Book Review// Wild Winter

Winter is my favourite time in Scotland. The mountains achieve a majesty in winter as the weather turns cold and changes the landscape. Wild Winter depicts this change as the chapters focus on the autumn and winter months in the Highlands.

Each month focuses on John Burns’ trips to Scotland and how the changing season affects the wildlife there. Starting in October with a trip to see the deers rut and whale watch, the book progresses through to March, with trips to find mountain hares, pine martens and beavers.

The book follows the same format as Bothy Tales, factual information on Scottish endeavours to re-wild, interspersed with Burns recounting trips to remote locations to be in the landscape. 

“Mountaineering plans are made in a warm room with a map spread out in front of you and a glass in your hand. Mountaineering decisions are made on aching legs, sweating, gasping for breath with reality howling about your ears.”

As he looks at the natural world he also discusses man’s impact. From salmon farming to the culling hares by grouse farmers, he is critical of man’s control of wildlife for our own profits. The constant battle between nature and man is best recounted in the discussion on beaver reintroduction to Scotland.

That Scotland’s wild spaces are anything but due to the management for deer and grouse is something most visitors overlook but wild winter brings to the fore. 

“Where I once saw wilderness and stood in awe of a magnificent landscape, now I see desolation. Now I see the scars we have wrought on this earth. I see the high moorland burnt for the shooting if driven grouse. I see our hills denuded of trees.”

Wild Winter is another beautiful book by Burns. If you love Scotland or just love literature which celebrates the landscape rather than tries to tame it, or battle through it – then Wild Winter is a book you will love.

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