I last visited Coire Gabhail (The Lost Valley) on a tranquil day in May 2006. Following directions my brother had scribbled on a scrap of paper, we arrived at a deserted car park as the mist silently lifted from the Glen.
Up to that point, drawing was just something I did to pass time when I visited my parents at Christmas. I had a small, slightly weird collection of pencil ‘still lives’ – odd shoes, misshapen candles, a Swedish Christmas gnome etc. Sometimes I’d bring a sketch pad and pencil on holiday, but it generally stayed unused in my bag. However, this time, it was so quiet that I plucked up courage, pulled out my pad and captured the view.
Eleven years later, I’ve overcome my shyness of sketching in public and discovered the joy of pen, watercolour and properly bound sketchbooks. So, armed with Google maps, I was desperate to recreate this special moment.
Sadly, the first attempt had to be aborted, as all the car parks were full of tour buses, tripods and people flying drones. The Lost Valley, it appeared, was no longer quite so lost. Not a wasted journey though, we parked further up the pass and walked the path to Buachaille Etive Beag. Time for a quick sketch looking towards A’Chailleach, shrouded in shadow, whilst we basked in the sunshine.
That evening, seduced by fish and chips in Oban, I persuaded my ever patient partner that it would be worth making a second attempt the next day. With an early start from Dollar, a belly full of coffee and gorgeous weather, the mission was accomplished before lunch, I even managed a bracing dip in the icy stream below the valley.
I found out later, that there is a grim irony in setting out from the shadows of Castle Campbell in Dollar to The Lost Valley. In February 1692, this idyllic place provided one of the escape routes for the MacDonald clan during the brutal massacre of Glencoe by the Campbell soldiers, under the orders of William of Orange.
Finally (and slightly inappropriately after that serious note) in a blatant attempt to get more hits on my blog, the evening ended at the Glennfinnan viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter films and now featured on the Scottish £10 note.
To make up for that, I also sketched the Wallace monument.