Aall is calm at Uath Lochans, secret pools nestled in the forests of Glen Feshie. Uath – pronounced “oo-wah” – means hawthorn in Gaelic, although it’s mostly Scots pine clustered around the waters now, with a scattering of birch and mountain ash.
These are kettle hole pools, formed at the end of the last Ice Age, when large chunks of ice stood still as sediment from meltwater accumulated around them. The melted blocks then left a depression, in these cases filled with water.
Instead of a sloping bank, a shelf of fibrous earth held together by tree roots and plants lines the edges of the pools. In places, the ground is so spongy that the water rises as you walk, and the trail gives way to piles of shiny sphagnum moss.
Because the ground is boggy, the pools are rust-colored at the periphery, rapidly deepening to black, and although shallow, their bottom remains hidden. On this sunny afternoon, there is a glow over the hills of Feshie and the rows of trees that stand like an admiring crowd along the pools. The air is still and warm, nothing stirring the leaves or the surface of the water stretching out like black glass. Somehow in its darkness it sends back the glowing trees and the cobalt sky with fluffy white clouds, innocent as a child’s drawing.
Deep in the branches, invisible birds sing pure, clear notes, and high above, a white glider glides noiselessly through the blue. On the ground, unruly tufts of heather offer late bloomers, each little mauve flower a memory of summer. In the undergrowth, however, the autumnal mushrooms advance, immodest disks of orange and red in the tapestry of greens. Tiny insects with legs as thin as a lock of hair skate across the pool, each dart sending faint ripples in widening circles that meet and overlap a neighbor’s rings.
A quiet draft disturbs the water and the reflected world splits into a quivering mosaic of color and light. The breeze passes and the mirror softens, the trees stretch and stand still again, the old hills gaze at the setting sun and the pot remembers an ancient winter.