by yon bonnie banks

Water is everywhere, pouring, rushing, pooling; the land is alive with water. White burns bubble through the woodlands on one side of the road; on the other side, trees are drowning in a wide field of water. It’s impossible to tell where the course of the river is or was – the whole field is flowing, and high on the hillside beyond it, huge falls roar where there were none before.

We’re safely north of Loch Lomond now, but as we wound round its banks, the loch itself was beginning to take its share. The outer half of the road towards Pulpit Rock had disappeared and road crew were there on built-out platforms rebuilding it – on stilts. It was a tight passage round the cliff there, squeezing between the water rushing down the rocks and the gouging maw of the loch.

As we come further north, the streams multiply. The steep hillsides are threaded by strings of white water and, as we approach Glencoe, the hills are scarred and scored in white. Snow fills each high crevice and ravine, highlighting the bare black bones of the rock shouldering through. Below the snow, streams continue the white lines, racing down the creases to the valley floors.

It’s not just the intensity of the water but its frequency that’s overwhelming. Each rock face is run over by a hundred slim streams. Even on the lower slopes and flanks by the roadsides, a new stream is gushing down every few yards, flooding the road and forcing us through ford after ford. Water is just pouring off the hillsides.

Water falling, water rising. And through the air too, great banks of rain move in horizontal gulfs. From safe inside the car, they almost feel sheltering, these great grey washes, engulfing us, until the wind harnesses them into harsh lashing whips. And so, through the water-ridden world we travel, sheltered and invigorated alternately, and all the while feeling secretly blessed by these thousand bright white streams.

Buachaille Etive Mòr, Glen Coe

Driving up the A82 (past Buachaille Etive Mòr, Glen Coe), Scotland
20th February 2014