There are so many ways to describe a trip to Scotland - there are enough thing to view and places to see and historical sights and castles and distilleries to make your head spin. But no one comes to Scotland expecting to lounge in the sun, and I think everyone arrives with at least a mild expectation of the inevitable bad weather. And if they don't - they realize they should have very soon after arriving.
However, in all of my time before coming here, in my first travels around this lush country, and in all the years since that I've lived here - I've never once heard anyone talk about how good the light is in Scotland.
And that is because - after almost a decade here I have to say - for the most part it is true that it's not great. There is a perpetual white sheet which more often than not hangs over the bulk of the country, and when it's gone more often than not it is replaced by heavy, low hanging rain clouds. Those who live on the West coast wear the bad weather of their homeland with a ironic pride - and they'll talk about the beauty of Scotland, but they do it in reference to the damp and the colours you find in the watery shores of Loch Lomond, or the low haning mist in the hills of Glencoe.
I'm a photograher - so light is inevitably a very important thing to me. But more than that - I have always intensely felt the importance of colour and light in the places that I've been. It tints the journey with it's hues and leaves an indelible impression in your mind once home of what you saw and the technicolour grandness (or washed out dreariness) of the time abroad. The light I see in a place when I get off the plane often leaves me with an immediate impression of how I feel about the new land I've just set down in, and more often than not I find that that first impression was a good one.
In the years I lived in Edinburgh - I did some times glimpse a stunning light unlike anything I had ever expected to witness in Scotland. But it wasn't until I moved to Fortrose, a beautiful little village on the Black Isle north of Inverness that I discovered the true greatness of the light possibilities in Scotland.
There are many stunning places I've discovered in this country over the years. Unbelievable hills and incredible cities - vast landscapes and sky and lochs to take your break away. Even surprise beaches with long stretches of sand leading out into the Atlantic. But never have I seen the kind of stunning light that I experience almost daily in Fortrose.
I write this story mainly for the photographer, the painter, fellow followers of great light. When I arrived here and saw my first sunset over the Moray Firth from the hill near St Andrews Church I knew I'd found a place to call home and that my camera would never be far from my side. This spot seems to be a hidden gem for artists - and in all my time here I've never once seen anyone painting the incomparable view over the firth to the bridges of distant Inverness.
The light and views in this place are equal to any I have seen in the world - and in some ways it has encompassed them all. There have been early spring days (like today) where the light shows so fine and lightly coloured over the water it reminds me with a pang in my heart of my days on the beaches in Maui. Warm summer days where the light bleeds red in the afternoon in the long stretch across turquoise seas that I could almost swear I was in the Florida Keys watching the sun set over the Seven Mile Bridge. There have been days when the beach could be in Australia - the Firth transformed to a golden Indian Ocean lapping against the waves - and days when it is the cool sullen pewter of the Tasman Sea off the coast of New Zealand.
There are days when it could be nowhere but the highlands of Scotland - and the entire Firth glistens with a pristine silver light unlike anything I've ever seen anywhere - the boats in the harbour floating serenely through it - with shafts of light breaking out of majestic clouds and the low lit view of the Inverness bridge somehow still visible in the distance.
So many days I've walked the paths in Fortrose and wondered if I'd somehow wandered into the backdrop of a 1930's technicolour film set - the clouds are so full and bursting with all the colour that seems to have been drained out of the lower half of the country.
This is a place like no other - and I share this with both the joy and trepidation that that secret will not keep for ever.