I pulled over to the side of the road when I saw this creature. I stared him full in the face from only a few feet away and had NO idea what kind of animal he was.
It was the middle of December and I was visiting family on the Isle of Skye. The days were short, not much more than six hours of daylight. I ate breakfast by the windows of the B&B where I was staying, the cold and the damp of the grey pre-dawn seeping through the glass, and watched the sun come up as I finished my tea, close to 9am.
My family, as recently as my grandfather, is from the Strath peninsula of the Isle of Skye, and my goal for the day was to pay homage to the family landmarks: the ruins at Elgol, the cemetery in Kilmarie, and the house in Glasnakille.
Glasnakille is a village so small, I’m not sure that it qualifies as a village. It is a collection of ten houses, strung out along a cliff above Loch Slapin. The houses have no street address, are identified simply as, for example, 7 Glasnakille. The single-track road runs between the houses and the cliff edge, but mine was the only car moving for miles around, so I felt safe enough stopping short to stare.
There are many, many species on this planet with which I’m not familiar. But even so, I felt safe in the assumption that I could identify on sight all the large mammals I was likely to run into in Scotland. Even in the wilds of the highlands. I was shocked and unsettled staring at something that large that I could not even begin to name.
It wasn’t until he turned his head that I realised he was a pony, thick with a shaggy winter coat. What I had taken for his mouth was a stripe of grey across his muzzle. An elderly fellow, greying like the rest of us.