The wilderness was calling me again a couple of weeks ago. My levels of technology, civilisation and routine were at saturation point and much as I was functioning I was finding it difficult to truly feel. And to do what I do I need to feel things, truly feel them in my heart. If my heart is lost amidst noise and routine I can not and will not produce my best work. This I know by now and I know when it is time to disconnect from distraction, but reconnect to nature and my core, or my coeur, as they say in France. Where else to retreat but to the heart of the Highlands? To venture further along the North Coast 500, to lay on the earth (in a tent) and to place my feet in sparkling burns and shimmering sea. To wander at leisure in forests and to just sit, to listen and to just be.
Luckily the weather was on my side and the sun shone for three whole days, transfusing the Highlands in colour, and luckily not midges! I love reconnecting with the landscape like this and it is when inspiration naturally flows through me, to me and around me.
We found puffins, a whole colony of puffins, that I could have sat and watched for hours.There they were, just doing their thing on the side of the cliff, not bothered by us. I found more spectacular coastal scenery at Strathy Lighthouse, we camped in a forest, where I was literally in my element. Bright yellow gorse, contrasted against a bright blue burn and vivid green trees. I thought I was in one of my paintings!
We travelled further west the next day and I did actually walk into one of my paintings – Oldshoremore Beach, just off the North Coast 500, but well worth the detour. I have been to a lot of beaches in my life, I have to, I paint them, but this one is now up there in the Top 5 for me. I had already painted it as a commission for a customer, and I have read a book based on the beach and the local area, but nothing had prepared me for the stunning expanse of white sand encased with a beautiful cliff setting and turquoise sea.
Reluctantly we left and camped at another beach, nearer to Durness, but my reluctance was misplaced as again this beach, Sangobeg Bay, was truly spectacular. To be perched on the cliff, the waves gently lapping on the sand below and the sun disappearing below the horizon in front of us was memorable, to say the least.
The final day, instead of heading back the way we came, we cut through the mountains, just south of Loch Eribol and I am so glad that we did. We reached Ben Hope and the Dun Dornaigil Broch as the temperature peaked 25C. Yes, occasionally hot weather does happen in the Highlands. Lunch was spent by the burn and feet in the burn!
The road continues, and if you are not in any hurry, it is well worth exploring the Visitor Points that explain all about the Highland clearances along Strathnaver. We connected back onto the NC500 at Bettihill for a well-deserved ice cream, and then headed back to Wick.
We’ve toured the NC500 before, I would definitely say it is worth going back to the parts you like and taking a few days to truly explore them. Take the little roads off to truly connect to these glorious Highlands. Hopefully you’ll leave with pieces of you that you had been missing..
In business news, you may have gathered, through my lack of blogs, I have been a wee bit busy..I have just started teaching some seascape painting classes. I am loving teaching and enthusing others with the joy of painting and creativity. I have taught classes before, but not in Scotland, so hopefully now this can be a regular occurrence.
The gallery/studio is open most afternoons and I have had lots of visitors, which is great. I am still expanding into new outlets. Natural Retreats, at John O’Groats, will be the next one. I will keep you posted after that. Plus I am preparing for some local events – The Caithness County Show being one and the Caithness Society of Artists’ Annual Exhibition, both in July. Remember if you are in England, I have a painting exhibiting in St Mary’s Church, Shoreham- By-Sea, as part of the Adur Festival until Sunday evening.
Please do pop in if you are doing the North Coast 500 and let me know if you need directions.
For others of you I know you read my blogs because you are genuinely interested in my work, so thank you for that. Please do check my website for new paintings and products. I have added new prints recently 🙂 The link is here –
Until next time,
Lisa Weller xx
Inspiring Art from the Heart of the Highlands