For anyone familiar with 'The Lifelight Series', this sentiment will come as no surprise. After all, Slioch is way up there in the wilds of Scotland. However, it's the island of Inchmahome in '21st Century Light' that's the product of a particularly memorable holiday.
Inchmahome Priory is set on an island in the lake of Menteith (the only lake in Scotland - the others are all 'Lochs') and though some artistic license has been taken with the surrounding area and the gift shop, the island and the ruins of the Priory needed no such 'authorly tweaking' as both remained in my mind long after my trip to see them.
They are definitely a recommended 'place to see' if you're ever touring around Scotland - If you get the chance: ENJOY Inchmahome!
And to give you some idea of what to expect, here's a few excerpts from '21st Century Light':
After leaving Cat, Mary walked along the path that led to the priory ruins and then deviated from the marked route. Crossing the neatly trimmed grass that surrounded the site, she pushed her way into the cool shade of the bordering woodland.
She stooped as she passed beneath the lower branches of the trees. Her feet sank into the damp, leaf-layered ground. The air seemed thicker here, heavy with the smell of rich, wet earth. Water still dripped from overhead as the leaves gradually gave up their reservoirs of rain water; overspill from the last shower.
Here, she was in her element.
Finding a branch that made the perfect seat, she checked the view of the ruins through the foliage and opened her sketch pad. Balancing her box of pencils beside her, she selected one and began to work.
Time became absorbed by a collection of lines on thick, creamy paper.
The two of them lapsed into silence after that, enjoying the natural quiet of the island. What noise there was hardly warranted the title. The wind brushed its way through the trees, water slapped softly against the rocks on the shoreline and there was the occasional bird call. The atmosphere was one of peace. Perfect.
A few minutes later, it wasn’t quite so perfect. The sporadic cloud of the morning and early afternoon had thickened and darkened. The wind picked up, scattering small waves across the top of the lake.
“Great.” Cat muttered, “This is going to upset the visitors. If I’m not mistaken, all those without waterproofs are about to get wet.”
Mary tried not to feel smug as she pulled up her hood. She sank her chin into the neck of her snug coat and cradled her coffee cup, letting its warmth seep into her fingers. Tilting it, she sipped on the contents and watched as large raindrops began to fall. The initial impact of each tiny missile sent water dancing back into the air as a myriad of rippling circles transformed the lake’s surface.
When the rain shower became a downpour, the two of them headed for shelter. Mary didn’t want to meet Cat’s brother, but there was only one other option if she wanted a roof over her head.
“You know, Cat, I think I’m going to have a walk over to the chapter house. This weather looks like it’s settling in for the rest of the afternoon. If I want to carry on drawing, I need somewhere dry.”
Cat squinted skywards, raindrops splashing on her upturned face. “Yeah, you could be right... You’ll be going to go see the happy couple then?”
Mary hesitated, was her obsession beginning to show? “Well, yes, they’re in the chapter house, and as that’s the only part of this place with a roof…”
Once out of Cat’s view, Mary slowed her pace. Looking ahead, her heart skipped a beat.
There it was.
Such an innocent looking building, but then, it wasn’t the building that was the problem.
The familiar pull on her body became stronger, the nearer she got to the chapter house.
Dragging her feet, Mary turned on to the flagstone path that led directly to the building’s entrance. The only structure at the priory that still possessed a roof, it made sense to come here. Compulsion had nothing to do with it… and she was sticking to that story.
The weather had deteriorated rapidly, giving her hope that other visitors would have the same idea. If others were around, surely it wouldn’t be hard to view them as they were meant to be viewed; nothing more than an historical curiosity?
Coming to a stop just inside the chapter house doorway, she peered in. There wasn’t a single rain-soaked tourist to be seen. A sigh of frustration gusted through her lips. When her neck began to tingle, she briefly scanned the empty landscape behind her. The feeling of being watched had returned.
Making her decision, she stepped across the threshold.
Her heart instantly responded with a tattoo of rapid beats. Silly. She shouldn’t be so easily spooked.
The sound of her footsteps echoed through the room, bouncing off the ancient walls that had borne silent witness to centuries of history. In perfect, solitary splendour, with thick ropes around its perimeter to ensure that visitors kept a respectful distance, was an object of aged beauty. Mary gazed at the effigies. She’d failed to find out anything much about them, other than they were likely to be husband and wife. They embraced each other in death, with a tenderness that implied deep devotion in life.
It was such a rare thing, an exquisite symbol of eternal rest. The stone had been expertly chiselled, the sculptor expressing an almost loving touch as his skill created the likeness of the couple. The man wore armour, the woman a traditional gown and headdress from the thirteenth century. Their arms were entwined and their heads turned, so that they gazed into each other’s eyes…