Posted by: christinelaennec | October 8, 2014

Keeping a date with myself: a walk in Crianlarich Community Woodlands

A few weeks ago, Michael arranged to work from home and help the Dafter so I could have the day off.  I headed for the hills, and went to Crianlarich.  I was there in about two hours, after a stunning train ride on the famous West Highland Line:

Near Garelochhead, I think - West Highland Line.  September, 2014.

Near Garelochhead, I think – West Highland Line. September, 2014.

As usual, I was blissed out knitting, enjoying a coffee, reading and thinking along the way.

Crianlarich is an important junction in the Highlands.  Two main roads converge there, and also the train splits in half.  One half goes to Mallaig, and the other half goes to Oban.

Crianlarich station, where the train divides.

Crianlarich station, where the train divides.

But I got off, and went in search of a place that we visited years ago.

In July 2000, our family stayed overnight in Crianlarich, on our way from Aberdeen to Islay for a friend’s wedding.  It was an extremely difficult time for our family.  Eight-year-old Our Son’s problems were becoming quite extreme, and no-one except our family GP and our minister seemed to believe us.  We were terribly concerned both about Our Son, and about the two-year-old Dafter’s safety.  We were just beginning what was to be a long period of battling with the authorities over securing proper help for Our Son, which culminated a year later in our winning the battle for him to go to therapeutic residential care.  In July 2000, I didn’t know how things would turn out.  I had feelings of dread about our family’s future, and I felt afraid for the world in general.  I was worried about wars in the Middle East, ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe, I was worried about the environment and global warming. I wondered what kind of a world my children would live in when they were my age (40).

The evening of our stay in Crianlarich in the year 2000, our little family went for a walk in a newly-planted community woodland.  I remember carrying the tired Dafter, while Our Son let off a lot of energy dashing about on the paths.  The trees were all mere sticks in protective plastic casings, and it seemed to be a woodland in name only.  I remember saying to myself, “Let’s just see what happens.  I’ll come back here in 15 years and see if life is better then.”

Conkers, and fairy hoax mitts.  Sept. 2014.

Near the entrance to the woodland:  conkers, on my fairy hoax mitts. Sept. 2014.

So when I had a free day recently, I decided not to wait another year, but to go back to see how the woodlands had come on, and whether I felt life was indeed better.

What a lovely experience it was!  The sticks in plastic cases had turned into beautiful trees:

View from Community Woodlands, Crianlarich.  Sept. 2014.

View from Community Woodlands, Crianlarich. Sept. 2014.  The young birch tree on the right of the photo is one of the trees planted in 1999.

Mountains, Crianlarich.  Sept. 2014.

Mountains, and crepuscular rays of the sun coming through the clouds.  Crianlarich. Sept. 2014.

The winds were blowing very steadily, and I watched the clouds chase across the sky.  I felt so grateful that Our Son, now 22, is doing better than we ever dreamed possible, living independently and having an affectionate relationship with us.  The Dafter is continuing to recover from her ME/CFS, and is in many ways so much more together than I was as a teenager.  Both our children delight us.  Our family has more than survived – we have flourished.  Perhaps some people would look at us and see a lot of problems, but I see that a lot of healing has happened.

In terms of the world more generally, even with the horrors that we humans have inflicted on one another and on our planet in the interim, I must say that I feel far more positive about the future than I did back then.  I’m glad that my children’s outlook doesn’t really take in what race or sexual orientation people are; I’m grateful for people like Mo Mowlem and Nelson Mandela and their largely successful efforts to lead their countries to peace and reconciliation.  I still worry about the environment, but at least I can now easily recycle a lot of our household waste, and for example request that our household electricity come from renewable sources.  The topic of damage to the environment is mainstream rather than a fringe concern.  Perhaps it’s one of the gifts of being older, but I’m more able to take the long view about a lot of problems nowadays.  I’m more able to choose to be hopeful than I was back then.

Here’s me, enjoying the fresh air and the passing showers:

Hiker Mama?

Hiker Mama?

(I wasn’t actually feeling hugely self-satisfied, I was just trying to keep my hair out of my face!)

The green of the nearby forest and vegetation was intense, which surprised and delighted me:

Greenery, Crianlarich.  Sept. 2014

Greenery, Crianlarich. Sept. 2014

Even in September, although I’d missed the heather, there were wildflowers:

Wild scabious, Crianlarich Community Woodland, Sept. 2014.

Wild scabious, Crianlarich Community Woodland, Sept. 2014.

The sense of space and light were wonderful:

Crianlarich Community Woodland, 14 years later.

Crianlarich Community Woodland.

And the fall colours of the Highlands were beautiful, with the bracken ferns beginning to turn:

Fall colours:  bracken.

Fall colours: bracken.

After an hour’s walk, including a wee detour into some forest plantations, I went back into the village.  Even though it is an important intersection, rail stop and also a place crossed by the long-distance West Highland Way walking trail, Crianlarich is pretty small.  There are two hotels, a police station, the train station, a shop, a pub/restaurant, a little church, a nursery and primary school, and houses.    I found a rare traffic-free moment to show you where the East-West A85 meets the North-South A82:

Crianlarich village, with the train viaduct.  Sept. 2014.

Crianlarich village, with the train viaduct. Sept. 2014.

I hadn’t really gotten very wet on my walk, and by the time I had walked through the village, the sun had come out and dried me off.  I went up to the Crianlarich Hotel and enjoyed a beautiful scone, and more time to dream, knit and read in the window:

Coffee (and scone) at the Crianlarich Hotel, Sept. 2014.

Coffee (the scone had yet to arrive) at the Crianlarich Hotel, Sept. 2014.

I was interested to see that they host ceilidhs every Saturday night all winter long.  I wonder if they’re as good as the family ceilidh we went to in Lochranza on Arran?


ceilidhs!  (I found it slightly surreal that the Crianlarich Hotel is now owned by Best Western, which I associate with Oregon!)

Then it was time to catch the train back to Glasgow.  Crianlarich train station is very well kept, and has a lovely, bright waiting room:

Crianlarich station waiting room.

Crianlarich station waiting room.

I imagine it must be a bit different in the winter, packed with passengers while it snows outside.  There was a sign inviting you to push a button on the wall to turn on the heater.

The journey back seemed even more spectacular than coming up in the morning:

On the way home:  West Highland Line going back to Glasgow.

On the way home: West Highland Line going back to Glasgow.

View from the train.

View from the train.

Unlike James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree’s mother, I was indeed back in time for tea.  I felt as if I’d been away much longer than just a day.  The fresh air of the Highlands (and plenty of knitting time) had swept away a few cobwebs, and I slept like a log that night.  It was a great wee break, and good to feel that on balance there is plenty to celebrate about life.

I hope you’re all having a good week, and perhaps having a few adventures of your own!



  1. I was very interested in your comment: “…one of the gifts of being older, but I’m more able to take the long view about a lot of problems nowadays. I’m more able to choose to be hopeful than I was back then…”. That must be a great asset to have acquired.

  2. Thanks for a truly refreshing, thought-provoking post, Christine. While my life experience does not mirror the specifics of yours, the tensions and worries about my children and our world have been very similar. I am grateful for the perspective that this later than yours season of my life gives 🙂 I treasure the goodness and beauty I have known, and am determined to cheer myself and others on to know the peace that passes understanding now and in the days to come. I am recovering from 3 weeks of travel and am going to scroll back to visit your posts I missed! Blessings! xx

  3. I love the Highlands, one of my favorite places. I’ve not been there in the fall of the year ~ thanks for sharing the beautiful photos. What a lovely day you had. 🙂

  4. A beautiful post, Christine – you have taken quite a journey, not only over space and time, but also in spirit. I am so glad that this journey has turned into a lovely source of contentment, peace and joy for you. How wonderful to return to this beautiful place to see that the young trees have indeed grown into a forest, and the seemingly insurmountable mountains of your family’s journey have turned into a lovely viewpoint to look back on. Thank you for sharing. Many blessings going forward. xo Karen

  5. A beautiful post indeed, seems like you had a wonderful day reflecting on hard times from the past and rejoicing in the present. Whatever the future holds I wish you all well. Beautiful photos.

  6. How wonderful to see all these things and still be home in time for tea! You have such an adventurous spirit 🙂

  7. What a wonderful promise to have made to yourself 15 years ago, and even more wonderful that time has brought new growth all round.
    Will we see more excursions to the west now that you’re so well placed?

  8. What a beautiful part of the world, and what a refreshment for you to spend a day there. I am delighted to see mention of James James, etc!

  9. Thank you everyone, for your very kind comments and thoughts.

    oldblack, there have been times in my life when I really felt my back was at the wall, so to speak – and these have been the times when I realised that I did still have a choice as to what attitude to take.

    Gracie – I know you are an adoptive parent too, although parenting in general can be an intense (and intensely rewarding) journey. I’m glad to hear that a sense of serenity is enhanced by getting older!

    Anne, Karen and Lorraine, thank you so much, and for your good wishes.

    Roobeedoo – I really don’t think of myself as adventuresome, but I do have a curiosity that drives me to explore.

    Linda – there are so many places within easy reach of Glasgow that I hope my West Coast explorations will continue!

    Mimacat – although I don’t have the wardrobe for it, I very often think of James James’ wayward mother, and feel a bit naughty when I go on my getaways! Those poems from When We Were Very Young still stay with me. The other day I made some reference to “the King asked the Queen and the Queen asked the parlourmaid” and the person I was talking to looked at me as if I must have forgotten to take my medication that morning…

  10. I actually felt a wee bit teary reading this, glad you were able to keep this date and your family has now flourished.

  11. “Blissed out knitting, enjoying a coffee, reading and thinking”….my very favorite things to do. You’re a gal after my own heart, Christine! xo

  12. “Both our children delight us.” Those words say more than you would ever know, Christine. Whoever our children are, whatever their path, we cannot help but love them unconditionally. They are not perfect, but neither are we. There is no love purer than the love we have for our children.

    And to look at your life and see healing – how inspirational this is.

  13. What a special outing! How fun to be able to go back after so many years and look at things in retrospect. Age is good for us, isn’t it! I know I’m younger but I still know that my perspective improves each year and hopefully my trust in God and His sovereignty. It is so nice to be able to see pictures and read about your day out — makes up for not being in that beautiful place myself. 🙂

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