A dream of escape
After more than a year now mostly spent between four walls and in front of screens, I’m pining for the great outdoors more than ever, says Kimberley Grant. In between video calls, jigsaws and binge-watching tv series, I’ve spent hours on Google Earth, searching for new green spaces in my local area to walk the dog. As nice as it’s been getting to know my pocket of south-east London so intimately, it’s back home in Scotland that I always find myself daydreaming about
WORDS AND PHOTOS: KIMBERLEY GRANT (@kimberleygrant) OUTDOOR WHISKIES VIDEO: BROCK JEFFREY (@polar_brock)
Lockdown has made me increasingly nostalgic for the summers spent on research trips for 'Wild Guide Scotland'. Exploring the vast, wind-swept beaches on the Outer Hebrides – inspecting the machair wildflowers at Traigh an Iar in North Uist and swimming in the bitingly cold water at Vatersay Bay.
Or climbing the small hill above Gearrannan blackhouse village on Lewis with some people from the hostel we were staying in, to drink and watch the sunset over the bay. Every sip of whisky heating the back of the throat and radiating in the chest, a welcoming warmth against the sharp North Atlantic air.
SIMPLE PLEASURES, SHARED DRAMS
After being outdoors for a while, away from home comforts and a decent phone signal, I get so much more pleasure out of the simple things. Waking up in the van next to a calm loch and the most modest breakfast feeling like a true feast. Or washing your face and getting drinking water from a fresh stream on the hillside. Months of lockdowns have forced us to live life slowly and get used to not doing as much.
In the outdoors, things often aren’t so different, except I for one never get bored. When the weather, seasons and wildlife are full of so much interest and constantly changing around you, there is plenty to keep the mind occupied.
After social distancing and being away from the countryside for so long, it’s the connection with nature and enjoying it with other people that I miss most. The conversations had when stomping through boggy moorlands. Swimming in the river with friends and their kids. Strangers passing round a bottle in front of the fire in the bothy. Simple, satisfying things.
Kim Grant wild swimming in the Highlands
Estate buildings at Glen Affric
A RETURN TO THE SOURCE
It’s been a dark and difficult year, but the increasingly loud birdsong and flowers of spring bring a sense of hope and renewal. I look forward to revisiting some of my favourite places in the Highlands and islands later in the year. To walk along the rugged red coastline of Muckle Roe in the Shetland Isles, stopping for a picnic next to the sea stacks. Or to see the autumn colours in Glen Affric and wild camp on the shores of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin.
As my two friends and I work on the second edition of our book, I also look forward to spending more time in southern Scotland.
To explore the rolling hills and picturesque harbours in the Borders and enjoy the smell of pine and the dark skies at Galloway Forest Park. It’s reassuring to know that after all of this time apart, the Scottish outdoors are still there. And how much I’ve missed them. When I next reach the top of a hill, dip into a loch or walk through the woods, I’ll be savouring every moment. Until then, for a taste of the Highlands, I’ll enjoy a dram at home with the dog at my feet, thinking about the springs high in the hills that are its source.
Kimberley Grant is a creative director, content producer and co-author of Wild Guide Scotland. Follow her on Instagram @kimberleygrant
Looking for some more outdoor inspiration? Check out bloggers Brock & Betty's guide to Scotland's great outdoors, and check out their SMWS-inspired video below. Follow @polar_brock on Instagram for more
Muckle Roe, Shetland