The Southern Land (in the far North)

Sutherland. The Southern Land. The curious naming of our island's North-Westerly corner dates from an era when the centre of power was Orkney not London, and the rulers Norsemen.

For ten minutes I have been standing on the cliffs of Cape Wrath at an acute angle to the ground. The wind blows from the sea, and with such ferocity that I am leaning forward without fear of falling. The anchoring in the bog mud behind me helps.

It is a wind intent on pulling the bones from your skin. Like a snake about to slough, I feel the boundaries of my body acutely. My whole endoskeleton may be laid bare to an audience of one; a large raven that is circling above me in the seaward sky. 

Turning inland, Sutherland is bleak; bare, desolate and often windswept. Looking out across a stretch of moorland that runs uninterrupted by man for nearly a hundred miles, the word fits. It is awesomely bleak. A landscape so rifled by the elements does not have many monoliths left standing. Anything that isn't tied down by ten million years of lithification, the rocky scalp of Scotland, is liable to be blown clean away. 

The rocks themselves, Suilven, Cul Mor, whether taken by their gaelic, Scots or Norse names, are timeless mounds. People travel to exotic destinations for skin-deep nature, eruptions of colour, coral and lava. Scotland's volcanoes are 10,000 years extinct but there is something magnetic in old stone. 

The only people who ever wanted to live here were forcibly removed and replaced by sheep, 200 and more years ago. The only people still living here are isolated - voluntary or not they are far from their fellows. 

Where would I go if the atom bombs rained down and the end of days arrived? What would be my post-apocalyptic house move? Sutherland - though looking across the interior on a windswept Friday, the apocalypse might well have come and gone without notice. 

Sutherland's isolation will not change. Even as our population rises so too will our lust for access and convenience, properties that do not exist in the Land of Mackay. We live on the same land mass but these great plains are oblivion to most; a realm forgotten and unknown. 

A lone bird approaches from the South across miles of open velvet, passing my post in the bog and crossing the line between land and sea. I lean forward again and shout to the wind: