In an age where maps are created without touching the land, a satellite’s orbit will suffice, here are three maps (with 3,000 years between oldest and youngest) each made through being and walking on and around Schiehallion. Two artists, both with research and process as part of their practice (both also with an interest in the Wells of Schiehallion, but that’s ANOTHER story), have inspired and introduced me to all three. While creating the ‘How to Draw a Mountain’ series, the earliest map I consulted was from 1731. It was fascinating then to be introduced to the Pont map dated 1583-1614 by the wonderful musician/artist/researcher Munro Gauld. Here Schiehallion – the only mountain on the map – is drawn from its Eastern aspect thus suggesting his direction of travel, whereas the castles and other notable buildings are mostly depicted on a South-North axis. It hadn’t appeared on my earlier searches as he named it ‘Kraich’, which Alexander Maris (artist, researcher, walker) has since pointed out, is potentially an anglicised spelling of ‘Cruach’ meaning Conical Hill.
What makes a map? Schiehallion has such an intense presence within the landscape, what would our ancestors have felt on first encountering its insular majesty? At the foot of Schiehallion resides a ‘cup stone’ aligned on the same East-West axis as the mountain. With a little imagination it appears to echo the mountain’s form, is it this quality that made it special enough to ‘sculpt’ 3,000+ years ago? It became special to us during the workshops as from it there is a good view of the mountain and, as an easy walk from the yurt, it became our aid to experiencing and exploring a sense of place.
We made the climb from car park to peak followed by steep descent of the western face with pastels and charcoals, feeling our way with hands, rubbing the mountain contours and colours into paper.What should a map consist of to be called a map? Whilst at art college a tutor set an exercise to draw a portrait as if the pencil were a ladybird creeping over the face of the sitter, executed well, the features began to emerge through the tangle of intersecting lines. The process reminds me of the third and most recent map included here. Created by Maris and titled ‘Schiehallion GPS.’ it is the sum of his walks over and around the mountain. Like Pont, his presence in the land was essential to his map’s creation; the intensity of his visits conveys a knowledge of, and intimacy with the mountain, such that its form emerges through the walked lines, as recognisable and familiar as a lover’s face.