I am not a religious person but I have, on occasion, felt what I imagine is akin to the divine inspiration believers describe. For me it is a sensation conjured by place, a realisation of being in the presence of something special, a tangible connection to the people that have stood on that spot before me, to the history that has passed. It is an overwhelming feeling of euphoria followed by sharp clarity and, later, a deep calm. It is pure, simple joy at being alive, experiencing a moment that is not to be repeated and being at peace with that.
The first time I felt this way was at the Acropolis in Athens when I was thirteen years old. I have felt it a handful of times since then; once at a beach in Devon, a low sea mist hanging in the cliff-lined estuary, trapped between cool water and warm air; once at Callanish stone circle on Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland; once riding in a trailer behind a snowmobile across a frozen lake in the darkness of a Finnish February, once on a river boat at six in the morning in the heart of Bangkok, and, most recently, on the path behind Seljalandsfoss waterfall in Iceland.
There is one more place that has moved me this way and, if you visit the far south west of Scotland, perhaps you will find it. You must leave your car at the side of the road, climb a gate and follow a path between trees to an open space of strangely rounded ground and views across the surrounding fields. Its current incarnation is as a church but the stone runes betray another past. I was there alone and it was, for the hour or so that passed, as though there were no one else alive. It was uncannily still. I have never experienced such silence; no noise from the road, no birds, no wind in the leaves, just me, the earth and sky.
Stay tuned for more Scottish secrets. The last, and a clue to the general location of this spot, can be found here