Laughter among the lochs

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Steve Reed

Laughter among the lochs

Post by Steve Reed » Mon Jul 15, 2013 6:12 pm

I am not even sure that this is a ghost story. The events described here happened over 20 years ago and have played on my mind ever since. It isn’t the traditional ghost story, but whenever I think of what I experienced all those years ago I feel a deep sense of unease.
A work colleague owned a croft overlooking Little Loch Broom in Wester Ross and was happy to rent it out to anyone prepared to tackle the 600 mile drive up from the Thames Valley. We decided to take our young family up for the May half term and, as with all family holidays, the possibility of wetting a line was carefully researched as the holiday approached. The ordnance survey map showed a landscape scattered with blue flecks, each representing a hill loch of unknown potential. A light fly outfit was prepared and teams of traditional flies assembled. I plotted a route into the hills above the Loch – a stiff climb should see me beside a promising looking lochan within an hour. The weather was very un-Scottish and the hills were bathed in sunlight when we arrived and for days after. The decision was made to go for an early start and at 4.30 a.m. I slipped quietly out of the back door leaving the family sleeping. With no footpaths I decided to follow the course of a small stream that tumbled down from the hill loch above. The ground was rough and treacherous. The thought went through my mind that I would have to wait a very long time for help if I slipped and twisted an ankle or broke a leg.
After about an hour the ground levelled out and the loch stretched out before me. A light breeze roughed up the water's surface and the only sounds were of small waves lapping on the shore and the call of a distant buzzard. The landscape and vista out to sea were heavenly and it was a pleasure to be in such an isolated and beautiful location. A team of 3 traditional wet flies were soon drifting round in a satisfying arc and a succession of naïve and spirited brownies surrendered to the charms of the bloody butcher. The fish were all around 6oz and if larger trout hid in the depths, I did not see them. It mattered not. The unspoiled and virgin waters were a joy to fish and the time passed quickly. Cast and move was the successful tactic and I soon found myself opposite my original starting point. The sun had risen and now the loch and hillside were bathed in a light of clarity and purity and the whole landscape seemed to be in high definition. I had stopped casting for a moment to reflect on the beauty of my surroundings and then out of nowhere, for no reason, I was afraid. Sometimes the loneliness and desolation of a remote location can be unnerving but this was different. I started to sweat even though the morning was still cool. I scanned the hills and banks of the loch – I did’t know what I was looking for but something made me uncomfortable. I would not have been surprised to see that I was being watched. A deer perhaps or someone tending the sheep that were scattered across the hillside? The ability to sense when we are being watched must be buried deep within our psyche, an echo from our distant past when our lives might have depended on this ‘sixth sense’. There was nothing to see, but I thought I could hear something. The wind had picked up, the lochside reeds hissed in the breeze and I thought I could make out the sweet sing-song of children’s voices, like a sound from a distant school playground. Surely I was imagining things, I was miles from the nearest road and goodness knows how far I was from another human being. My initial uneasiness grew and I was now feeling a deep, visceral, pounding dread. Something was not right, the feeling of being watched was now overwhelming and I looked around me with increasing anxiety and fear. This seemed totally irrational but there was no disguising the fact that I would rather have been anywhere else except alone beside this loch in the hills of Wester Ross. With an increasing feeling of panic I hastily packed up and made my way back to the croft. I hurried down the hill following the winding stream and doing my best to avoid tangling with the boulders that followed its course. I didn’t look behind me although the temptation to do so was overwhelming.
Sitting beside the stove in the kitchen I told myself that I had been totally irrational and that the only thing that had frightened me was my own imagination. 20 years later I can still remember the fear and dread that gripped me like a vice on that beautiful sunny morning in May and my skin still prickles when I think of that day. I am at a loss to explain the events that made this particular fishing trip so terrifying. Did I experience the echo of something dreadful that was now lost to history? I never had the courage to ask my colleague about the loch; my story would have sounded ridiculous and I did not want to admit to being scared out of my wits. I have since fished alone and at night in some very dark and lonely places but I have never experienced anything remotely like that sunlit day in Wester Ross and I'm not ashamed to admit that I never, ever wish to go back.


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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by CraigM » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:16 pm

Hello Steve.

If you google "wester ross murder" you come up with the death of politician Willie McRae in 1985 & Wester Ross as a potential site for the murder of Lady Mcduff.

You might find something related to the spot you were fishing.

Thanks for the story.

Steve Reed

Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Steve Reed » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:49 pm


Interesting story! His car was found a long way from where I was fishing so probably unrelated. I don't think I will ever understand what I experienced.


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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Vole » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:26 pm

A wonderful tale, well told.

However, I fear I must lower the tone... Lady McDuff, eh?

I tried to beat it down with sticks, but to no avail....

"You know when you've been Banquo'd!"

Sorry! :Scared:
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Hemingway didn't have to worry about accidentally hitting "submit" before he edited.

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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Trevor » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:27 pm

Very nicely written, and rather unnerving.
I wish I hadn't read it so close to bed time :Scared:

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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Scott » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:09 pm

Steve, funny you should say this.... ....I have experienced something similar twice, both times in Scotland, once in the Trossachs and once at Applecross. There I was happy as Larry the next thing I was gripped with fear. It is somewhat unusual as I fish a great deal in the mountain tarns here in Cumbria and have never experienced this irrational fear yet I've had it twice whilst fishing Scottish Lochans... ...weird :shocked:

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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Beresford » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:07 am

Well written, I've experienced something similar. It was quite odd, I felt as if the lake wanted to kill me. This was in broad daylight. Needless to say I beat a hasty retreat. I later found out somebody had drowned there.
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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by StalkingLuke » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:23 am

That's quite a tale and will probably never be resolved to a point that stops you from feeling uneasy when you think about that day.

I had an experience that I could only describe as a sort of spiritual feeling beside a loch in North Uist many years ago. Camped on the bank watching the sun setting across the water after a days fishing, I had a feeling of total happiness and peace with the world that I had never experienced before or since.
Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

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Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Mark » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:35 am

A lovely write up Steve.
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The most precious places in the English landscape are those secretive corners,
where you find only elder trees, nettles and dreams. (BB - Denys Watkins-Pitchford).


Re: Laughter among the lochs

Post by Jackson » Mon Oct 07, 2013 11:54 am

I have just got around to having a look at this thread and i must say there is some spine tingling stuff in it !

On reading a few just how well put over and excellent to read so many of them are stands out, many a traditional fisherman is very good at describing the 'ghost' or supernatural account quite clearly.

What a nice extra dimension these stories are - most interesting they certainly make one wonder.

I have enjoyed your account as i have several Steve, it is indeed spoken with some finesse as seems to be universal on them :Thumb:

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