The theme of the current Daily Post Photographic Challenge is ‘Weight(less)‘. I scrolled through my Flickr photostream, thinking I wouldn’t have anything to fit the bill, and then my gaze landed on this image of a glacial erratic perched above the shores of Loch Tournaig in the north west Highlands of Scotland. Bingo.
Since the Ices Ages began 2.6 million years ago, Scotland has experienced cycles of intensely cold glacial periods interspersed with warmer interglacial episodes. The ice last receded around 10,000 years ago, allowing vegetation to gradually colonise the bare soils and create the basis of the landscapes that surround us today. Our current interglacial climate is far from tropical but, with the constant threat of global warming hanging over us, it is hard to think back and imagine a time in recent geological history when Scotland was smothered in ice. Glaciation shaped Scotland’s landscapes, from the ‘crag and tail’ landform of Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile; to our most iconic valley, Glen Coe; to the deepest inland water body in the British Isles, Loch Morar (a whopping 1,017ft / 310m deep); and small-scale features a stone’s throw from the roadside near Poolewe. This photograph captures many of the building blocks of the Wester Ross landscape: water reflecting the ever changing skies; imposing mountains; and ancient rocks such as this glacial erratic, which was once picked up by an ice sheet and carried along effortlessly like a pebble in a stream.
Geological time certainly puts your own sense of mortality into perspective! I first visited Wester Ross when I was two years old. Although I have no recollection of my 1988 holiday in Badachro, I have always felt a special connection with the area. In September 2011, whilst still a resident of Edinburgh, I escaped the city for a week of camping at Poolewe to mark my 26th birthday. I was feeling under the weather when I awoke on the first morning (non alcohol related, I can assure you!), but dragged myself out of my cosy sleeping bag and drove a few miles up the road to the little hamlet of Tournaig, in the hope of capturing the sunrise. I squelched through bog and battled midges in my quest to find something suitably interesting to fill the foreground of my photograph. All the discomfort was worthwhile when I set up my tripod in front of this boulder and the sun cleared the horizon behind me and bathed the moorland in soft golden light.