4th September

The Hill

He needed half a day of reasonable weather. As he drove out of Inverness the clouds were thinning. There was even a suggestion of sunshine. He calculated his timings again: an hour’s drive to the starting-point, three hours to walk up the mountain, two hours to come down, two and a half hours’ drive to Edinburgh. He’d be home by early evening.

In the past he had sometimes climbed thirty or forty Munros in a year, but work and family commitments had reduced this number to almost zero. He tried not to resent this: it was what happened. But on this business trip, he’d built a climb into his schedule: he’d completed his work the previous evening; boots, rucksack, map and food were all in the back of the car; and now the weather was smiling on him. Today he was going to climb a hill.

He left the A9 and a few miles further on turned onto a single-track road. Not far to go now. And then, at the next junction, a red sign confronted him: ROAD CLOSED AHEAD. BRIDGE REPAIRS. LOCAL ACCESS ONLY. It had not occurred to him that he might be thwarted in this way. He drove on: what, after all, did LOCAL ACCESS mean? But when he reached the bridge a mile later, it was covered in scaffolding and blocked to all vehicles. It was another five miles to the starting-point. To walk there and back was out of the question: his schedule lay in ruins.

He turned the car and drove back the way he had come, then down another narrow road that rejoined the A9 further south. On his left was a river, too full to be forded; beyond it, the road that was closed; and beyond that, the hill he had intended to climb, splendid against the now completely blue sky. He kept looking for a footbridge across the river, but could not see one. The hill was mocking him. Then the road left the river and he lost sight of the hill.

It was frustrating, but he had to let it go. The bridge would be repaired. The hill would still be there some other day.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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