Voyage of discovery
"Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith." Hebrews 13.7
Autumn is my favourite time of year in the highlands: when the leaves are turning, the heather is blooming and the breeze in freshening. So the October holiday offers a welcome opportunity to get out and imbibe it all...
This year Annice and I started in Argyll, ranging from one end of the Kilmartin glen to the other, embracing a thousand years of history from the original seat of the Kings of Scottish Dalriada at Dunadd to Carnasserie Castle, where the first Protestant Bishop of Argyll and the Isles, John Carswell, launched the Reformation in the Highlands by translating the Book of Common Order into Gaelic.
Moving south, we explored the network of pilgrimage routes, recently traced by Faith in Cowal - a local initiative whose work has found expression in an informative exhibition at the former parish church of St Munn in Dunoon and in a series of leaflets explaining the significance of each of the 18 sites which the routes connect. We found all but one, which may have been disturbed by the forestry work churning up the immediate vicinity.
And then it was over the sea from Skye, reversing Bonnie Prince Charlie's route to the Uists. From Eriskay to Berneray, we enjoyed ecumenical worship, evidence of the endeavours of the medieval church and every conceivable weather pattern one can expect at this time of year! Perhaps what struck us most, though, was how the rich archaeology of the area is down-played by local residents. Whenever we asked about places worth visiting, it was always to the beaches we were pointed, never to the sites of historical interest.
At home in Lewis, I was thrilled to make the acquaintance of two tradition-bearers, whose knowledge of original Gaelic hymns I was keen to tap. One presented me with a sackful of material, while the other allowed me to record him singing, promising more on my return; both leaving me with a keen sense of anticipation for the future along with a deep feeling of gratitude for the rich legacy of our forefathers and mothers.