Air a’ bheinn / On the Mountain was written for Write Club’s January 2024 meeting in response to the general prompt for poetry. I thought I’d write something about the pleasures of walking in the mountains, given that’s one of the things I enjoy. It turned out to be a wee bit harder than I thought, and my second thought was to write something a bit shorter, and use my 800 day streak in duolingo learning Scottish Gaelic to see if I could write something that showed that I was as fluent as a bard (I don’t think I’m anywhere near that).

Anyway, here’s a short poem that looks a bit like a bottle on its side, and serves as a little bit of mountain advice for those that enjoy both the water of life and being out in the hills!

NB apologies to those fluent in Gaelic, my beginner/intermediate attempt is probably questionable. There’s an English version below the Gaidhlig.

Ben Lawers and the ridge as seen from the top of Beinn Ghlas (Photo: James Kemp)

Air a’ bheinn / On the Mountain

Faodaidh tu uisge-beatha òl
fad na h-oidhche anns a’ bhothan,
ach feumaidh tu cuimhneachadh.
Cuimhnich gu bheil a’ bheinn àrd.
Cuimhnich nach eil an aimsir mhath.
Cuimhnich nach eil thu ag obair math madhain a-màireach.
Mar sin bi òl beagan uisge airson do bheatha a bhith tòrr nas fheàrr.

Cuimhnich gum bi an èadhar nas binne le ceann soilleir.
Bidh fàilte air a’ bheinn, agus còrdaidh an latha riut.
A-màireach faodaidh tu uisge-beatha òl aig an taigh,
ach 's dòcha dìreach aon eile deoch an doras.


You can drink whisky 
all night in the bothy, 
but you have to remember. 
Remember the mountain is high. 
Remember that the weather is not good.
Remember that you won’t work well in the morning. 
So have some water for your life to be so much better. 

Remember that the air will be sweeter with a clear head. 
The hill will be welcome, and you will enjoy the day.
Tomorrow you may drink whisky at home, 
but maybe just one more for the road.