Standing at the top of a Munro stirs something very deep inside Jack Harland.
From the beautiful landscape and the sense of freedom to the geology of the rocks and the wildlife, the former head teacher at Bridge of Don Academy loves everything about hillwalking, but especially the otherworldly feeling it gives him.
“I feel something spiritual up there,” said Jack.
“It’s a difficult thing to try to tell somebody or try to explain but it makes me feel like I’m away from all the petty everyday worries and concerns of life.
“I feel that I’m just a tiny insignificant spec in something very big, beautiful and important.”
His love of the Scottish hills spills out on to the pages of his third book, Highland Journal, Beyond the Last Munro, a fascinating account of his climbing adventures across the Highlands and Islands, brought to life by his beautiful illustrations and maps.
“I’ve kept a diary of every single mountain I’ve climbed and everything I saw,” said Jack.
“I always have a notebook in my rucksack too, so I can do quick sketches.”
Hailing from humble beginnings, Jack grew up in the mining village of Coxlodge in Northumberland.
“I was born in a little terraced house with no running water in it, no electricity, no bathroom, it was a very basic upbringing” said Jack.
It was on joining the Scouts that Jack’s eyes were opened up to the beauty of the hills.
“One of the best things that ever happened to me was the Boy Scouts,” said Jack.
“We used to go to the Lake District and Snowdonia, that really opened my eyes to the mountains and I saw another world away from the smoke-filled streets, the terraced rows and the black and the coal everywhere.”
His love of the great outdoors translated into the classroom as Jack excelled in geography, so much so that his teacher persuaded him to study the subject at university instead of joining the Navy.
After school, Jack was offered the choice of studying geography in London or Dundee, but opting for the latter was a no brainer.
“I thought there’s no question there, Scotland’s got the mountains, so it was Dundee for me.
“If I’d studied in London, my life would’ve been completely different, it was just fate.”
In another twist of fate, Jack met his wife, Jane, at a freshers dance just days after moving north.
“About a week after that, I said to my parents, I’ve met this lovely girl and we’re getting married.
“Everybody said it’s going to be a disaster as we were so young as we’d just turned 19, but we’ve just celebrated our golden wedding.”
After qualifying as a geography and geology teacher and starting a family, hillwalking took a back seat in Jack’s life until the 1990s when a life-changing trip reignited his passion.
“During a holiday in the Highlands, we visited a tiny little crofting village called Polbain.
“We stopped for a cup of tea in this tiny gift shop and cafe and we soon got chatting to the owner.
“We told her we would love to come back here for a holiday and she pointed to a little white cottage and said we could rent it out. So we took it there and then and we used to go for holidays all through the 1990s and that got me back into the hills.”
Joining a hillwalking club while he was depute head teacher at Berwickshire High School sent Jack on his path to climb all 282 Munros.
And with his deep love of the Scottish hills, it was fitting that Jack ended his teaching career on a high as the head teacher of Bridge of Don Academy.
Since retiring Jack, a father of four and grandfather of six, relishes his newfound freedom to hillwalk and write.
Now based in Peebles, the 69-year-old says hillwalking got him through lockdown.
“I went up every day for 365 days from March 23 on the first lockdown and kept a diary about everything I saw.”
Asked what advice he would give to anyone who is embarking on their first foray into hillwalking, Jack said: “Don’t go alone.
“You should also invest in decent boots and a waterproof and you should be able to use a map and compass.
“And if the weather turns or you’re getting cold, just turn back.”
Highland Journal, Beyond the Last Munro, costs £15.99 and is available to buy online or can be found in all good bookshops and libraries.