The final stage of any pilgrimage is the Return, when we say goodbye to our fellow travelers and head back to our homes and communities, bringing with us our memories of the journey, and the insights and learnings we have collected along the way. When we leave Orkney, we drive down the coast of the mainland to Strathpeffer, a lovely highland village where we know we will be warmly welcomed and gently nurtured as we readjust to the faster pace of the world, and start the process of integrating the experiences of our two weeks of pilgrimage and exploration.
Arriving in Strathpeffer is always a welcome homecoming, but also the beginning of the end. In the two weeks we’ve been traveling together, strangers have become friends, and saying farewell is imminent and inevitable. Our last full day together begins with a group labyrinth walk and ends with a rousing celebration.
We go up into the hills above Stathpeffer and hike into Blackmuir Wood where a small track takes us to the Touchstone Maze, a beautiful labyrinth made of small(ish) standing stones that come from across Scotland, including many of the landscapes we’ve visited over the past two weeks. In the twenty or so years since it was created, it has settled into its forest clearing providing a serenely beautiful place for visitors to rest, to walk, to renew. Looking at the stones, our journey around Scotland is reconstructed for us, and walking the paths lets us remember and consider the moments most precious to us. Walking as a group invites us to honour the reflections and gifts that our companionship has created.
And what better way to wrap up the journey than with a homegrown festival of pipes, drums, and highland dancers, celebrating both the local community and its Scottish heritage? It is impossible not to be stirred by the potent combination of local talent and pride!
With its rich history, culture, wildlife and geography Scotland has fired hearts, souls and imaginations for centuries, and its magic has woven us into its international circle of admirers and defenders. We smile when we hear the soft invitation that reminds of our welcome here: Haste ye back!