There is a Kingdom at Rowardennan. It sits on the shingle shore of Loch Lomond under the Ben. I discovered it on a sunny summer day in the 1954. It is a special place for it is my Kingdom and, until I write this, it is unknown to any other.
A family friend had offered to take my brothers to the top of Ben Lomond. So it was, that on that surprising day, I was sat in the back of a fawn Upright Ford Popular. It was one of those glorious days that seem only to exist in childhood. As the smallest, my natural place in the car was the middle of the back seat. This meant sitting astride the transmission tunnel. It also meant that the seat had little padding and the metal over the tunnel was well known to me, as we traversed the bumps and humps. In the Ford Popular, the windows were set high so that my journey was passed in looking ahead through the gap between driver and front passenger. All I could see was the pale blue of the sky and the occasional whispy cloud.
I was unconcerned by the lack of view for, before the days of radio, we chatted and sang as we went. Also, there was the adventure ahead. It was not intended that I would be going on the climb but I was sure that, when we arrived, this would be changed. They would see I was able to keep up and no-one would have the heart to leave me behind. I was going to climb Ben Lomond.
My hopes were in vain. We left the car at the Lochside and set off together along a lane with cottages to our right. When we reached the start of the path towards the Ben the others waved goodbye and I was left to watch them depart.
As they left for the hills I made my way back to the shore. I knew they were to be away for some time as it was explained that, it was too far for me to climb, would take too long and that when I was bigger, I could come back. On the surface I accepted this but inside I was outraged. I was on the shores of Loch Lomond with nothing to do while my brothers enjoyed adventures.
I wandered along the empty stony shore. I picked up stones and lobbed them into the flat calm water where they made a satisfying plop. Then I chose round flat stones and skimmed them across the surface counting the number of skips. This was fun but arms grow tired, and with no-one to marvel at my skill, I gave up. As I climbed over a ridge of grass jutting out into the loch I found my Kingdom.
At the edge of the water was a tangle of bare tree roots. Years of rising and falling water levels had stripped all soil from the base of a huge tree. The remains of a dead trunk rose from the centre of a platform standing on a multitude of legs. The sun highlighted the bleached wood and between the legs was a warren of dark passages and sudden shafts of light. I raced forward and clambered to the top.
As soon as I stood by the trunk I could see pirates approaching. My sturdy ship was in danger. The curved sabre plucked from the selection of swords lying amidst the timbers was in my hand. I leapt from the bridge onto the foredeck. The suddenness of my attack drove them back. I swung back into the rigging. From the dark cannon ports below shots rang out. Victory.
No sooner was the ship secure than I realised that I had a castle to capture. High on a cliff it had held out against all attack. Only the brave and daring could lead a successful assault. I moved in shadow. Careful not to dislodge the loose stones which betrayed secret attacks, I crawled into the passages beneath the castle walls. No-one else could have negotiated these tunnels. I held a finger to my lips so that my trusty followers would not speak and give us away. A beam of light from above showed the way to the battlements. I stormed up leading the charge. Cut, thrust. I was unbeatable. Defenders fell in their hundreds round my feet and the cheers of my troops told of my great deeds. The castle was ours.
Lunch interrupted the exploration of the worlds trapped in those roots. I had dreaded being bored and now I grudged the enforced break to eat. Almost as bad as having to stop and return to the ordinary world was having to wash hands in the loch.. What nonsense when this merely meant that the interruption was longer. When having a picnic, what was the point in being clean.
At last fed and watered I returned to my wonderland. I retook the castle. I won battle after battle with the pirates. Changing sides, hoisted the Jolly Rodger and forced my captives to walk the plank.
Thinking that there might be more great places along the shore I decided to explored further. There were places where the shore was eaten away showing weird hollows and tangled roots but none had the appeal of my first discovery. As I wandered I threw stones in the water and ran over the grassy foreshore, but my Kingdom pulled me back. This was my world, only I knew of it, only I could find a way through its darkness and light.
For over fifty years I smile when I think of Rowardennan and of my dream world. I never found it again, and like to believe it was discovered by no-one else.
There is a Kingdom at Rowardennan. It sits on the shore of Loch Lomond in the shadow of the Ben. It is my kingdom and always will be.