AFTER a week-long tour around the Highlands and part of Scotland’s Inner Islands, I was profoundly impressed by its sombre yet rugged beauty. I quickly fell in love with the land and its breathtaking sublimity.
Four of us, two visitors from Shanghai, another Shanghainese who has lived in Scotland for more than a decade and a local Scotsman, set off from Dundee, a city on the east coast in mid-August.
First, we drove along the east coast to the north, enjoying peaceful scenes of rural Scotland with gently rolling hills covered with large green pastures and golden wheat fields.
At Lossiemouth, a town in Moray, we stopped to take in the long and continuous rolling sea waves as they crashed ashore.
But once we entered the Highlands, the scenery changed abruptly. Suddenly, there were more rocks, rugged hill slopes and fewer trees. The ubiquitous heather painted patches of purple on lush green hills and mountain tops.
Numerous dark, icy lochs and green glens of all sizes and shapes created a calm and soothing ambience.
The weather was very nice throughout the week except for one afternoon when cold rain drenched the mountains and valleys.
However, even in the dreich, Scottish for dreary, weather, when mountain and hill tops were shrouded by mist and clouds, the desolate Highlands still offered an irresistible, melancholic charm.
Driving along a single track road up and down rolling hills was another thrilling experience. As the car climbed toward a blind summit, it seemed we were shooting into the mist and cloud. When the car barreled down a slope toward a hairpin bend near the edge of a loch, it felt like we were going to plunge into the water.
Also, driving along single track roads up and down rolling hills often brings surprising, but pleasant encounters with deer, foxes, pheasants and many other wild animals.
Along the way, we passed picturesque towns, ancient castles, old farmhouses and magnificent mansions.
One week later, when we returned to Dundee, I found myself already contemplating another trip around the Highlands.
Regardless of the outcome of Scotland’s referendum on independence tomorrow, I will return again and again. That sombre but sometimes exhilarating beauty has penetrated deep into my soul.