A shortened version of our columnist Tim Porteus’s new book, Road of Legends, is exclusively serialised each week in the Courier. Here is the first mini-chapter.

"YOU all right, dad?”

Finn looked at his daughter and smiled.

“Aye sweetheart, I’m just remembering something.”

“What is it? Tell me.”

He smiled and took his daughter in his arms as she scrambled onto his lap.

“Well, I was remembering sitting on this spot by the loch when I was a boy, just under 26 years ago.”

“Wow, 26 years; that’s a long time, dad! How old were you then?”

“I was 11, not much older than you are now.”

“How can you remember that far back?”

Finn thought for a moment. “That’s a good question; because for sure we remember some things and not others. I think memories are when we remember emotions.”


“Yeah, you know, the way you feel inside; happy, sad, scared, excited, things like that.”

“And angry or…” Eilidh tried to think of more emotions. “…or being cool or feeling embarrassed.”

“Exactly, it’s when we have strong emotions that we remember a time more.”

Eilidh’s attention was suddenly distracted by a sound from the loch. She watched as a set of circular ripples on the water’s surface expanded, then vanished.

“Something’s in the water, dad.”

“Maybe it was a fish, or,” he paused and looked at his daughter, making a comic frightened face, “…or it could be the…”

“What?” asked Eilidh. Her dad was teasing her with suspense.

“I’ll tell you about it later, in a story,” said Finn.

“Aw dad.”

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Eilidh’s gaze returned to the water. The reflection of the trees made strange shapes on the surface and she thought she saw a creature moving below.

“Is it a monster story, like Nessie in Loch Ness? Is it a true story?”

Finn smiled: “It depends on how you believe it. You see, some things are true, but not in the same way as it being real.”


“Well some folk say that Nessie is real, others not. But there is truth in the story of Nessie for sure. It depends if you can see it or find it.”

“I’m hungry dad,” interrupted Eilidh, who’d lost interest in her dad’s philosophical ruminations and had focused her attention on more basic needs.

“Aye, me too, let’s eat now.”

Finn lit the gas camping stove. Its hissing filled the air.

“Why don’t we eat in that café we saw?” asked his daughter.

“Maybe another time; we have our own camping café right here, under this tree.”

His daughter nodded and gave her dad a big grin.

“And anyway I have something they won’t; your favourite pasta!”

Her grin turned into a joyous smile.

They sat together by the loch side watching the pasta swirl in the pot’s boiling water. The steam curled and twisted into the air like a performing snake before doing a vanishing act.

“I think this will be a memory, dad, because I feel happy.”

“Happy that we are together; that’s nice.”

“Happy that I’m going to eat this yummy pasta!”

Finn laughed.

“Me too.”

They both ate, sitting under the same trees Finn had done all those years before. He watched his daughter as she ate with relish and deeply focused concentration; she was unaware of his gaze.

Loch Venachar from the weeping wood.

Loch Venachar from the weeping wood.

He had missed her so much during the lockdown. At times the pain of separation from her had been unbearable. He had understood the need to keep her mother’s father safe. But going weeks without being with her and being a Zoom dad had split his heart.

But finally, after four months of separation, they were finally together again, and he could feel that agony lose its grip as he cherished this moment, sitting with her in the shadow of his own childhood memory.

It was summer 2020 and things thankfully seemed to be getting back to some semblance of normality.

He was going to make the most of the week with Eilidh and share some of the stories of the Road of Legends with her as they travelled to Loch Ness.

He knew his daughter would take her own lessons from them, just as he had. But he also knew he would not tell her the whole story; no, that would have to wait until the time was right.

Eilidh finished the pasta, returned to the world around her, and looked up. There was tomato sauce all over her face, and her smile returned. Her face was a colourful portrait of simple childhood joy.

Finn returned her big smile. “You enjoy that then, you cannae beat camping food when you’re in the wilds!”

“Yeah, best café ever!” she said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.

“Can you tell that story now, dad?”

“All right, but let me make some coffee first, and you go and clean your hands and face in the loch.”

She happily wandered to the water, squatted by its edge, and plunged her hands into it. She let out a shriek as the cold reached her senses. It didn’t deter her, as she then splashed her hands, playing with the water and gave her face a quick watery slap.

Ablutions all done, she picked up a pebble and threw it, trying to skim it, but it bounced only once.

Then she stood watching the loch. Small ripples on the surface were making patterns, and the water sparkled in the warm July sunshine. There was a magic feel to the place, and the day.

Her dad had lit the stove again, and the singing of the kettle brought her to him.

“Story, dad?”

He nodded as he made his coffee.

“Come back and sit with me then, because this story has a creature that’s a bit scary, and according to the story it lives here in the loch.”

Eilidh liked gruesome and scary stories, just like Finn had done when he had been her age. Well there was going to be no shortage of such tales on this trip. Scotland’s history and folklore tradition is not for the faint-hearted.

She settled down next to her dad, cross-legged, hands under her chin, waiting for him to begin the story.

He leant towards his daughter: “The old name for this place is the ‘Weeping Wood’ and this story tells you why...”

Twenty-six years earlier, in 1994, Finn had arrived at the small car park in the same wood with his aunt Izzy.

He was in a sullen mood. His mum had gone on a short break to Spain for the September weekend with his step dad, Raymond. It was a trip which mixed business and pleasure, so hadn’t been practical to take Finn. But he had wanted to go.

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Instead, he had to spend the break with his aunt. He loved his aunt Izzy but he would have much preferred to be on a sunny beach in Spain than camping in rainy Scotland. He felt very hard done by.

But despite all his protests, he was going camping in the Highlands, and as if to validate his sense of injustice, when they arrived at the banks of Loch Venachar it started to rain.

“Come on Finn,” said his aunt with an annoyingly cheerful voice, “it’s no proper rain, we can sit under these trees, they will give us some cover, like giant umbrellas!”

Finn was unimpressed. He remained sitting in Bess, the name Izzy had given her car, with his arms crossed and face frowned.

He watched as his aunt lit her camping stove. It made a hissing sound and Finn watched as she began to cook a pot of sausages and beans, then added a tin of potatoes.

“It’s strange that food you’d normally not choose to eat becomes a delicacy when you’re eating it in the wilds by a loch and it’s been cooked on a camping stove,” said Izzy, tasting her concoction.

Finn looked away and said nothing. He imagined his mum in Spain having amazing food in the hotel on a sun-drenched balcony while he was here in the drizzle with his aunt eating tinned potatoes with beans. He was already missing his mum. This was going to be the most boring and worst holiday break ever.

But then the smell of the food reached his nostrils and pangs of hunger clawed inside his tummy. He turned his head to see his aunt dish the food into bowls, then sprinkle grated cheese on the top. She put Finn’s bowl on a boulder next to her, and began to eat from her own.

“Delicious,” she said.

Reluctantly Finn left the car, although he didn’t leave his mood. He picked up his bowl and deliberately sat a little distance from his aunt and began to eat. He was determined not to finish it, so he could say how disgusting it was. But she was right, it was delicious, and he was very hungry.

As the food reached his belly, his mood lifted, and like magic so did the rain. The sun came out, spreading much appreciated warmth.

“You want some more of this delicious food?” asked Izzy with a wry smile. Finn’s frown broke and a smile crept onto his face as he nodded.

He sat closer to her this time. They ate silently, as the sun warmed their faces and made the loch sparkle.

“This wood has an unusual name,” said Izzy as they finished.

Finn looked at her, waiting for her to explain.

“In Gaelic it’s called the Wood of Lamentation.”

“What’s lamentation?”

“Weeping or sorrow.”

“Why’s it called that?”

“I can tell you, but in a story” said Izzy.

“Ach aunty, can you not just tell me without a story?”

“If you really want to know what happened and how this wood got its name, you need to understand the story.”

Finn sighed. What else was there to do. “OK, fine,” he said.

And so Izzy began to tell the story.

Chapter Two can be read here.