A walk by Loch Lomond
I grew up by the sea - in a coastal village in East Lothian. It wasn't a proper sea really, more a tidal river, Fife is visible just across the water, but it was the seaside and I spent a lot of my childhood paddling and ambling along the sand, beach combing, bird watching, building castles.
Even now - if I want to clear my head, I head for tidal waters, to watch the waves, calming myself in their rhythm. Most holidays are taken by the sea, it is a recuperation, an energising, a cleansing.
My phone is full of video clips of lapping waves, saved for times when I just need to even out my brain.
And yet, when we came to choose somewhere to settle, we were both drawn to the shelter of the hills, the slopes and folds of grassy pasture, the navy and purple mountains as a backdrop.
Here, by Loch Lomond, always felt like home. It was funny - when I was about 7, at school in Edinburgh, lots of my peers would head off for Bank Holiday Weekends to their house in 'The Trossachs' - the idea of a holiday house was not something I'd come across before and, in my head, the exoticism turned it into 'The Tropics' with visions of Edinburgh schoolgirls, pith helmeted, sweating through the jungle.
Now that we live right at the edge of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, I realise that the Trossachs has very little in common with my imagined tropical climes - not much heat, no pith helmets, no machetes.
The small hill across the track from my home is the terminal moraine of Loch Lomond - the furthest edge of the Ice Age loch, the border of the current National Park. I love that idea, that once upon a time, our garden was part of the loch.
So when I feel in need of water to brood by or splash through, I head to the east side of Loch Lomond - usually parking in Balmaha and walking along the loch side, past the little sandy beaches, the fields of Highland Cows, and I sit and watch the sky on the water.
It isn't all about water though - one of the attractions of the walk by the loch is that there are beautiful old trees on the banks - mainly alders, birch, oaks.
Over the past decade the Japanese have been researching the scientific evidence behind their practice of forest bathing - a very ritualised walk through a forest, with music, movement, meditation built into the experience.
One thing that they have found is that the phytoncides (plant oils) given off by the trees reduce stress hormones and blood pressure, so that as well as having the benefits of fresh air and exercise, people who walk near trees may have extra health benefits.
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