FINN was woken by the squawking of seagulls, or perhaps it was the hangover and need for a pee.

It was light outside, so he checked his phone for the time: 6.37am.

He slid quietly from his mattress, trying not to wake Izzy, who was still sleeping in the upper bed in the van.

Ceilidh raised her head and wagged her tail. She had slept by him all night.

He wiped the condensation from the small window and looked out. Loch Linnhe was a mirror, with a coating of morning mist. Countless midges were dancing just outside the window, as if they were joyfully anticipating his need to leave the safety of the van.

It was no good; he couldn’t sleep and needed to go.

Cool air stroked his face as he emerged into the morning. Ceilidh followed him and he closed the door quickly. Finn knew he had 30 seconds of grace before the swarms found him.

Izzy woke two hours later. The smell of woodsmoke and coffee greeted her as she stepped out of the van. The sun had already won the battle with the mist and the loch was sparkling, while a westerly breeze was casting ripples on the water and keeping the midges away.

She stretched and stood for a moment, taking in the majesty and beauty of the loch and the distant mountains of Morvern. The tide was out and Finn was at the water’s edge, throwing sticks for Ceilidh. She poured herself some coffee and sat by the fire dish, only smoking embers now. She watched them play fetch, then Ceilidh saw her and came bounding to greet her.

“Good coffee!” she said as Finn arrived with a few more sticks for the fire.

“I had a good teacher,” Finn smiled.

“You OK?”

Finn sat by her.

“Aye. I made a fire to keep the midges away this morning and watched the sun appear through the mist from the hills behind us there. God what a place this is!”

“It is,” said Izzy, looking at the bag of plastic bottles and unidentifiable rubbish she had collected along the beach the day before. “Just a shame some folk trash it.”

Finn nodded in agreement.

“Kind of feel sorry for folk who do it as much as angry… you know, they are missing the connection to nature which gives a deep appreciation of a beautiful place. No wonder mother nature is growing tired of us.”

“Bit heavy before breakfast!” Finn joked, making Izzy smile. “Porridge? I’ll make it this time,” he said.

The stove hissed and the porridge bubbled, then they ate together.

“I don’t think I’ve ever said thank you, Izzy. So I am now... thank you. You know... for everything.”

She smiled. “You’re welcome, sweetie.”

He was amused she still used the pet name she’d called him since he was a child, even though he was now a 37-year-old man. But he said nothing, lest she stopped saying it.

“I have good news,” Finn announced.

“I video-called my daughter Eilidh this morning. I told her the seagull story, then Kirsty, her mum, said I could have her for a week next month! I haven’t seen her since the beginning of March because of the lockdown and Kirsty’s dad was staying with them and is vulnerable. But he’s going to stay with his sister now.”

“Wow, that’s fantastic Finn! I’d love to meet her!” Izzy paused. “Well, when you feel the time is right. How old is she?”

“She’s almost 10. I’ll talk to Kirsty about it. Need to make it special. Maybe I could have a camping trip, maybe along the Road of Legends.”

“You can use my van if you want; I need to paint my bathroom in the flat anyway.”

Finn was taken aback by the offer, but Izzy wouldn’t discuss it further, so it was agreed.

He spent the rest of the day on the beach, reading his dad’s words to him. They opened sealed pages of memory in his mind. The boisterous river, the night under the story tree as his dad sat concealed by darkness only a few metres away, listening to his son tell a story:

“You almost discovered me that night. You heard me move and peered right at me. But of course you couldn’t see me in the darkness and I couldn’t see your face very well in the flickering light of the fire. But for a moment we were looking at each other. Later, you and Izzy went foraging for firewood and you came in my direction. I had to run and Izzy told you it was a deer. But it was me, scampering through the dark wood like a hunted hare, getting scratched by branches I couldn’t see! It was quite funny really.”

Finn laughed at the image as he remembered the moment. He recalled that he’d hoped at the time it had been a faerie. But there was a poignancy in the image he could now relate to and understand. Guilt suddenly swamped him; if only he could have seen the truth then.

The mystery of Rob Roy’s grave and the nature of truth came to him. His dad had been there too and had also been listening behind a Scots pine tree as Izzy told the tale of the battle at Creag nan Tuirk:

“You were right, Finn. It wasn’t the Maclaren lad’s fault and I agree with you that he didn’t tell anyone what had happened because it was too painful for him to talk about. I also hope he was able to understand that and be able to forgive himself. Feeling guilty is a sign you have a conscience, which is a good thing, of course.

“But sometimes, even if we are not to blame, we can feel responsible. Guilt can be corrosive if you let it fester. It can be like hatred, it eats away at you. Forgiving others isn’t always easy, as you saw in the tale of Diarmuid’s death, but it can free you from the claws of hatred. Often the hardest person to forgive is yourself. Yet being able to forgive yourself is a vital part of the healing. For me, anyway, that’s one of the lessons of the Maclaren lad’s story.”

Finn puffed his cheeks out and took in a deep breath. His father’s words spoke directly to him as if he had read his thoughts across a chasm of 26 years.

He read each page carefully, trying as best he could to remember the places and stories.

Yes, that moment he and Izzy stood cooling their feet in Loch Earn, the lesson of the disappointment at seeing Fingal’s Stone, the swing park at Killin and that grim castle, with the tree that felt guilty.

His dad had been there at the ruined house of stories and had watched him sleep under the light of MacFarlarne’s Lantern in the hostel at Crianlarich.

He was in the trees by the healing pool as Finn threw a stone in a rage and also the loch of the legend of the sword, where Finn found the scarf:

“Your nanna had come up unexpectedly with Sally and wanted to find a way to give the scarf to you. She had made it for you four years before but she had been unable to give it to you. So I left it on the tree, so glad you found it. Nanna saw you wearing it at Bridge of Orchy and she was so happy you liked it.”

There was a photo of his dad and nanna standing next to the bridge. He remembered the place.

“Nanna was by the bridge that day?” he said to himself out loud.

“You OK sweetie, you want something to eat, some sandwiches?” Izzy asked.

She had left him alone to read but had kept close by.

“Yeah, maybe.”

“Ham or cheese, or both?

“Both please, with crisps if you have them.”

He carefully put the journal down to eat.

“How you doing?” asked Izzy. “You can take a rest if you want, you know, go for a walk?”

Finn laughed. “You haven’t changed, still trying to get me on a walk! But yeah, maybe later, I’d like to finish reading this first.”


“Can I ask, did he write it to me as a child or an adult?”

“He wrote that journal from his notes, not long after the trip. But he knew if you ever read it then it would be many years later. It was a kind of therapy for him to write it. He had to let go, but he never gave up on you. The other one he wrote over 15 years.”

“The other one?”

The large box was stored in the boot of his car and Finn took it out and opened it on the beach.

“I didn’t want to rush it, but now I feel like a kid at Christmas and want to open everything immediately.”

He took out a package. “What’s this?”

It was a Darth Vader mask and costume, with a card saying ‘Happy 8th Birthday’.

“He kept it,” explained Izzy. “I think partly because he wanted you to know he’d kept his promise, but also, in case you could use it if you had kids one day. He used to say Star Wars would never go out of fashion.”

Then in a shoe box he found his old boots. “It was your dad who’d bought them for you, not me.”

Finn held them as he remembered. “I left them by the Lost Valley that day.”

“Your dad kept them too; maybe they will fit Eilidh in a couple of years?”

There were also photo albums, postcards and finally at the bottom he found a large hardback book. It was titled ‘The Road of Legends; Callander to Loch Ness in 100 Stories’.

“He wrote it on and off over the years. He’d share the stories with his family on camping trips, then write them up, even wrote some of it here on this beach. It’s about his childhood memories as well as the stories. He loved it here, at the southern mouth of the Great Glen which has so many tales and legends. It was here me and you would have spent the last night on our trip.”

“With dad, hiding in the darkness!”

“Yes,” smiled Izzy.

“It was Fiona who typed up the original writing and made it into a book for him. She’s good at that stuff. She made copies for everyone in the family, including you.”

Finn’s phone rang, it was his mum. He hesitated, then answered.

“Hi mum.”

“Hello darling. What have you been doing?”

“Erm, I’m with... I’ll tell you later. We have lots to talk about. I have good news, though. I’m able to have Eilidh soon.”

“Oh that’s wonderful, I have missed her so much.”

“She said she’s missed you too and wants to see you, so I’ll bring her to see you – before I take her on an important camping trip.”

One month later – July 2020 at Loch Venachar

“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 Eilidh 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.”

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.

“Story, dad?” asked Eilidh after eating her pasta.

Finn picked up the book and read out the title of the first tale: “The Kelpie of Loch Venachar.”

His daughter settled down, cross-legged, hands under her chin, listening as her dad read the words written by her granddad she never knew in life, but who would now live through stories, and be with them both as they travelled the Road of Legends.