A Winter Wonderland: The Scottish Highlands in Perthshire, a set on Flickr.
From Dunkeld, in Perthshire, in Scotland, beside the A9 (the major route through northern Scotland), the A822, a mixture of former drovers’ routes and military roads, heads west, and then south, for around 16 miles in total, ascending to forlorn, blasted heathland that is very dear to me. Every year, we — my wife, my son and I — visit my wife’s family in Edinburgh for Christmas, and every Boxing Day my wife and I leave our son with his grandparents, drive north to the Highlands, in Perthshire, and stay one night in a hotel. The following day, we return via this stretch of the A822, which passes through a particularly beautiful, but largely unknown part of the Highlands.
This landscape never fails to provide a reminder that, just around the corner from places where humans have settled for hundreds of years, or for millennia, are other places that have proven far more inhospitable. The highest pass on this road between Dunkeld and Crieff is a sublime example of this, where a strip of road runs across boggy, wind-swept land that has repulsed all those who have tried to tame it by living here. The road remains, as do electric pylons and, somewhere nearby, a wind farm, but no permanent settlements still stand.
The most poignant place on this stretch of road is the tiny hamlet of Amulree, once home to many hundreds of people, and with regular markets for cattle and sheep, where, nowadays, only a handful of people live, alongside a church and a 12-room hotel, currently closed, but on sale for £295,000, less than many a small two-bedroom flat in London without a garden. Whether anyone will buy the hotel and turn it into some sort of going concern remains to be seen, but at present the odds would seem to be against it, and Amulree — a name so enchanting that my wife and I considered it as a name for a daughter, if we had had a daughter — may one day cease to be, another place in the highlands defeated by the climate and by economics.
I hope you enjoy these photos of a world so different from my usual haunts in London. I’m now back at home, and preparing to publish some more photos, to follow on from the Christmas set I published on Christmas Eve. I also hope you have all had a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Hello, my friends. I’m back from a family Christmas in Scotland, and I come bearing photos of the snow and frost in the Highlands, where my wife and I escape for one night every year. Travel with me to the enchanting hamlet of Amulree, and the high pass, just miles from civilisation, where no human habitation survives, and marvel at a landscape rewritten by the frost.
Houda Andalus Cheikh wrote:
Afifah Kuddah wrote:
Truly beautiful in its starkness
Thanks, Houda and Afifah. Lovely to hear from you, and I’m very glad you enjoyed the photos.
Saleyha Ahsan wrote:
my spiritual home…..miss it – pictures remind me of it….
Sue Glenton wrote:
beautiful, I lived at Ballathie House years ago, near Dunkeld
Patricia Sheerin-Richman wrote:
Ashamed to say I’ve never crossed the border. One day…
Thanks, Saleyha, Sue and Patricia. Glad to be reminding you of Scotland, Saleyha, and interesting to hear that you lived near Dunkeld, Sue. This year we stayed in Kirkpatrick, east of Pitlochry, in the Strathardle Inn (nice atmosphere, and great food), but for years we stayed in Dunkeld. We stopped by this year before taking our little trip round the A822.
And Patricia, what can I say? It’s well worth a visit …!
Ann Alexander wrote:
Makes it feel like home, Andy. Haste ye back.
Oh, I’d love to hasten back, Ann. Not sure when. Dot and I were talking about a trip in summer, so if that were to happen we’d have to make sure to meet up!
I’m very glad you enjoyed the photos. I was thinking of you …
Christopher John Webster wrote:
a stunning set of images Andy …
Thanks, Chris. I honestly felt very privileged to be there. The land was so beautiful under the frost that I felt on the edge of being unable to take it all in. Quite a rare feeling!
On Facebook, I also posted the photo, “The high pass,” and wrote:
This is one of my favourite photos from the set I posted yesterday, featuring a drive through the Scottish Highlands in Perthshire, between Dunkeld and Crieff, just a few days ago, when the hills were covered with frost. I hope it captures something of the beauty of the trip.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
Really lovely, Andy.
Thanks, Dejanka. Great to hear from you.
Neil Wilson wrote:
Very glad you appreciate the beauty of the Scottish countryside Andy, as a highlander myself I’m somewhat biased. But should you ever have the opportunity to venture further north than Perthshire and as far as Inverness, please be sure to let me know your coming, so that I can ensure you are treated to real highland hospitality.
Thank you, Neil. What a lovely offer, and I hope one day to be able to take you up on it!
Richard Osbourne wrote:
My favourite place in Britain – in the Summer!
Great to hear from you, Richard. Happy New Year!
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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