‘You can't study the darkness by flooding it with light,’ Edward Abbey

Four hundred and thirty two families own half of this vast land. What we see as wilderness is a network of private estates, largely dedicated to pursuits of slaughter. We come for solitude, little knowing that even this is illusion - much of Sutherland supported thriving communities for fifty centuries. A great northern diver keeps us company in the mouth of The Naver. Red bull and vodka in Skinandis. Empty bowl converting nothing into something. 120mph on an icy road through Reay in a Fiesta that stinks of bongwater and wasted surfers. Darkness and light.

Midwinter tripping on an awful chart. West facing coasts are cooking, but it’s refreshingly quiet in the nearly-flat north. -10 degrees outside and a dozen stags on the road at night, barn owls hunting as a pair. Lidl beer. Snowflake hypnosis. Munros in the distance capped in white. The river tastes of peat.

A day forecast to be flat affords the best of the trip through a single big moon tide. Howling wind out of the south and a little swell fighting onto the ledge. A dick drawn in dirt on the back of a spanking new range rover with the message “I love you, Lynne.” High lines on a bonzer, travelling. Tyres piled high as a house and numb hands.

photo by James Bowden
photo by James Bowden
photo by James Bowden
photo by James Bowden
photo by James Bowden
photo by James Bowden