Reads: At the Loch of the Green Corrie, Andrew Greig

The summer months bring weekends away with friends, lazy days at cricket matches and weddings. As agreeable as all this has been, it gets in the way of ‘getting out there’. The posts dry up here as a result as I struggle to find something to write about.

Inspiration can be found elsewhere, though, and sufficient impetus to put fingers to keyboard has come via At the Loch of the Green Corrie, by Andrew Greig.

I first came across Greig via his expedition books – tales of trips to the Mustagh Tower and Everest with the Scottish climber Mal Duff. The books of these excursions, Summit Fever and Kingdoms of Experience, are pinnacles of mountaineering literature, weaving together expedition diary and biography with sublime prose.

In this volume, the subject is the late Edinburgh poet Norman MacCaig and his major loves: the remote Scottish lochans of Assynt, the area’s renowned brown trout fishing and its people.

Grieg details his relationship with the poet and a promise… namely to find MacCaig’s favourite fishing spot amid the wild undulations of his favourite peninsular and catch a trout.

The quest is set, then, but Greig’s book offers much more, managing to segue between passages on geology, introspection, philosophy, poetry through the narrative of a fly-fishing trip with companions.

Greig uses the rhythms of cast and retrieve and long, bite-less hours as a mechanism to delve deeper into himself and the landscape.

The author’s lengthy internal excursions are, at times, dark. Where the book has wider appeal, though, is its celebration of MacCaig’s poetry and the landscape and people that inhabit his verse.

Interspersed with the poet’s work, the book also includes ‘Rich Day’, an uncollected poem published in the 1960s that will resonate deeply with those who seek renewal through trips into remote, mountainous landscapes.

At the Loch of the Green Corrie is a worthy buy for anyone who relishes landscape writing. Along with likes of Robert McFarlane and Roger Deakin, Andrew Greig is an important exponent.

He evokes the palpable sense of calm of a lochside camp, making you want to dig out the fly rod, or borrow one, throw a tent in the car and head north, armed with meagre rations and a bottle of malt.

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