The cairn marks the site of the Glenmoriston Footprints.
Close-up view of the Glenmoriston Footprints.
At Torgyle, Glenmoriston, Scotland is a set of footprints on which no grass grows. From the Torgoyle Bridge, head towards Invermoriston. About a quarter of a mile beyond a cluster of houses on the right is a short stone wall on the right where the verge widens enough to park a car. Opposite this is a small gate and a path leading in about thirty yards to a stone cairn. Immediately behind this are two “footprints”, bare patches of earth about the size and shape of footprints.
They are said to be the footprints of Finlay Munro, otherwise known as the Highland Evangelist, a native of Tain. After a productive ministry on the island of Lewis, he made a tour of the southern Highlands during which he preached in Glenmoriston in 1827. His sermon, on the text “Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel” (Amos 4:12), was generally well received but some in the congregation from Glengarry heckled him, calling him “a cheat and a liar” Munro is supposed to have closed his Bible and retorted that the ground on which he stood would bear witness to the truth of what he said until the Day of Judgement comes. Thus the marks on the ground are said to be his footprints, where nothing will grow.
Aine almost drowns in the Moriston River while crossing Scotland from the Isle of Mull to William’s home on the Cromarty Firth.
Excerpt from A Highland Emerald:
Our party broke through the ominous passage without incident, and I thanked the Lord for keeping us safe. We arrived at a grassy meadow with a bubbling river flowing toward the loch. Sheep grazed amidst the protruding rocks. A shepherd with his dog and staff walked amongst the animals. Word came from William to stop, so the guards in front of us led the way off the trail to the river’s bank.
Sion helped Breda and me to unhorse. Finding a nice soft spot on the grass, we stretch our legs, stood for a time, then spread our arisaids and sat. Sion filled the water skin with cool sweet water and brought it to us. I drank long and deep as did the maid. The noon sun felt hot, so I removed my wool jacket and riding cap. A sweet breeze blew through my hair and across my face with a refreshing coolness.
Guards led their animals to drink. Sion did the same with ours. I looked down the line of thirsty horses, spotting Lachie standing with those under his care. The wagon master unhitched the two sumpters and watered them. After their heavy work of pulling the wagon over rough steep terrain, the draft horses took a long drink. I wished to rest at this lovely place for the remainder of the day. The sweet smell of grass and broom wafted in the air. The river gurgled and bubbled, falling over rocks. Small white clouds danced across the blue sky, carried by the breeze, and leaves rustled in the tall birch and pine trees.
Sion brought a leather bag filled with bannocks, cheese, haggis, and dried figs. He learned the river was named River Moriston and a village called Invermoriston was close.
“Perhaps we’ll stop there for the night.” I felt exhausted already and did not cherish the thought of riding until dark.
Breda and I shared the meal with Sion who sat beside the maid. Each time she glanced the warrior’s way, he returned her gaze with a smile. I felt the current of attraction flowing between them. I reckoned they would soon be lovers. Watching them set my mind on Ellic and his sweet passionate kisses that made butterflies flutter in my stomach. I missed him so.
After eating my fill, I stretched out on the arisaid to watch the puffy clouds make images in the sky like I did on occasion at home. A bird and hare formed, then the wings of an angel.
Of a sudden, two large leather boots stood beside me. I looked up into William’s daunting face. Did the man smile anymore? His expressions after our meeting at Dunollie were grim with clouds covering his grey eyes. I smiled up at him, but his countenance didn’t change.
“’Tis time to depart. You should make ready now.” He extended his hand.
I grasped the proffered hand, and he helped me stand. He pulled somewhat harder than necessary, so I landed against his broad chest. Large arms encircled my waist and held me against his beating heart. I returned his embrace, needing his warmth. He then caught my arms and pushed me away. My soul yearned for acceptance, but his expression remained hard, unchanging. His shattered affection for me would never mend, but mayhap we could be friends.
“May we call a truce, Sir William, and be friends?” I searched his face.
“Certainly, Lady Aine.” He paused returning my gaze. “We will remain friends. Now, ’tis time to be about our journey. My home awaits and I’m anxious to be there.” He looked toward the horses. “Come, I’ll help you mount.”
I took his hand as Breda and Sion gathered up the food bag, water skin, and arisaids. William lifted me to the side saddle with ease. He could squeeze the life from me with those powerful hands if he had a mind, but the strict code of conduct for a knight of the realm demanded he treat a lady with respect. Sion assisted Breda. The warriors mounted with William in front of Breda and me and Sion following. I turned, trying to find Lachie at the rear, but could not see him.
We reached a shallow place in the river where our party intended to cross. Melting snow on the bens filled the river causing a swift flow. The three guardsmen at the head of the column traversed single file, taking a measure of the depth and water current. The water came to their horses’ flanks. One animal stumbled but regained its footing.
When all three arrived safely on the opposite shore, one called above the noisy water,
“’Tis safe, Sir William, but a verra rocky bottom. Be careful of your horse’s footing.”
William jerked the garron’s reins from my hand and held them with those of his steud’s. Sion, moving in front of Breda, did the same to her reins. They intended to guide our mounts across the swift water. I immediately thought of Lachie with my dowry horses. He would have a difficult time guiding them through the current without reins to hold, but I felt confidence in my brother’s keen sense of horsemanship.
The water rose to cover my thigh, entering my riding boot and wetting my wool split skirt and stocking on the dangling leg. I clutched the saddle horn. My garron stumbled onto one front knee and I went over his head to land in the icy river face down. I heard Breda scream and William call my name, then all went black until great strong hands dragged me from the cold water.
I awoke on the grassy bank lying face up toward the sky. Suddenly a large nauseating surge rose from my stomach, up my throat, and out of my mouth. William, who knelt beside me, immediately turned my head to one side so the stream of water mixed with stomach contents could flow to the ground. I coughed several times. Breda came rushing toward me with a damp cool rag to wash my face. William helped me sit up and rest against his broad wet chest. He stroked my wet hair whilst Breda washed at the mess on my clothing.