The Soldier's Head
BY AN ANONYMOUS SUBMITTER
There was no need to seek an alternative course or route, Inverness was home for both of us.
I came to the Highlands newly married, as my husband wanted to live here. 3 years later I found myself with my 3 year old, leaving an abusive relationship, in staff accommodation at my work and wondering where it all went wrong.
I'd been down to see my mum in Glasgow and was driving back along the slog of the A9, not seeing the mountains, the change in the landscape, even the change in the smell of grass and peat and heather. I felt rudderless, wondering why we were plodding back up the road to Inverness (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhir Nis) when we could be anywhere. Happy nuclear families were driving back to the central belt on the other side of the road.
Finally, the tourist vans peeled off at Kincraig, at Aviemore, at Carrbridge (Scottish Gaelic: An Aghaidh Mhòr; Drochaid Chàrr) and we had an open road back to Inverness. At the ascent to the Slochd, we did the traditional look to the right, to see if we could see the soldier's head in the rocks, which means you are a true Highlander. Now if this was one of those made up stories, my 3 year old would have finally spotted it, but no luck again.
The standard question: 'Mummy if I was born the Highlands, why can't I see it?' Maybe a happy marriage would mean he could see it, an adult passenger could explain where to look. Maybe it was a sign that we weren't meant to be here.
Down, up, down, over the rolling hills at Daviot (Scottish Gaelic: Deimhidh) and then the sight of the Firth, the football stadium and the bridge. That glimpse of water that means 'You've done it, you're nearly home' and I realised I was nearly home. Properly nearly home, to a place where I had neighbours and good colleagues and actual friends. There was no need to seek an alternative course or route, Inverness was home for both of us.
4 years later my true Highlander son can finally spot the Soldier's Head and we are both, in our own ways, rooted in Inverness.Postcard of the 'Great Winding Road at Slochd', located now on the A9.
Image provided by Am Baile/ Highland Libraries