The Arran Mountain Festival poetry walk

By Alice Maxwell

On Friday 13th May the Scottish poet Stuart B Campbell led a trek up the Goatfell valley from Corrie, with a group of would-be poets, myself included.

Stuart was born in Lanark and was commissioned to write the poetry for the book The Great Mountain Crags of Scotland and for the award-winning film, Distilled. He lives in the small fishing village of Portsoy on the Moray coast. He is also a mountaineer and traditional musician.

The plan was for him to guide us into the creation of a free style Renga, a Japanese collaborative poem in which multiple poets alternately contribute stanzas to a poem. Appreciation of nature often features in Rengas.

Our walk provided topics to write about. Before we set off, we wrote about departure. When we arrived at High Corrie we wrote about the clachan. The deer fencing led to an interesting discussion about boundaries, exclusion and inclusion. At one point we all stood in a line, and were asked to lift up our right foot. What is the world beneath the foot?

Following the example of the writer Nan Shepherd we were asked to lean forward, look through our legs and describe what we saw from this unusual angle.

As bad weather set in, we were rained on and buffeted by wind. We discussed the disappointment of being forced to turn back prematurely, and the concept of home coming.

The following is the poem we produced.

Mullach Buidhe
(a freestyle renga)

Wind; and we’re off…
Will this be a breeze?
Thoughts are swirling around.

A rhododendron canopy,
a purple womb.

Stones in cottages,
people’s homes,
a fragile permanence.

Fresh leaves rustle in the breeze,
echoed in the rush of the burn.

The fence excludes and protects.
Sometimes we exclude but don’t protect;
we should cross through the gate.

Garrulous and gaudy, the torrent
has no time to wait.

Eyebright in Coire Lan: alpine lady’s
mantle, sedge-green
with tormentil and lousewort.

Ant, worm and bee all look out to sea
to see what they can see…

Head in glaciated rocks,
a peak in the sea:
the keel of a ship.

Gaoithe whips, fingers
freeze in summer cold.

Mullach Buidhe softly beckons.
Not today, rocks are full stops;
the summit remains.

Down the rabbit hole, falling back
to the calm of the Clachan.

© 2022 Arran Mountain Festival; Alastair; Alice; Andy; John; Mark; Sherie and Stuart


The poetry walkers


Featured image shows Goatfell, Stacach Ridge and Mullach Buidhe. Credit: