Scotland, it turns out, knows how to put on a show.
As Ben and I walked out on Monday afternoon, squeezing in one last tramp before the drive back to civilisation, we were audience to a scene that the Scottish Tourist Board couldn’t have choreographed better.
The winter sun was setting in a mountain range v-neck, sending soft warm light down the glen. A small loch mirrored the snow-capped peaks in icy blue water. The green of the heather was crested with gold in the dying day.
Our boots (mine more than a little damp from snow) crunched in the easy Land Rover track, in places more of a snow-melt stream, running up over the tongues of our boots. I tossed a cricket-ball sized rock from palm to palm, feeling its friendly heft.
As we poked over a gentle climb, and the Ryvoan stone-built bothy came into view, I stopped and almost dropped a catch. Around the ancient hillside, a herd of reindeer strutted, antlers thrusting ahead as they strolled across the track, looking for dinner in the field below.
As they passed, the sun beamed, and light snow eddied in the air. Ben and I dropped to the ground, sinking into the rough grass, the herd surrounding us.
Some things you can look up online: everyone has seen photos of reindeer – most likely you’re sick of them after Christmas. But what struck me of the reality was the smacking sound of their lips and tongue clapping up the grass. Bad table manners.