‘A breath of fresh air’. I’ve never been a fan of cliché expressions, but in this case I’ll make an exception. I am forever amazed at what fresh air does for the soul. Really.
This week, C and I decided it was time to escape the library. We packed a bag of snacks, took jackets in case the sun disappeared, and drove north. Our destination was Aberfoyle, a small Trossachs town that boasts a lane of old-fashioned shops, twee cafés and a profusion of natural landmarks. Loch Ard, Loch Katrine and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park are all in reach of this tiny settlement, and we headed steeply uphill towards the latter.
Just being together, without books, without the buzz of the city… We got lost between spindly trees, decaying pine needles and dark grass, stumbling upon a singing stream that we followed back to the waterfall. There are picnic tables, hammocks and flat rocks where you can sit and listen to the liquid sliding over the pebbles, smoothing them in a haze of terracotta and sienna shades. Occasionally a metallic scrape shatters the silence. It’s just a body zooming above the canopy; a youngster exploring the Go Ape assault course.
The Lodge at the park has been completely revamped within the past year: there’s a new café (serving the standard sandwiches, pizzas and drinks) plus a wildlife hub where ospreys are caught on camera. And although it’s not quite the season, a Mackie’s ice cream counter. We couldn’t help but grab a scoop and sit out on the patio, staring across the countryside with our scarves wrapped tightly around our necks. How very Scottish.
It may seem hypocritical of me to talk nature and landscapes whilst I type this in front of a computer screen. But there is nothing quite as recalibrating, as calming, as simple as breathing fresh air. If only more of us put down our tablets, our mobile phones and our TV remotes, perhaps we’d be more in tune with this wonderful world… and each other.