National Poetry Day – our favourites

Scotland’s array of beautiful environments remain the muse of many traditional and contemporary poets, songwriters and artists. Inspiration can be often found during an ascent in the Cairngorms; in morning’s birdsong; or upon reflection of evening’s sundown.


Misty morning at Battleby  (c) Steven Sinclair

As part of National Poetry Day 2017, we invited people to submit poems inspired by their experiences with nature.

Throughout the course of the day, we will be showcasing our favourites. You will find a selection of these below. Where possible, some of these are accompanied by a photograph and audio recording of the poem being read aloud.

Keep up to date with the next poetry post by coming back to this blog and visiting the SNH Twitter (@SNH_Tweets) and Facebook (@ScottishNaturalHeritage) pages.


Bleak, windswept world,
Languish ‘neath a louring sky,
Mourn your faded splendour;
The withered roses wilt and die.
Battered by a bracing gale,
The ragged birch lament,
An idle youth of wasted days,
Their olive richness spent.
Tiny beads of crimson blood,
From punctured hands adorn,
Tattered, rain-soaked hedgerows
Of tangled twig and thorn.
Yet nestled in the barren soil,
Bedecked in sparkling dew,
A breath of life from warmer days
Awaits to spring anew.

Oak leaves. © Sarah Budgen/SNH

Oak leaves. © Sarah Budgen/SNH

Written by Sarah Budgen (SNH), 2003

Listen to Sarah reading her poem here :


A Trip Tae Noss
(Shetland dialect version)

Ower da sea fae Bressay a peerie jewel lies
An isle lik nae idder aneath da changing skies
As da warden comes ta collect you fae da peerie quay
Your een ir always skoitin fur wha keens whit you’ll see
Maybe a swiftly passin neesik or da glisk o a draatsi
An Orca seekin dir next feed or a sunbathin sylkie
Eence you clamber ashore da isle afore you spreads
While Bonxies an Alaans fly menacingly ower your heads
Up fae sandy pasture trow heddery moorland hill
You come at last tae da highest clifts whaur seabirds swoop an mill
Whin you reach Charlie’s Holm an da Noup comes intae view
You solist in winder an delight at da sight (an guff) afore you
Da sandstone ledges gie a hom tae da teemin multitude
O nestin seabirds an gulls precariously raisin dir brood
Solan, longie an wilkie jostle fur space side be side
While on da cliff-tap nories fin burrows in which ta bide
Maalies float majestically as solan dive an plummet
Dey really pit on a show as you set aff fur da summit
Fae da trig point on a clear day you can simply see fur miles
Sumburgh Head tae da sudderd an nort up ta da isles
You might even catch sight o Foula lyin wye oot wast
But as mony fok will tell you Noss canna be surpassed.

A view towards Noss. © Lorna Leask/Scottish Natural Heritage

A view towards Noss. © Lorna Leask/SNH

Written by Lorna Leask (SNH), 2017

A Trip To Noss
(English version)

Across the sea from Bressay a little jewel lies
An island like no other beneath the changing skies
As the warden comes to collect you from the little quay
Your eyes are constantly searching for who knows what you’ll see
Maybe a glimpse of an otter or a sunbathing harbour seal
A swiftly passing porpoise or Orca looking for their next meal
Once you clamber ashore the island before you spreads
While Great and Arctic Skua fly menacingly overhead
Rising from sandy pasture through heathery moorland hill
You come at last to the highest cliffs where seabirds swoop and mill
When you reach Charlie’s Holm and the Noup comes in to view
You stop in wonder and delight at the sight (and smells) before you
The sandstone ledges provide a home to the teeming multitude
Of nesting seabirds and gulls precariously raising their brood
Gannets, guillemots and razorbills jostle for space side by side
Whilst on the cliff-top puffins find burrows in which to reside
Fulmars float majestically as gannets dive and plummet
They really put on a show as you set off for the summit
From the trig point on a clear day you can simply see for miles
Sumburgh Head to the south and north up to the isles
You might even catch sight of Foula lying way out west
But as many people will tell you Noss is the isle that’s best.


Listen to Lorna reading her poem here :


You walk and walk

then one day
you stop
and stare.
Really stare,
with eyes fresh
from finding
a new way of seeing
what has always been.

You walk and walk. Painting by Lindsay Turk ©

You walk and walk. Painting by Lindsay Turk ©

Written by Jon Plunkett


The botanist searches

He’d heard of its beauty, its life changing scent,
So picked up his map, his guide and his tent,
Into the wild he strode in a fever
‘Does it exist?, could I be a believer?’

Ten thousand places he searched with no rest,
Disbelieving, his faith, put to the test,
Not meant to be looked at these briars and these thorns,
That pulled at his flesh, bloodied and torn.

He followed the rules of where it should grow,
He knew if he tried, he should already know,
But each time he came to a glade or a clearing,
Nothing was there ‘cept a cold empty feeling.

The book that he grasped ‘The guide and the key’
He threw with disgust; at last he was free,
To follow his heart, to find his own way,
But, alas, the gloaming, the end of the day!

‘The darkness’, he cried, ‘has come far too soon’
But a cloud, unknowing, had blocked out the moon
As it lighted enough to see through the trees
He laughed out loud for he saw that he sees.

Cadder Wilderness, near Glasgow. © Jenny Greaves

Cadder Wilderness, near Glasgow. © Jenny Greaves

Written by Jenny Greaves (SNH); reading by Hamish Ross, 2017


A Frog In My Position

Beyond the glen of the hanging alders,
Across the moor
Where heath gives way to hill;
Beneath the birch beside the burn,
I hunkered down to calm my heart
Before the steepness of the climb.

And there, beside the asphodel, all damp:
A frog in my position,
Breast gently heaving, face a’glisten.
A frog in my position
Resting in the wood of the slender birch.

But communion incomplete, frog became flight
And, in the blink of a green eyelid
Became elemental frog swimming –
Fleeing for the dripping shelter
Where burn becomes bank in rocky caverns
Fringed by fern and mnium moss.

And watching, sure I could see it still,
I studied that dark hollow, ’till
Not frog, but beads of water on the rock
Was all that frog that could have been me:
Dewdrops sentient with life.

A frog in my position?
Not now, and never was.
For unlike frog, I cannot be
A part of all the things I see.

“A great miracle, Asclepius, is man!”
But frog as marvel is no also ran.

A common frog in the Fee Burn, Coire Fee National Nature Reserve. © Lorne Gill/SNH

A common frog in the Fee Burn, Coire Fee National Nature Reserve. © Lorne Gill/SNH

Written by Roddy Fairley (SNH)



Cirrus sweeps over a new moon.
Summer’s in; a swift’s
down in the grass, flailing,
stopped of air.

A momentary lapse;
fallen foul of the link, tenuous,
between earth and sky.
Holding light,

I climb high as I can
and throw it from the window.
Sure enough, a stiff arc,
striking the breeze,

scythes out of sight.
I follow it till
lost in the sun,
half hoping it might return.

A swift in flight. © Lorne Gill

A swift in flight. © Lorne Gill

Written by Andrew MacGregor (SNH)


Creag Meagaidh

Creag Meagaidh admiring
I gaze on thy charms
With the hills bold inspiring
Enfold in my arms
With the Cloud turbaned brow
And the Birch mantled breast
While the clear river Ardair looks to the west

Reflections on Creag Meagaidh. © Rory Richardson/SNH

Reflections on Creag Meagaidh. © Rory Richardson/SNH

Written by Rory Richardson (SNH)


The Cailleach’s Torment

The Cailleach’s plaid appears benign, draped across her hills.
Soft cashmere hews of ancient clans cage hamlets where she wills.
Cunning witchery beguiles,
Walk these peaks and glens, and peaks and glens,
Sky blue and grey and blue again.
Wishes in the floating sun, seeded, podded, spurring on.
The lightest rain,
A watergau*,
Breathe joy.
Yet further on, ever up, and up and upwards humid browns surround until,
Sucking shock of wet-socked bog releasing hoards,
Of tick and maddening midge.
Shatter of spirit being broken,
Stench of trolls at the rotten bridge.
Laughter of crone regales but still,
You may as well, on up and up and up to hell.
Gasping deep the pine blue air,
Tripping heather of the Cailleach’s lair.
Summit sighted.
Yet slips away,
As scarp,
That scarp,
That scrabbling scarp
Gets in the way.

*Watergau is a north east word for a partial rainbow
Morven towering over the Howe of Cromar, seen from the Queen’s View. © Hazel McSporran

Morven towering over the Howe of Cromar, seen from the Queen’s View. © Hazel McSporran

Written by Hazel McSporran


Loyal Hope ends with Wrath

Syenite, mid-way between Granite and who knows what,
Proud above the Loch of the same name,
Jagged, distinctive multitude of rocky summits,
Each ideal to survey the wise expanse of flow,
Always the same,
The roaring stags of October are King here,
The true Loyal residents.

It was not always so, Ribigill, Mharraich
and Bronze age settlement so old no name remains,
but the circles in the moor and the clearance cairns,
Speak loud in the silence,
Stone Rows, now buried in the peat,
Peak tentatively out at a world,
That no longer understands their meaning.

Hope springs eternal, smooth to the sunrise,
Optimistic above the loch of the same name,
Falling vertically and catastrophically towards the sunset,
Cliffs tumbling so far they will never end until,
You look towards sunset at Wrath,
Where the mightiest cliff on the mainland stands,
And beyond Wrath there is nothing.

Crouching down on Hope, I brace myself,
Against the West wind from nothingness and Wrath,
And turn back to gaze upon the rocky security,
Of multi-headed Loyal,
I listen for the Stag’s roar,
And await the next sunrise.

Towards Ben Loyal and Ben Hope. © Stuart Graham/SNH

Towards Ben Loyal and Ben Hope. © Stuart Graham/SNH

Written and read by Stuart Graham (SNH)


The Goose, the Trout and the Midge

Nestled here, on Scotland’s East Coast,
To your stunning location, I’ll certainly raise a toast,
Benarty and The Lomonds surround you on either side,
And seem to protect your waters, so still and wide,

The bird life is plentiful, of geese there are many,
Someone has to count them, without missing any!
Did Mary Queen of Scots, try to count all the geese?
As she stayed out in the castle, trying to hide in peace?

Perhaps she went fishing, for the famous Loch trout,
And somehow managed, to sneak one out?
It had popped up to feed on the swarms of Loch flies,
Where it was quickly taken by surprise!

Clouds of non biting midges caused an awful fuss,
But they didn’t bite, and were harmless to us,
The only danger that we really did face,
Was swallowing a mouthful on a “round the Loch” race!

Many people didn’t realise, as up the motorway they drove,
That so close by, is a real treasure trove,
Next time you’re passing, a few of your hours we might steal,
Be sure to pop in and ask to see Neil!

Loch Leven from The Sleeping Giant. ©Neil Mitchell/SNH

Loch Leven from The Sleeping Giant. ©Neil Mitchell/SNH

Written by Kevin Heaton


Am Monadh Ruadh

Cloaks her
graceful easy shoulders
in noble hues of purple gold
embroidering bronzed bracken ribbons
around the curves and contours of her velvet silhouette,
the evening light her coronet
bestowed by the Higher Source

is of
ancient times
of fire and ice and planetary collision;
in this world but not of it, ours we like to believe,
watching the movement of her stars, the flow of waters,
life from spawning to spawning
as the whirlpool of Creation spins.

Evening Light on Am Monadh Ruadh. © Judith Nott

Evening Light on Am Monadh Ruadh. © Judith Nott

Written by Judith Nott


Find out everything that’s going on as part of National Poetry Day 2017 on the website.


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