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Power in The Present: do what matters

Updated: Jun 13

Loch Katrine from Ben A'an
Loch Katrine. The Trossachs.

I had a walk around Loch Katrine in The Trossachs last week.  A place I’ve known for about 45 years since I first ventured into the area as a Glasgow teenager with boyhood friends in search of something daring, adventurous and exciting beyond the city.

All those years ago, we would take the Midland Bluebird bus to from Glasgow to Aberfoyle, walk 8 miles along the A821 – also known as “The Dukes Pass”  to the Achray Hotel.  From behind the hotel, we then picked up the route to Ben Venue, not to the peak, but skirting round the side of the mountain before descending down to a bothy on the loch’s south shore. 

Like many stone bothies, this one was a disused shepherd’s hut frequented by hillwalkers in need of a shelter to bed-down for the night. Not for us though, instead we took over the place for days on end, fishing in the loch, swimming in the nearby burn and collecting firewood for evenings around the stone hearth.  The bothy was called Glasahoile and although long gone, the site is still marked on the Trossachs Ordnance Survey map for anyone who cares to look. 

So fast forward 45 years to June 2024 and I had an urge to revisit this magical place that had for me memories of innocence, discovery and the friendship of boys on the cusp of manhood.

After taking the boat, Sir Walter Scott, from Trossachs Pier to Stronachlacher, my friend Nick and me walked along a dirt track from West to East for several miles until we came to the site of the ruined bothy.  Only it wasn’t there, well not at first anyway.  We discovered that as sheep no longer grazed the hillside, the landscape had transformed from what was once a patch of rough grassland into the beginning of a youthful wood covered in hazel, rowan and oak saplings.  I wandered around a little bewildered for several minutes looking for something to connect with my treasured memory. A pile of stones barely visible in the growth was all that was left and it was there that I eventually settled to eat a silent packed lunch.

Michael standing at the ruined bothy
Michael at the bothy ruin

It was a surreal experience and the disconnection didn’t end there. Our route back as I remembered it, was a climb up towards the mountain from the other side. But now, where there was once a path, we slogged through the 2 kilometres of utterly exhausting bog and knee high heather that lay between us and the pass on the North shoulder that ultimately led the way down towards the Ben Venue Car park. I’ve never been so glad to get off a hill and I will not be rushing back I thought.

As ever, I have spent some time in the last few days reflecting on the experience. Difficult and challenging it certainly was, but not without meaning. A metaphor for life perhaps.  

A reminder also that the past is unreliable just as the future is unknowable and that The Present is where life happens. A reminder of The Power of Now as Eckhart Tolle put it.

More than ever, my return to the bothy confirmed me as a committed fan of The Present. This is where we get to choose; choose how we want to be and choose, in the present, to do what matters. We have no power to act in the past or in the future. However, we can realise our power when acting in The Present.

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