A Walk on Islay
Its a bright and sunny day, and I found myself drifting off into daydream land - I love the feeling of coming back to the present and not realising I had been zoning out. Because this tells me my mind was in healthy, happy place. Not in a negative “sigh, I’m so bummed I can’t be doing xyz right now” but in a fresh springtime air, honest to goodness, carefree daydream. Where was I? I was wandering in Scotland of course ❤️
A typical wander for me starts with listening to the quiet but persistent pull I feel to go in a certain direction. Sometimes this is reinforced by something I have seen either with my eye or on the OS or other historical maps. But often there is no reason. Other than the urge to move in a certain direction. Occasionally I will go out just to follow a marked trail, but my best experiences are when I just wander in a general direction. There is no telling what could be between me and that direction - and that’s the fun, to discover what lies in that space. There is always something to be found. Sometimes the discovery is internal, where I just have time to think and process things, or walk away some stress or emotion, work out some kink in my mental lines. Other times, the discovery is a physical place, or an interaction.
Last year at this time I was on Islay, staying in Port Ellen on a trip with my friends Andy and Ana and my favourite little mini Scots. I’d gone off in search of a tall standing stone I had seen from the road. I found the small side road that the stone was on, and after some effort found a way to climb over a rotting stile on the fence line. (Remember, this is legal in Scotland, and I practice Right to Roam with the utmost awareness and respect.) After staring up in awe at the 14 foot tall lichen encrusted stone for awhile, I made my way back to the road and followed the pull to continue on up over the hill. I went as far as a working farm across from a croft ruin and a second standing stone, and then turned around (after having a nosey in the fields of course!)
I had noted a chapel ruin on the OS map, so I wandered back into the fields on the return walk to see if I could find any trace of it. I found a very small profile of a building mostly grown over, and then my eyes settled on 2 curiously shaped stones with holes in them. My best guess at the time was that they were used as a gate and the holes were sockets. This is what I LOVE about exploring - places where I sit down and stare. Take a mental wander through the centuries. I sat close to these stones, thinking about the rubble beneath me, the undulating hills, the bay in the distance. Who walked here before? Why was this the perfect spot to build their sacred building? What I didn’t know at the time was that there was also a well there somewhere. The place is named Cill Tobar Lasrach, or Eaglais Tobar Lasrach, which translates to Church of the Well of Lasrach (according to Canmore). A bit of linguistic perspective for you: Cill is Gaelic for church or chapel, and it became “kil” which you will notice in many place names in Scotland. This is one of many tools in my mental toolkit - place names often offer hidden clues to the history of a place. (And now I know that tobar is a reference to well or spring!) I have since read that Lasrach is most likely reference to the Irish female saint Lasair.
Islay has not lost its ancient energy. It’s hard to describe but different areas I wander affect my soul in their own unique ways. Some are easier to feel and sense the millennia that have passed, while others I only feel fleeting glimpses of the past here and there. I felt that ancient energy very strong on my wander and I felt so peaceful soaking it all up, alone in the countryside. In my efforts to get to another standing stone on my walk back to Port Ellen I underestimated a puddle and filled my boots with water and mud. It was a sloshy walk back to Port Ellen but I was too happy to care.
What kind of adventurer are you? Does spontaneity float your boat or stress you out? We are all different, and I know some of you feel much more at peace with a plan - and that’s ok too! As long as you are enjoying yourself, and return safely to adventure another day, that is all that matters