A forgotten literary masterpiece celebrating the majesty of the Cairngorm mountains will be the subject of a new documentary presented by travel writer Robert MacFarlane. The Living Mountain – A Cairngorms Journey will be shown on BBC2 Scotland on Tuesday 2 December at 10pm and will be available more widely on the BBC iPlayer shortly afterwards.
The Living Mountain, written by Scottish poet and novelist Nan Shepherd in the 1940s, recounts her experience of walking in the Cairngorms during the early years of the Second World War. When Robert MacFarlane first discovered it he found it to be one of the finest books ever written on nature and landscape in Britain.
This love letter to the Cairngorms instantly challenged his preconceptions about nature writing. Unlike other mountaineering literature that focused on a quest to reach the summit, this remarkable book described a poetic and philosophical journey into the mountain.
Now Robert MacFarlane will retrace Nan Shepherd’s footsteps, exploring the Cairngorms through her thoughtful and lucid descriptions, in an attempt to discover what she called the living mountain: “So there I lie on the plateau, under me the central core of fire from which was thrust this grumbling mass of plutonic rock, over me blue air, and between the fire of the rock and the fire of the sun, scree, soil and water, grass, flower and tree, insect, bird and beast, wind, rain, snow – the total mountain.”
The BBC hopes the documentary will bring the story of Nan Shepherd and her little-known work to a new audience, and along the way offer a moving and memorable tour of the Cairngorm mountains, seen afresh through the passion and poetry of her writing.