Marking Time

Dates : Mon 18th - Fri 22nd August 2014

Location: Elphin by Ullapool

Course Places : n/a      

Price :n/a


markingtime14Those who took part in the 2014 course took great pleasure and inspiration from the theme of geology and from the powerful landscapes we encountered. Our North West Highlands Geopark field guides revealed to us the delights and puzzles of the earth's history and, through much discussion, writing and art work, we each shared our personal understanding of our encounter with deep time. We hope to offer this course again, either in 2015 or 2016. In the mean time, if you have a strong interest in taking part, please e-mail Jan, who will build a provisional list. To see some images of this year's group in action, follow the slide show below. To see them performing their not-so-serious mnemonic for the rocks of the Moine Thrust (you need to come on the course to find out what that is all about!), see the film clip to the right.        

"Go to the mountains to read the immeasurable course of time." James Hutton, 1788

The poet Norman MacCaig taught in an Edinburgh school. But he spent part of every summer in the North West Highlands, inspired by the spectacular "cnoc and lochan" landscape of Assynt. The mountains here are composed of red Torridonian sandstone, set on a bed of grey Lewisian gneiss: at three billion years among the oldest rocks on earth.  

This course is intended for those with an interest in exploring time through looking at the geology of Assynt. The tutors make no assumptions about any prior expertise; instead, it hoped that the theme, along with gentle guidance through art and writing activities, will inspire participants to express their responses in an imaginative way.

One of the tutors is Christian McEwen, a Scottish writer and workshop leader currently based in Massachusetts, USA. Christian is the author of World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down (Bauhan Publishing, 2011), and has a special interest in the antidotes to contemporary "hurry sickness." For the past four years, she and Jan have run an annual retreat on the nearby Summer Isles, giving them a daily view of Suilven, Cul Mor, Cul Beag, and Ben Mor Coigeach, and inspiring them to create this course on Scottish geology.

The other tutor is Jan Kilpatrick, a practicing artist who lives and works in Elphin, a crofting township nestled in a lush limestone valley and overlooked by the iconic mountains of Cul Mor and Suilven. Most of her work involves combining words and image to convey her very personal experience of living in this wild environment. Her latest project concentrates on her spiritual connection with this ancient land. Early works on this theme can be seen by looking at the Biography of the Earth page. Jan has over twenty years of experience teaching students from a wide range of backgrounds and uses a diverse range of art-based activities, all of which are carefully crafted to uncover and release the creativity of each individual.

The course is based at Jan's studio, at the heart of the Geopark, close to Knockan Crag and the Bone Caves, two of the area's unique geological attractions. Over the course of five days, we will explore these and other areas of interest, using them as stimulus for writing and art-work of our own. The field-trips will be led by local experts and guides; Jan and Christian will provide support back in the studio. Participants will make a series of little artist's books, in which to record both inner and outer landscapes. And through writing, book-making, print-making and photography, they will explore their own sense of time and place by making an unfurling time-line of their own.

The cost of this course includes all workshop tuition and guiding when out in the field. It also covers the cost of writing and art materials, lunch each day and all refreshments. Because the field trips are all local to Jan's studio, we will take turns to car share for the short journey to get to the starting point of each walk. This is a rugged landscape, so it is recommended that you be moderately fit. Although we won't be walking fast, on each trip we will be on our feet for up to two hours.


Much of the attraction of this area of the country is the wildness it has retained as a result of the limited impact of human habitation.  Of course, this means that there are fewer choices of accommodation for the intrepid visitor, but there are still a wide number of options, many of which can be found on the Accommodation page.

The following accommodation is worth noting.  Within walking distance of Jan's studio, there are two self-catering cottages each sleeping 4. Further details can be found at Nutfield Cottage and View Hill Cottage

You might also consider Ardmair Campsite and Holiday Chalets, which lie in a beautiful bay overlooking the Summer Isles, just 15 minute drive south of the studio.  See for details. Also try, (Self Catering cottages north of Jan's studio).

Finally, Ullapool is a large village and ferry port, with accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. This lies 20 minutes of spectacular commuting drive south of the studio.

To read about an innovative community partnership approach to preserving and improving this landscape for the benefit of all, have a look at Coigach and Assynt Living Landscapes. To find out about the fascinating geology of this area go to North West Highland Geopark.


Email :    Tel : 01854 666279,   Postal Address : Jan Kilpatrick, Cul Mor, Elphin, By Lairg, Sutherland, IV274HH.

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