As with most writers the journey begins somewhere, a unique place, a fantastic place, a place so special that it could never have failed to draw your pen to the page and etch those first few lines that start you on that road.
To me, that place was Glenfinnan. In August 1994, I drove the 516 miles from Cwmbach, South Wales, to Glenfinnan, a perfect tranquil hamlet in the Highlands of Scotland (pictured above). At the time I was a student at the University of Glamorgan, struggling on a creative writing course with a horrendous case of writer’s block, and nothing seemed to aid me in getting past it.
Then, one evening in Glenfinnan, on a bench near the perfect waters of Loch Shiel, the block was defeated by the dramatic and beautiful scenery surrounding me, and on a scrap of paper in my pocket I wrote some notes, a prelude to a poem that would be my first.
“Hills and clouds frame blue skin,
Cobalt mountains catch snow in crowns,
Rocky edges hold back pouring green
In the place where silence grows.”
From “Glenfinnan” by Ross Lane.
My pen’s journey had begun, and more and more pieces inspired by the Scottish landscape began to follow.
Now this was a simpler time, before smart phones and tablets, an age of maps and books, and Glenfinnan was a slightly quieter place because these years preceded Harry Potter.
Glenfinnan has a population of 120 people. It is a lush and inviting place with a wonderful community and is steeped in Scottish history. It is where the Jacobite Rising began in 1745 when Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised the standard and began his historic claim for the throne. There is so much to see, the monument to that moment at the head of Loch Shiel, St Mary & St Finnan’s Church, Glenfinnan Station Museum and of course the viaduct that carries the Jacobite Steam-Locomotive Train as it crosses the glen.
And it is this train which gained worldwide notoriety in the Harry Potter movies as the Hogwarts Express that has changed the volumes of visitors to Glenfinnan forever.
These days, this little Highland village receives 350,000 visitors a year, and a lot of them are coming to see the Hogwarts Express crossing the viaduct just as it did in the movie “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
This rise in popularity has been difficult for the little village to cope with. The roads and parking areas were never designed for this level of traffic and it has made walking around the village at times dangerous for both locals and tourists.
There is a local group charity which has now been formed, “The Wee Harry Potter Bridge Project” who are working at fundraising and doing all they can to secure the safety needed by all with the building of a new car park and a bridge, so people can cross the river safely and view the train on its spectacular journey.
I have returned to Glenfinnan on most years since my first trip, and subsequently now with Wordcatcher, am releasing a collection of works inspired by the Highlands. It is a place that is very special to me, Craigag Lodge in Glenfinnan is a home away from home and I want to help the place I love and that has been so good to me.
I will be paying a percentage of the profits from the sales of “Highlands” to the project to help fund the work needed, it is important to me, and knowing there are local Glenfinnan people involved I know it will be respectful to the landscape.
As a writer of poetry, this little village was a spark and a muse in the north that started me on this journey 25 years ago and this year with the support of my publisher I have been able to release a poetry collection that celebrates my time visiting there, the landscape and the people of this incredible place.
Please join me in supporting this venture, and, if you are not a poetry fan, then please go to their Facebook page anyway and offer some support or money to help protect and improve safety in this wonderful part of the world.
I am already planning my next trip north this year… I hope to see you all for a wee dram there soon.