Landline : Five walks in Skye

Landline // Five walks in Skye 5 – 9th September 2016

Commission by ATLAS Arts to devise a series of walks on Skye

Caroline Dear Landline Walks - Plant Line

This project was commissioned by ATLAS Arts to develop and expand my connections with other professionals from different disciplines and to deepen my engagement with people and the land through a series of walks based on Skye. This series of five walks took place over a week with each focusing on a particular aspect of that place and with an invited guest. I used five common plants from this landscape to act as hinges to link us with the land and to start the conversation for that place and topic. Invited co-collaborators were: James Merryweather, Maoilios Caimbeul, Jen Hadfield, Dòmhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart and Tim Ingold.


Quotes from participants –
‘I get the sense of the landscape holding you’
‘enjoying the sense of getting lost in the scale’
‘this is bringing back memories of my childhood; hairy caterpillars, red berries and ferns – the particular colours and smells’
‘I feel we have deconstructed the surface and filled in above and below, which is great’
‘this has been brainfood for me, this is my artistic, cultural nourishment and I will go home to digest this’
‘each day has been like a pebble of experience and I am going home with a pocket full of pebbles to examine and enjoy.’
‘we revisited the place in the afternoon in order to be there again and explore it further and enjoy the mysteriousness of it’
‘I really liked that each day was so different and it allowed each person to engage at a deeper level according to their particular interests’




Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Plant Line


Plant – Downy Birch / Beith Charraigeach / Betula pubescens
GuestJames Merryweather – Biologist

We explored what you see and what you don’t within the birch dominated woodland of Coille Gaireallach. Starting from the rock beneath we got an understanding of the interlinked networking within the soil and fungi below and the plants and fungi above the ground surface. Through observing closely these interconnected and interactive relationships we can better understand this woodland landscape and our place within it.

Plant list


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - rope

Quote for the day

‘The oldest living organisms in the world are probably the subterranean mycorrhiza of ancient forest fungi. They’ve been there since the woods sprang up, tens of thousands of years ago, and live in an intimate partnership with the tree roots, without which neither could survive. . . . . But I think of George Orwell’s words: ‘ if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought’. And worry about the subliminal effects of defining plants as a biological proletariat, working solely for the benefit of our species, without granting them any a priori importance…. Most of my personal encounters with plants have confirmed this conviction that plants have agendas of their own’

‘The Cabaret of Plants – Botany and the imagination’ by Richard Mabey



Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Lineage


Plant – Soft rush / Luachair Bhog / Juncus effusus
GuestMaoilios Caimbeul – Gaelic poet, writer

This walk explored the crofting township of Dunans. We thought about changes through time of crofting practices highlighted from a personal perspective through referencing Maoilios’s croft and hearing recordings of people who used to work this land. We looked at the deeper past referencing the ancient stories associated with Loch Shianta and Flodigarry Island and reflect on the physical aspects of a landscape which encourages certain tales. Maoilios read his poems about this place, and we thought about a poetic expression of landscape and a continuing engagement with the land.

Poems – M Caimbeul  Lineage walk info


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Lineage

Quote for the day

‘When I was a boy I roamed all over our neighbouring township of Plocaig, which was even then down to its last two inhabitants and was shortly to be abandoned. Often on these expeditions I was accompanied by my grandfather, who had a name for every least hillock, every creek and gully. It was by his side that I first became aware, albeit dimly, how such knowledge set one apart. It was not simply that it gave him material advantage over me, though it did, but that it invested him with a form of spiritual privilege (and, of course, with the comcomitant responsibility). He lived in a different landscape from me, seeing it in a different way and – I came to feel – being seen differently by it. He was accepted, or rejected as the case might be, where I was merely and constantly tolerated. He moved through the mansion of his world as a blood relative where I was but a paying guest.’

‘Night falls on Ardnamurchan – The twilight of a crofting family’ by A Maclean



Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Heartline 2


Plant – Sphagnum / Còinneach / Sphagnum spp.
GuestJen Hadfield – Poet, writer

This walk explored the bog land around Sligachan. We gained an intimate knowledge of this particular habitat, examining minutely these interesting plants. With the Cuillin on the horizon, an ancient magma core of a volcano, we thought about scale and time within a landscape. Looking closely, noticing the subtle changes of texture and temperature we explored how we, as humans physically interact with the land and experience our place within the landscape.

Jen Hadfield reads one of her poems in the Sligachan bog

Poem – Jen Hadfield


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Heart Line

Quote for the day

‘As an enthusiastic young PhD, colonised by the arrogance of science, I had been fooling myself that I was the only teacher. The land is the real teacher. All we need as students is mindfulness. Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart. My job was just to lead them into the presence and ready them to hear.’

‘Braiding sweetgrass – Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teaching of plants’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer



Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Boundary Line


Plant – Bracken / Raineach / Pteridium acquilinum
GuestDr Domhnall Uilleam Stiùbhart – Àrd-Òraidiche / Stiùiriche Cùrsa MSc Cultar Dùthchasach agus Eachdraidh na Gàidhealtachd Senior Lecturer / Course Leader MSc Material Culture and Gàidhealtachd History

Starting at Isleornsay we explored the crofting township of Camuscross and beyond. Using historical archive material we examined the way land is owned, mapped and controlled and how this is visible in the landscape. We examined the way crofting has developed through time, comparing contemporary land use with past and reflecting on future uses, all with reference to this crofting township.

The Improving View


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Boundary Line

Quote for the day

‘The SNH map is objective analysis and entirely based on the interpretation of satellite geographic data. Of course in reality no definitive ‘boundaries’ exist between ‘core wild areas’ and the remaining landscape. However, my interest lies in investigating the ‘borders’ and ‘overlap’ of these spaces, in particular the reactions and perceptions of those people who live locally or have occasion to visit the ‘core’ locations for pleasure and recreation.’

Murray Robertson Mapping Scotia / Wild Boundaries Artist in residence at SMO 2015 referencing the 2013 map produced by SNH entitled ‘The Core Areas of Wild Land’.



Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Contour Line


Plant – Heather / Fraoch / Calluna vulgaris
GuestDr Tim Ingold – Chair of Social Anthropology University of Aberdeen

This walk followed a section of Thomas Telford’s road, built in the early 1800’s between Portree and Broadford. Following the gentle line of this track between Luib and Strollamus we explored the experience of movement and walking through a landscape. This route goes into the red Cuillin hills and also links North and South Skye visually, giving an interesting perspective on this area and the Island. The walk balanced this specific place and day with wider and deeper questions about how we experience the landscape and how we understand the relationship between the ground and the sky.

Tim Ingold’s questions


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - Contour Line

Quote for the day

‘In The Return of the Native all regular ‘haunters’ of Egdon Heath are expert path-finders. In the dark on incipient paths, the secret ‘lay in the development of the sense of touch in the feet, which comes with years of night rambling in little-trodden spots. To a walker practised in such places a difference between impact on maiden herbage, and on the crippled stalks of a slight footway, is perceptible through the thickest boot or shoe.’

‘Doubling back – ten paths trodden in memory’ by Linda Cracknell

Landline // Five Walks in Skye – some extra info

Atlas Flickr page: images of the Landline // Five Walks in Skye


Caroline Dear - ATLAS Arts - Landline 2016 // Five Walks in Skye - compilation 1


Two poems written in response to the day with Jen Hadfield, which was spent in the bog at Sligachan. The first is a joint poem which arose as Jen and I spoke.



the bog

a page

each day



the book





black, deep as time
in the beginning was the bog

hear my voice

millennia pass
climates shift
and still I grow and flow

hear my voice

I hold the place
I expand the present
I indulge the moment

hear my voice

my veiled layers
a deep intertwining
of vibrant life

hear my voice

lichens in battle
sphagna in conference
grasses in collusion

hear my voice

I am the skin
I am the bone
I am history

understand my gifts
I welcome your offerings