Family, footsteps, and the forest

It’s the Easter holiday weekend in Scotland’s central belt. The sun is shining, the temperature in double digits, and the world outside seems awake, alive.

I meet my parents for a walk on the edge of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, at the southern end of Loch Ard Forest.

This place has been stamped on the passport of our lives over the decades, not so often as to be almost meaningless, but often enough that remembering moments here is like unearthing old film from a box in the attic.

We talk about some of those times as we walk together. Cycling here as a child (short sleeves, colourful bikes, a questionable concept of distance). Proudly reaching the end of the tarmac trail with my brother beside me and, below us, an aqueduct taking water from the hills to Glasgow.

Faint memories of one winter when my parents’ car slid on black ice on the nearby slope. Did we get out and push?

Then the fresher visits to this quiet place over the last few years, when we were finally allowed to meet each other halfway.

September, when summer fought with the first gold and red hints of autumn to hold on. A photo of us all standing distanced on a forestry road, like an album cover for a bad Scottish folk band.

December the same year, walking together under freezing fog, watching each others’ breath embrace in the air when we could not.

Last July, just the two of us in twenty-degree heat with sticky suncreamed skin, passing cyclists in the forest. By a beautiful house with its own lochan I saw a sign saying Gravelfoyle.

Now it’s April and another year has passed. So much has happened, again. Moments seem to mean more than they did before.

Today our bodies are warmed in just t-shirts and fleeces, sunglasses, faces to the spring sun that teases our skin from behind perfect clouds.

Water thick with frogspawn, some already developing tails, little black commas waiting for their next phrase.

Yellow wild flowers in the verges, primrose under the pines.

Light coming through the columns of forest, the arches between trees disappearing into darkness. My kind of worship.

Her hair growing thicker now, fawn and gold and white, bravely reflecting the rebirth of spring.

A picnic in the same place we ate before, the four of us sitting side by side by the stream like children, eating sandwiches wrapped in tin foil and empire biscuits dense with sugar. We dangle our legs.

Conversations that circle like the seasons.

When things my parents do or say remind me of their parents, or when I look down and see my fingers look like my gran’s used to, joints swollen in the still-cool breeze.

Plans for long weekends away together in a few weeks’ time, on Scotland’s west coast, revisiting some of the caravan sites of my childhood.

How everything looks more beautiful in sunlight (rusting bridges, colossal pylons, bent road signs, dog shit).

And as we walk the trails we’ve trodden before, days and months and years are scattered behind us like tender skins we are struggling to let go of. But today, at Easter, we might.

Today it feels as if the future has opened up again, like the freshly-blossoming flowers, telling us that summer is coming and new beginnings wait on the hazy hillsides if only we can reach them.

Subscribe to Hill & Haar

Thank you for reading this post 🖤 If you enjoy my words and photographs, you can subscribe below by email. You’ll be sent a notification when there’s something new to read about slower travel, switching off, or Scotland.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at