Humans created their societies in defiance of nature, but it still has the power to instil awe
Achmore is a nondescript hamlet on the A858 that cuts across the isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. This is a gnarled, fractured landscape, swaddled in wind and rain, and built out of some of the oldest rocks on Earth – Lewisian gneiss, the bedrock of the island, is some 3bn years old, two-thirds the age of Earth itself.
We had gone to Achmore to search out an ancient stone circle. There are dozens of these, including the most famous one at Calanais, scattered across Lewis’s melancholic moorland. The Achmore stone circle was disappointing, with little to catch the eye. But then we turned to look south. And almost gasped. For Lewis’s forbidding landscape, caught in a delicate light suffused through the late-afternoon cloud, had been transformed, becoming draped in an ethereal, almost unreal, beauty. Dozens of lochans – small lochs – dappled the foreground. Behind them, where the hills of Harris rose, were layer upon soft layer of pastel colours, from gold through green to blue, laid like chiffon scarves across the horizon.