The night is dark and full of fear
Not if you’ve got a bloody great head torch it isn’t.
It’s pitch dark as I walk along the side of the loch towards Glas Allt Sheil bothy. As I walk I can hear a familiar sound. Crunch, crunch, crunch. It’s the sound of ice crunching beneath my feet at every step. I can’t work out where I have heard that sound before and then I remember. That’s exactly the sound Jon Snow makes as he and his men march North looking for the Night Walkers.
I’m a big Game of Thrones fan and walking alone into a bothy at night, through this frozen landscape is a little too close to going beyond the wall than I like to imagine. My head torch beam illuminates the trunks of trees, and I can’t help feeling as though the forest is closing in around me. The torch light picks out the path, a line of gleaming snow, and catches the trunks of huge tree as that line the edge of the path.
Something moves in the torch beam. I freeze, searching the depths of the forest with my beam. I decide that there’s nothing there and I’m just about to move on when something moves again, like a figure moving out there in the darkness. At this point I start talking to myself, trying to impose the will of my rational mind on the terrifying flights of fancy my mind wants to take.
‘There are no wolves in the UK.’
‘There is nothing to be afraid of.’
‘I’m not being stalked by anything.’
‘Dead men can’t walk.’
But it’s pitch dark, the only sounds I can hear are the waves of the nearby lake lapping on the shore and the cries of the geese as they settle down for the night on the loch. My imagination takes flight and I can’t help scouring the woods for movement. Then I see it.
A pair of yellow eyes glowing in my torch light. I am being watched. Then another pair of eyes appear and then more. There is a rustle in the undergrowth and a deer steps out into the path quickly followed by the rest of the herd. I relax, glad that the spectre I had conjured in my mind is now more real than then Jon Snow’s dire wolf. For some reason deer seem to lose their fear of men at night. I often pass so close to them in darkness that I can smell their wet fur and walk through where the mist from their breath still lingers.
The bothy fire flickers into life and then roars into the chimney. I am surrounded by candle light and eating my dinner off a wooden table. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the bothy door opened and Jon Snow entered, brushing the snow from his furs.
He looks at me with that dark stare of his. ‘What you doing out here all alone? Don’t you know what’s out there?’
‘I only saw some deer,’ I stammer.
Snow shakes his head and strokes the carved wolf’s head of his sword. ‘Deer, is that what you think is out there? Winter’s coming my friend.’
Snow points at me, his eyes glaring, ‘Aye, a winter so cold it will freeze the hearts of men. You take care, for the night is dark and full of fear.’
With that he storms out of the door, leaving it swinging and I am left staring into the black night.
It’s probably not a good idea to have too vivid an imagination when you are alone in a bothy. I suppose I do live beyond the wall, Hadrian’s wall that is. A wall that was once built by the Romans to keep something dark and fierce out. That might be a great walk , perhaps one day I’ll take a stroll along that wall.
Perhaps it’s me the Nightwalkers fear.
For more of my walking adventures check out my best selling book.