Monday 14 May 2012

Westcoasting - A guest post from Eve MacFarlane

Westcoasting in Knoydart, Lochaber

A year ago almost to the day, I left my urban ways behind and moved to the west coast of Scotland. After years of living in England and abroad, I decided it was time to return to the place that felt like home. My family headed south when I was eleven, but the west coast remained my touchstone. Wherever I was in the world, I could close my eyes, unzip the tent and step out onto the summer-dry machair – just me, the silence, the view and a sheep or two. It reminded me of where I came from. It also reminded me of what life could be about. 

One day I overheard my dad’s old climbing pal say something like: ‘Ach, I’ve no seen Rab for a few weeks. He’s been aff westcoasting.’ Meaning that Rab had emptied his pockets of money and, with just a sleeping bag, a knife, a stove, a fishing rod and a few tins of sardines, headed west to walk, sleep out, catch trout, scramble up hills and wash in burns. Westcoasting. I love this term, this idea. It speaks to me of simplicity and adventure, of moonlit foraging, beach fires and starry nights. It’s inspired by the landscape of the west coast – the sheer space, the opportunity to get lost, the bountiful sea, the mountain springs – as well as the people who carved out a life here. Look at any hillside in the evening, when the twilight picks out the detail, and you’ll see the signs – the ridges and furrows of run rig farming, an old sheep enclosure, the remains of a stone cottage. The land tells the story not of a pristine wilderness, but of people drawing life from this harsh environment. 

A year on and I’ve carved a life out here too, guided by my own take on westcoasting. I’ve pared my life back. I’ve lived closer to the seasons. I’ve explored the wild places. I’ve forced myself to endure a bit of discomfort and been rewarded for it. A night spent on the beach wasn’t the cosiest, but it gave me shooting stars and otters swimming in the pink-tinged sea at sunrise. There have, of course, been challenges. The winter was long, dark and shaped by the weather. You can see why people might turn to the drink. But I’ve never regretted the move. Every morning I look through the little square window in my kitchen across the loch to the hills beyond and I’m filled with something I can’t put into words. This raw, rugged, beautiful landscape moves me like no other.  

Find out more about Eve's westcoasting life by visiting her blog.

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