#0056: Colours Of Cowal
As the night fades into dawn, and the sun slowly rises on a new year, it casts a soft, golden glow over the Secret Coast.
Bejewelled with a sparkling shell of delicate frost, under a sky the colour of straw, the peninsula is washed in a thousand shades of green.
Wet moss clings to boulders in the forest, shimmering like discarded pieces of jade against the gentle brown of fallen leaves and needles.
Overhead, tangles of pale lichen hang in unkempt beards from the twisted branches of crooked birch trees, whilst, out in the open, the frozen glen stretches away to the hills, a pale, plush carpet rolled out to welcome the coming year.
As the weeks press on, the ground is punctured by brave little snowdrops as they wake from their slumber and push up from the comfort of the earth.
Pockets of dazzling white shine in the weak light, echoing the hailstones which fall from a stormy sky, bruised with patches of purple, orange and black.
The cold earth slowly warms, and the fading whites give way to a swelling tide of yellow. Daffodils crowd the roadside verges, greeting passersby with bobbing heads as they dance in the cool breeze.
That same, gentle wind carries waves of coconut scent across the machair, as golden gorse flowers peep out from their nests of dark green spines, and gaze up toward the strengthening sun.
Further inland, dappled spring light filters through a canopy of fresh leaves, flooding the beech woods with a chartreuse glow which ebbs and flows over a brilliant carpet of bluebells dotted with white starbursts of ramsons.
Beyond the woods, the hillside soon disappears under rolling mounds of pink rhodadendron whilst, in their shadow, delicate, green lace is woven into existence as new bracken unfurls into a dense, emerald fortress.
As spring turns to summer, a dragonfly darts low to the ground, its wings exploding in a rainbow of sparks when they catch the afternoon sun. It weaves in and out of tall, pastel spikes of foxglove, which stretch out to the horizon, the warm air around them alive with with foraging bees.
Beyond them, bone white sand and shimmering mica schist crusted with dried salt dip low to the sea, a vast expanse of sparkling aquamarine dissected by white canvas blades as yachts under full sail glide effortlessly beneath a cloudless, powder blue sky.
Late sunsets paint that same sky with bold, iridescent strokes of orange, yellow and pink, holding a mirror to the riot of crocosmia, iris and rosebay willowherb splashed across the landscape below.
Gentle evening mists gather in the glen, drawing a soft veil of silver over the remnants of summer. It settles on low, amethyst mounds of heather. It drifts around vivid orange clusters of rowan berries. It dances over delicate blue clouds of scabious floating on a delicate web of tourmaline stems.
And then, after nightfall, the fragile darkness is shattered by an ethereal curtain the colour of the sea foaming below, as the Northern Lights dance overhead, in celebration of the turning season.
A new dawn opens a treasure trove of autumn colours. Deep slashes of copper gleam across the hillside where the impenetrable bracken begins to die back for another year.
Cobwebs, heavy with dew, turn to silver as they glint in the morning sun.
Larch rise from the forest floor in plumes of fiery bronze against a backdrop of dark spruce, whilst wisps of platinum cloud snag on the treetops and unravel across the mountainside.
A flash of gold as a gannet streaks past the trees and dives into leaden water, emerging with its catch glinting like mercury dripping from its beak.
All the while, a solitary heron stands silently on a shore washed olive with weed, its blue-grey back holding a mirror to the heavy sky. A cold wind blows the last of the autumn leaves from the trees. They swirl across the scene in a golden pirouette, reflecting the colour of carved pumpkins set out on doorsteps, shining bright in the gathering dusk.
Stiff, dark reeds cast long shadows across the frosty ground, beneath a full, silver moon. The pale light strikes fat drops of dew, so that they twinkle in the gloom like the million pure white stars piercing the winter skies overheard.
The frozen firmament explodes in a riot of colour as Hogmanay fireworks chase away the darkness. They sizzle above the snow-dusted treetops and dance in the black water, a reminder that we are halfway out of the dark. That times march never stops.
And, as the night fades into dawn, and the sun slowly rises on a new year, it casts a soft, golden glow over the Secret Coast.