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STAR READ: A lifelong love and knowledge of the people and landscape of Assynt is shared

By Margaret Chrystall

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For anyone who has marvelled at the lowering bulk of mountain Quinag, Robin Noble’s new book begins with an author’s note focused on it.

Under The Radiant Hill by Robin Noble.
Under The Radiant Hill by Robin Noble.

Irresistible scene-setting for his own work homes in on it, adding a justified comparison with the sacred Australian mountain Uluru.

It’s Quinag too that the writer refers to in his new title Under The Radiant Hill: Life And The Land In The Remotest Highlands.

This week’s Star Read is both Noble’s personal story of Assynt from the time he first experienced it at nine years old and a wider view of this area of the north west Highlands with its fascinating history, intriguing future and unique wildness.

Above all, the book is the personal story of a man whose family story is wrapped up in the region and who has played his own part in developing and protecting it, as a resident and for 10 years as chairman of the community council.

In an overview of the area, as he closes his book with an odyssey around the different homes he has lived in across the area, he pays tribute to the “... long and successful campaign which became the Assynt Crofters’ ‘buy-out’.”

And it is unlikely anyone will read the book – whether they’ve been to the area before or not – and not long to make their own journey to witness what Noble writes about so eloquently from his own experience.

Reading of twentysomething Noble, his wife and toddler Mairi, setting up home in Elphin, it strikes you before he writes: “This was indeed The Good Life!” like the idealistic TV series brought to life – growing their own food, making hay for their goats.d

The story brings its share of challenges, for both the family and the land itself – climate change and wilding, but it is a people’s story too: “Assynt... despite its rocky nature hard climate and northern location, sustained a population for thousands of years.”

No surprise when Noble reveals it’s being in this land itself when he feels most alive.

Under The Radiant Hill (Birlinn, £10.99).

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