The Sounds of Scotland

17 August 2017

glenfinnan cropped

Photo: Bloodworx via CC

Scotland is a real feast for the senses. In a previous blog we looked at some of the best views in the country, but sounds can be just as evocative. Here are a few of our favourite things to hear, those sounds that sum up for us happy memories of amazing times spent on holiday.

Nothing makes you feel more calm and relaxed than the sound of waves gently lapping on a beach. Maybe it’s the hypnotic rhythm or the gentle tempo that makes you feel at one with your surroundings. It’s a direct connection to nature that you can’t replicate in any city. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to be lulled to sleep at night by this gentle sound, Shore House sits right on the waters’ edge, going to bed hearing this almost guarantees a great night sleep and what better to wake up in the morning to.

One artificial sound that I will always associate with happy memories of Hebridean holidays is the tone that precedes announcements on the Calmac ferry. For returning holidaymakers it can elicit an almost Pavlovian response; hearing the simple, distinctive chimes, followed by instructions in English and Gaelic, means you are on the last leg of your journey, you are almost there. It’s a slow journey but one to be savoured, especially when excitement builds as the islands slowly come into view. Peninsula Cottage is located just outside of Stornoway so once the boat lands you have only a matter of minutes before you can get your holiday started. If you are lucky, you may also hear the sound of the corncrake here, it’s rasping Crex! Crex! intrinsically linked to memories of long summer nights spent outside on the machair or playing in the sand dunes.

Winter sounds completely different to summer. Hiking boots crunching through frosty heather on a mountain top or winds howling across deserted peat bogs make the sound of logs in a fire all the more welcome. It’s not just the physical sensation of warmth that a roaring fire brings, it is also the visual aspect, the atmosphere and light it gives to a room and of course the unique sound. Seasoned logs that crackle loudly as they warm up the room make the perfect accompaniment to a fine single malt after a day outside. Clashindeugle Farmhouse has a location in the heart of the Cairngorms, which is ideal for any outdoor enthusiast and has a massive open fire in the living room which everyone can gather round in the evening to swap tales of winter mountaineering, skiing or snowman building.

Can a sound send you back in time? That is certainly what the chuffing of a steam train can do for many. The journey by train from Fort William to Mallaig has many attractions, but one of the things that sets a steam train journey apart from its modern counterparts is the atmosphere generated by the unique sound. The Glenfinnan viaduct is a triumph of Victorian engineering, more recently made famous by its inclusion in the Harry Potter films. To cross it on a vintage train is a visceral and immersive treat and also a history lesson, as you follow in the footsteps of the original holidaymakers taking this journey over 100 years ago. The sound of the engine plays such an important part in this and that is why people from all over the world flock here to make this journey. Mullach Ruadh is just a 10 minute walk from the Glenfinnan Hotel, the train tracks go behind the house so a couple of times a day you can close your eyes and as the train passes be transported back to a golden era of engineering and transportation.

Perhaps the most sought after sound in Scotland is the sound of silence. For many city dwellers who crave solace and relaxation the concept of spending an entire evening without hearing as much as a pin drop is completely elusive. Scotland contains some of the most remote and wild areas in Europe and on one of these summer evenings that seem to last forever when you experience total silence then time feels like it stands still. Star na Mara is set back from the road and has been designed to make the most of the stunning surrounding vistas. When it eventually does get dark in the summer the lack of light pollution and the absence of any sound at all can be eerie and almost supernatural. It’s something you appreciate very quickly though and start to crave more and more after just the smallest taste.