OK, OK, I know: I’m a city boy at heart. But I defy anyone to be less than impressed when rounding a corner on a lonely road in the Scottish Highlands at dusk to be confronted with a hillside covered in red deer does and stags.
We came across what to me was a huge number of these animals on our drive back from Oldshoremore, during our 2010 summer road trip to the Scottish Highlands, mainly due to the fact that I’d delayed our long drive back to the Cromarty Firth by taking far too many photos of the evening sunshine. Along the more remote section of the journey, wild hillsides are left almost completely to nature; unlike in Switzerland, where it seems every square metre is owned by a farmer, forestry commission or tourist destination. Scotland is wonderful in that respect; once away from towns and villages in the far north, the landscape is empty. Despite the huge number of tourists visiting Scotland every summer, there are still great swathes where you don’t come across another soul for hours at a time; on our drive home, we were on the road for well over an hour before we crossed a single car coming in the opposite direction.
Back to the deer though; a little nervous that we were comparatively close, they constantly cast glances in our direction and at the tiniest sound of an approaching Landrover, they ran for the hills. But just a short distance further up the road – sadly, when it was too dark for photography – more animals crossed the road in front of us to head for their evening drink from a local loch. With each sighting, I was reminded to drive slowly and pay special attention to the woodland at the sides of the road; not just out of respect for the animals, but also out of respect for the damage a collision with a 150kg animal would do to the car.
And all that, with a sunset over some of the most beautiful landscape in Scotland to distract us…