In Scotland, we’re all familiar with the tales of the Highland Clearances, when great swathes of the rural population were removed from the land to be replaced by sheep, bringing in more money for the landowners. This is still the shape of our country today, with the Highlands being one of the least populated parts of Europe.
Which is why I find it really interesting to visit the Alps, where people have continued to live and work for hundreds – even thousands – of years amongst high peaks and deep valleys. A couple of weeks ago I was in Morzine, an Alpine resort that opens itself up in summer to all manner of events. From great walking festivals to Harley Davidson gatherings, it’s a treat to see hills so alive with activity.
Morzine was originally an agricultural centre supplying nearby Aulps Abbey. It’s now one of a large number of bustling Alpine towns that play host to tourists from around the world year-round. Skiers come here in winter, walkers and cyclists in summer and everyone benefits from the fantastic French food before and after!
The chairlifts open for tourists in late June, some a little later in July, and it’s a great way to gain access to the hills and enjoy the views without as much work. And goodness knows once you’re up there, there’s plenty of space to find a little peace and quiet.
From the top, it’s also a joy to look at all the improbable and fantastic places people have chosen to set up home over the years. High up and only accessible by those trademark zig-zagging mountain roads, you wonder when and why somebody decided to put so much effort into defying nature and building in these places! The views no doubt have something to do with it!
Nearby Les Gets was the venue for a demonstration of forestry machinery when we passed through – no doubt a big employer in the area – and we also managed a trip up to the charming road-end hamlet of Les Lindarets, where the local population of goats roam the streets as they please.
If you go, don’t miss the chance to sample the local Reblochon cheese look for any dish in a restaurant where it’s melted on top. Just delicious. It’s created in the high pastures during the summer months – by the very healthy looking cows that fill the air with the tinkling of the bells around their necks.
These hills really are alive with the sound of music!