It had taken Saima the best part of ten weeks to walk the entire north coast. Now she was close to her home on the Isle of Skye. Home. Somehow, a small part of her, despite her aching muscles, did not want the journey to end. Since setting out in July, these ancient mountains had been her guide, her friends, her mother, enveloping her in warmth and love, protecting but usually silent, never judging, but always wise. She loved the evening views of the sea lochs and those isolated spots where you could look out across the waves through a foreground of soft, delicate purple and bright yellow: gorse and thistle.
Saima loved the thistle flower that was the emblem of the country. Set amongst the majesty of the jade mountains, dotted with yellow gorse, the palette was unthinkable. What genius artist would think of putting its soothing lilac against a backdrop of more shades of green than you would think possible and the vibrant lemon splashes of gorse? In harder times, people used to eat the yellow buds. It was a food that was available all year round. She mused on the idea of consuming something so beautiful. Only the flowers could be eaten and gave off a faint aroma which put her in mind of coconut, or maybe it was almond. She could never decide.
Not many people knew the secret of the thistle either. It provided a juicy, mild-flavoured treat to the initiated. Saima had foraged for such food along the way. She learned to strip the thistle down to the stem enjoying its watery, bitter crunch, sometimes dipping it in sugar. In summer, they could grow to the height of a human.
Saima had nearly walked the entire length of the North Coast 500 route. And she felt good about it. She lay in the entrance to her tent as a gentle breeze set the thistles dancing slowly, sensuously. As one, they bowed gracefully towards the setting sun, like a curtain being drawn back to reveal the waters of the loch against a sky of pink and orange, and whatever colour you get when the two are mixed. The only sounds were the distant lapping of waves down on the shoreline or the occasional cry of gulls or guillemots, muted and lulled into splashes of silence by the changing wind direction.
As daylight faded, the silver moonlight took custody of the now perfectly calm loch.
Saima felt cocooned by the familiar rugged, yet warm cloak of the north coast landscape once more and was happy.
Journey’s end. Home.