Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Scotland's natural world is transforming experience

Posted November 15, 2013

During my trip overseas that inspired the musical album “Scotland – Grace of the Wild,” I slid out of bed at 3:45 a.m. one day and drove 15 miles from my hotel to the Cairngorm Mountains. For several hours, I became detached from the norms of life in a true wilderness experience. It was a “spiritual uplift,” as the Scots would say.

I have long been fascinated by the regenerative and transforming power of silence in the wild. In 1984 I attended a silent retreat. For most of the weekend our group, numbering about 20, was instructed to shut down our tongues and egos and just listen to the sounds of nature. That retreat had a profound impact on me. It led to major changes in my life. Courage born from that retreat propelled me to change careers from radio to television news. That retreat also motivated me to carve out time every year for a wilderness journey away from the voices and hubbub of modern life. However, as parental and work-related responsibilities grew, my quiet discipline began to disintegrate. Now with both of my children gone from the family nest, I long for a return to a silent retreat.

bill leslie Bill Leslie's "Grace of the Wild"

Surely there is grace in the wilds of Scotland as I discovered that cool morning in June. Scotland is blessed with more than 30,000 lakes or lochs. It is also a very mountainous and hilly country. You can easily find a rugged one-lane road that will take you past sheep and cattle to a quiet and meditative place. I am already planning my next trip to Scotland. It will include a canoe adventure near the mountains around Assynt, a tiny parish tucked away in the northwest corner of Scotland. I would also like to spend some time in Iona, revered as a holy place since the Dark Ages.

Beecham McDougald of Laurinburg has been following our Scotland series on and wrote to me about his work with a student exchange program with Oban High School in Scotland:

“We were over in July for a wedding on Orkney, a drive and hikes amongst the rolling Highlands, and reconnecting with friends from our 21 years of exchanges. Your presentation took me back to that family vacation to the country where the people are as beautiful and welcoming as the scenery.”

My song “Grace of the Wild” has no words. If I could choose some lyrics to go along with it I would pick the following poem from Frank Maguire titled “This Land.”

Where rivers run and lochs stand still
Where winds they blow with bitter chill
My soul is in the sky and sea
This land is mine and part of me

Where eagles fly and cattle roam
Where I may be this is my home
My world is where I want to be
This land forever calling me

Where clouds they gather towering high
Where mountains reach up to the sky
My life and I, we both agree
This land is waiting there for me

Where years roll on when time has lain
Where bonnie heather blooms again
My heart forever young and free
This land tomorrow is for me

Where I return again someday
Where bluebells grow, that’s where I’ll lay
My life complete as in death I see
This land is mine and part of me.

1 Comment

Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • scotlandlover Nov 18, 2013

    My husband and I toured Scotland, especially the highlands, years ago.When you go back, there is a three car ferry that you can take to Skye instead of using the bridge.Scotland is a cherished place to my family, so much that I named my children Connery, Ross, and Highland.

Meet the Author
Bill Leslie