the sky.
A trodden grass trail broke away from the main track and I followed it, only briefly distracted by chaffinches and a characteristically vocal wren. The sound grew louder until eventually I was close enough to see the water sparkling in the bright sun. It was gorgeous. Allt Ruadh it was called – a tributary of the River Feshie.
Dumping my rucksack, I knelt at the edge and dipped a hand. Just as icy as I suspected. I always feel an urge to swim in wild water or at least wade knee-deep, but even with the sun it was far too cold for me on this occasion. Still, just to see and hear all that stirring water was a treat. I settled on the bank and crossed my fingers for dippers.
I spent several hours there, reminded of the time only by my rumbling stomach. As I leant back against the rocks with my soup flask and watched the rapids churn up white froth, my gaze caught on a flash of yellow. A grey wagtail! It was standing in the centre of the river, bobbing its tail and fluttering from rock to rock. After examining each one around me, it flew to the top of a Scots pine and began to sing. I’ve seen many different birds using treetops as a singing perch but never a wagtail, so it was both a surprise and a privilege. Its song was so loud I could hear it above the stream.
I suppose this is how I meditate. I can’t sit in a lotus pose, close my eyes and listen to drum music – my mind just wanders to deadlines and errands. But if I disappear into the wild and fill every one of my senses with nature, I forget all the admin and sink into the closest meditative state I can manage. It helps if there’s no service because it means my phone is useless. Having no connection to the material world could be scary I suppose, but if I stay safe and pack accordingly I can enjoy complete solitude and peace, if only for a morning.