On a recent visit to Scotland, I walked the forest trail in Glen Affric with my cousin, Kathy. The huge trees of the glen looked down from lofty heights among the clouds. We hiked to the waterfall on the swiftly flowing Affric River. I stayed at the top level while Kathy maneuvered to the bottom. Bracken with outcrops of purple heather covered the forest floor. I imagined the characters of the Highland Treasures series among such beauty.
Gavin and Flora in A Highland Ruby spend time in the great forests of Scotland. In their day during the 16th century, the woods are probably covered with virgin timber of gigantic size, with wildlife in abundance. However, among the wildlife, wildcats, wolves, and other predators roam. Gavin tangles with a dangerous wildcat in the story.
Glen Affric (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Afraig) is a glen south-west of the village of Cannich in the Highland region of Scotland, some 15 miles (24 km) to the west of Loch Ness. The River Affric runs along its length, passing through Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin (Loch Benevean).
Until the Battle of Glen Affric in 1741, the lands belonged to Clan Chisholm. The area is now a Caledonian Forest Reserve, a National Scenic Area and a National Nature Reserve. Often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland, it contains one of the largest ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland as well as lochs, moorland and mountains.
The Glen Affric Estate is situated on over 10,000 acres and has its own trout loch. The mountains of Glen Affric are a popular destination with hikers, climbers and mountain bikers.
Enjoy the forest excerpts from A Highland Ruby.
Flora paced the floor of her bed chamber, then went to the small window overlooking the beautiful highland landscape. Ben Wyvis with its undulating ridge formed the background for verdant fields and forests. Rays from the early morning sun broke through silver clouds encasing the snow-covered peak with gold. The June day promised to be clear and sunny, warming nicely after the noon.
He nodded as she mounted. Not wanting to waste time chatting, she gouged the horse’s sides with her heel and sped out of the byre, across the yard, and onto the road. Before reaching the castle, Flora guided Crag off the road and into the woodland of huge oak, birch, and pine trees. Light filtered through the leaves, making patterns on the forest floor. Flora slowed the garron to a walk, weaving through the large trees. A bird chirped on a nearby limb, and midges buzzed in her ear. She slapped at one on her neck. The pesky things.
Flora reached the brock when the sun shone directly overhead. She tied the garron to a nearby tree, dismounted, untied the lunch sack and water skin from the saddle, then found a shady spot under a pine covered with soft needles. She ate the meager food of cheese and bannocks, drank a few sips of water, then retied the articles to the saddle. After removing the bow from across her shoulders, she began looking for deer tracks in the clearings around the brock.
Before long she spotted a set of large hoof prints and entered the trees on foot where the tracks led. The tracks became harder to follow on the leafy forest floor, but a trail of broken twigs on low branches marked the path of a deer. By mid afternoon, she came to a small clearing with abundant signs of the large animal. Flora grabbed a low branch of a large oak, scooted up the trunk, and found a perch above the stag’s resting place. She would wait until the animal returned.
A limb on the fire crackled, popped, and snapped in two, sending a large quantity of sparks flying. Flora woke with the noise. The gray light of dawn permeated the forest. Birds called from their nests, a squirrel chattered from a nearby tree, and some small creature stirred the bracken. Payton, with their two horse in tow, stepped into the clearing. She jumped up, positioned the quiver and bow across her shoulders, and rolled up her blanket.
Flora and Gavin mounted their horses to begin the remaining journey. The day passed as the two before with difficult riding across stubble fields, through forest and glens, fording burns and rivers, and dodging cattle, sheep, and other travelers. Flora felt exhausted as gloaming colored the landscape in tones of grey, purple, and pink. The tower of Castle Craig came into view, looming sinister through the dusk.