Highland Hills is the name given to a quarter Full region designed by EloiseBlake, and it is a place that packs a lot into it. Open to the sea on two sides, the parcel is described as the “Highlands of Scotland. A forgotten era. Ruined, rural and rustic. Where nature has claimed its home.”
As a representation of the Scottish highlands, I’d perhaps suggest the parcel is intended to offer some the many aspects of the highlands – the rugged hills, the rough, weather coastline, hints of glen-like slopes (al be they narrow), rushing streams, and so on – rather than any single place within them. In doing so, it presents a rough-hewn landscape that is entirely its own, one that invites exploration.
The ruins referenced in the description come in multiple forms, from the great round bulk of a coastal tower, sitting atop a shoulder of rock and protected on two sides by open sea – or perhaps intended to command an offensive view over the waters – to the squat rectangle of a castle keep brooding against the western cliffs of the land.
Between and around these two are multiple signs of what might have once been an extensive fortification – the ruins of curtain walls, ached entrances that might once have been guarded by stout gates, the remnants of a chapel, and so on. Are these all symbolic of a once might castle that dominated the landscape at some point in the past? Or are they indicative of multiple attempts to fortify and hold the land during different times in its violent history? That’s one of many questions the visitor might be tempted to ask, although the lay of the land perhaps points to the various ruins being somewhat separate in nature.
More recently, the land has become home to a small farm, the house of which sits in the lee of the great round tower, with a cattle barn sitting across the parcel from it, overlooking the eastern coast. The latter is intended to be the home for shaggy highland cattle, but the cows appear to have had other ideas, an open gate affording them the opportunity to wander down to the rocks sitting above the coastal waters.
Also down among the rocks can be found the detritus of human life: abandoned crates, broken rowing boats and so on – some of which offer places to sit. More places to sit and relax can be found scattered across the parcel, most of them easily reached from the landing point by following the dirt tracks that roll away from it. One of the latter will take visitors past the great tower, then the little farmhouse, and onwards to where beehives have been carefully set among the heather. Just to one side of these a great tree has, at some point in the past collapsed, its aged trunk now a convenient bridge by which to reach the rectangular castle keep.
In truth, getting around parts of the region can require a bit of scrambling and / or searching. Take the main steps up to the castle keep, for example. They link keep with an entry arch and one of the tracks running through the land – but the entrance itself is blocked by the stones that have fallen from the top of the arch, the keystone presumably having given way at some point in the past. On the one hand, this leaves visitors struggling to get over the fallen stones in order to climb the steps beyond, but on the other it cleverly encourages people to look for an alternate route – and those who do can be rewarded by further discoveries of hidden spots on their way up to the keep.
Similarly, finding the way up to the round tower is – without cheating – a little bit of a game of exploration. While it is possible to get up to it from inland, the easier route perhaps lies elsewhere. All I’ll say by way of a clue is that to go up, you first need to go down.
Finished with a sound scape fully in keeping with the setting, Highland Hills makes for a diverting visit with plenty to see without taking up a huge amount of time, and opportunities for photography, and pictures can also be submitted to the parcel’s Flickr pool.
- Highland Hills (The Crossroads Event, rated Moderate)