Perhaps because of the relative lack of colour I was struck by textures - mossy, ferny, twiggy, thorny, grassy, crinkly leaves of foxgloves, glossy leaves of celandine, crusty bark, sticky mud, crystal clear water, slippery seaweed, encrusted rocks; everything in varying degrees of wetness.
The landscape is quite varied. Sea lochs and freshwater lochs, little lochans. Bare hills and coarse moorland, rocky outcrops, rounded bens and sharp peaks of Arran, dark conifer plantations, still-brown larch woods, oak and purplish haze of birch, one stand of beech, lots of mature crab apple trees in one glen. Now and then a fertilised field stands out because it is so green. You can tell which areas are, or have been, part of large estates - they have a (slightly) more managed look and are often quite diverse. Some mixed woodland with specimen trees, some commercial forest, an avenue of trees perhaps, some cattle, some sheep, an elaborate gate, a gatehouse with Gothic windows, a small kirk, a pet cemetery, more pheasant than elsewhere - a gamekeeper is raising some for the shoot.
There are some fine plain Georgian houses, a few castles and ruins of castles, many cottages which have seen better days, and attractive Farrow and Ball painted ones which are often second homes, poor farms struggling on, and bungalows. More bungalows than cottages though you can drive for miles without seeing either.
There is a lot of winter damage. We have had three major storms this winter and in some parts whole groups of trees have been uprooted from the ground as one and have fallen in one direction, and another wind has blown trees down on top in the opposite direction. Plenty of firewood.
Three restaurants closed till late March. Very few shops or garages, or villages come to that. A few major failed projects - a timber mill which you would think would have succeeded, (wrong kind of wood planted sixty years ago for pit props, and now no mines), and a site for building North Sea oil platforms, never used - a real eyesore now 40 years on. It's a time of year when you can see what a struggle it can be to make a living in rural Scotland.
The roads are like patchwork. We passed one huge state of the art vehicle with four men in yellow waterproofs cheerfully slapping hot tarmac into muddy holes in the road in the rain. What a job, with hundreds of miles of roads ahead of them. Hardy folk. We passed one man walking briskly, miles from anywhere. Dressed for the weather and carrying a light back pack he looked a sprightly 80 with the ruddiest cheeks I've ever seen outside an Emile Nolde painting. He looked as if he could walk a hundred miles without effort. (I fancy his name was Angus, or Hamish.)
Harsh and elemental, sometimes grim, I absolutely love it.
Summer is a different story....
Well, I got a bit carried away there!