When I’m in Scotland visiting family, I like to try and get out into the countryside and explore; to get away from the everyday for a time. To drive up roads which appear to have no name, to see where they lead. One such road leads west into the hills from Ardgay, geographically near the tourist routes to the northern tip of the British mainland, but in another world.
There is little there to draw visitors at this time of year, save for an almost empty Scottish landscape; dripping in the dampness of a Scottish winter and with a valley floor grazed by sheep. Ten miles along a single-track road is a high deer fence barring the way and signs announcing that the land beyond belongs to the Croick Estate.
The landscape is full of water, running and soaked-in, and covered in heathers and with snow on the higher slopes. To the visitor, this feels almost as remote as Scotland can get. The wind bites, but the air is clean enough to ensure that sensitive lichens can thrive and cover the otherwise bare trees.
A small stone church here welcomes the few locals with a regular service; the glass of its windows etched with graffiti dating back to 1845, at the time of the Highland Clearances.