In July I spent seven days on my beloved Isle of Mull, in the Western Isles of Scotland. It is a place of breath-taking beauty and glorious wildness.
On the second day I walked from Tobermory up through Aros Park to the Upper Falls. I was familiar with the route, having ventured there two years ago and been awe-struck by the drama and lushness of the waterfall.
I had to return. The memory of the Upper Falls has become iconic for me – a symbol of freedom, cleansing and affirmation. On this visit I longed to be close to its banks once more.
I approached the waterfall from below, from where the streams of Aros Park spill into Tobermory bay. It has been a wet summer so the waters were in full flow, rushing white over rocks, with eddies pooling in the lea of the boulders.
The excitement mounted as I crossed the ranger’s drive and then commenced the final leg of the climb up towards the top of the falls.
On my last trip I had contented myself with watching the cataract from the bench just below. I had been aware of the path that wound on higher, but I had chosen at that time not to take it. Two years ago the bench had been enough, and I had been happy with the illusion that my stamina and curiosity had been rewarded by the discovery of a natural gem.
At the time I claimed the waterfall as my own – the place where only I could reach and where only I would rest.
But this year I did a different thing. I didn’t stop at the bench. This year I was more adventurous and I followed the path onwards until I was looking down at the falls rather than up. And what I discovered made me smile.
From the bench below what lay beyond the top of the falls was invisible. Hence my tendency to imagine this my zenith, my final resting place even. However from my new vantage point I could see there was nothing heavenly about the top of the falls.
There is a road bridge spanning the lagoon where the water pools before gushing over the edge of the precipice. The bridge is on the main drag from Craignure to Tobermory. I’ve crossed it dozens of times without even realising what lay beneath.
I found it amusing that something I had found so magical should be found so close beneath the surface of something so ordinary. It made me smile to think of how we typically travel along in our metal bubbles of speed, oblivious to what we’re crossing, intent on the next destination in our busy lives.
And yet if only we were to get curious about the land we’re traveling through, we would discover that magic is never too far away.