*Occasionally I write a blog post about mental/emotional health. This is one of those posts.*
I moved to this place with my new partner, bursting with love, full of hope. But I also came to this place emotionally fragile. I expected our love to fill a void I felt in my life. In hindsight, I see that resting your whole happiness on one person is slightly foolish.
This is the place where I have been briefly, exquisitely, happy. Where we laughed, ate and sang along to bad songs on the radio. A place where we curled up together, finding safety in each other’s arms. A place where we shared spiritual ideas and meditated together.
It’s my first hike since coronavirus locked us all down! The weather’s looking torrential in the north-west of Scotland, so I decide to head north-east, where I don’t have to endure days of rain and bog. The Loch Ness 360 is a 130km-long hiking trail, loosely doing a loop around Loch Ness. I say loosely, because there’s some days where you don’t see the loch at all.
The official website describes the trail as “epic”. I think that’s a slight exaggeration. Epic if you’ve only seen Kent, maybe. But it’s definitely a lovely hike, and if you’re an experienced walker, you’ll find it easy. There’s *lots* of forestry track and tarmac, though, so if you’re going to hike this, try to make your bag as light as possible to give your feet a break as they pound the hard ground.
*Last summer I hiked the Karhunkierros long distance hiking trail in northern Finland. It’s taken me forever to write about it!*
Me and Sara are in Ruka, a ski resort in northern Finland, and we’re about to walk the 82km-long Karhunkierros, or Bear Trail in English. We grab a not-very-detailed map from the tourist information centre. The worker assures us that this is all we will need. “It’s impossible to get lost!” she says.
Last Autumn I hiked the length of Scotland on the Scottish National Trail. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 , part 4 and part 5.
Day 29: Morvich → Maol-Bhuidhe bothy (23km)
The trail takes us up over a pass to the Falls of Glomach, a mighty 113m high waterfall. We follow a boggy, remote Landrover track to Maol-Bhuidhe bothy (section 30). We’re lucky today: there’s not much rain, so the river separating us from the bothy is an easy paddle. We’d been worried that this bothy would be closed for hunting season, but it’s thankfully open.
A weather warning tells us that 80km p/h winds are forecast the next day, so we have a day off in the recently refurbished bothy. The winds pick up to insane speeds and the river becomes uncrossable. We venture outside only to piss and to collect water from the raging river.
Last Autumn I hiked the length of Scotland on the Scottish National Trail. Read part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.
Day 24: Fort Augustus -> Mandally (18km)
It is, of course, pouring down when we begin the trail again. The SNT joins the Great Glen Way at section 26, following the Caledonian canal, before turning up into pine forestry at Loch Oich.
We find a lovely camping spot on a mossy track in some forestry, right by the tiny hamlet of Mandally. Here, section 27 of the SNT joins the infamous Cape Wrath Trail. We will now be following the CWT all the way to the top of Scotland. There is no indication that we’re now on the UK’s most difficult hike: the CWT is an unmarked trail, and is only for experienced hikers.
Last Autumn I hiked the length of Scotland on the Scottish National Trail. Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.
Day 16: Pitlochry → Glen Tilt (15.5km)
Chris has joined me on the SNT, and I will no longer be hiking alone. He has picked the most beautiful area yet to begin his hike (section 20 of the official trail notes), a really lovely walk in the woods along the water’s edge, stopping for rest at the beautiful river bank.
Last Autumn I hiked the length of Scotland on the Scottish National Trail. Read part 1 and part 2.
Day 10 – Cadder -> oak tree between Milngavie & Drymen (16km)
“It was lovely weather before you came!” my Mum tells me again and again as I watch the rain from her window. I can’t imagine Scotland ever having lovely weather.
So it comes as no surprise to me that it’s shitting down when I rejoin the trail in Cadder after a couple of days’ break.
Last Autumn I hiked the length of Scotland on the Scottish National Trail. See part 1 here.
I take a week off of hiking to go and help shut down an opencast coal mine in the north of England. By the time I’m back in Scotland, my feet are finally no longer sore!
Day 7: Edinburgh -> near Philipstoun (12km)
I take a train out of the centre of Edinburgh and join the trail at Edinburgh Park station. This is because I want to go to Decathlon to pick up some gear. The irony isn’t lost on me, buying cheap petro-chemical gear to go and hike in nature.
Today marks the first of a few long days of canal walking, following the Union canal and then the Forth and Clyde canal. I’m a bit wary about walking along canals for days. “Where will I camp?” is my main concern, followed by, “it’s going to be so boring!”
I hiked the length of Scotland last Autumn. These Scotland blog posts are dedicated to Old Alan, a Scottish family friend who died after my trip.
“I’m going to hike all of Scotland!” I say suddenly to Chris. “Do you want to come?”
“No…I’ve got lots of work to do…”
“Me too! But I’m going to do it anyway!”
Once I decide to do a hike, there’s no talking me out of it. Chris decides that he will join me “when it gets more exciting in the Highlands”.
I’m sitting in my friend Corentin’s kitchen, flicking through my guide to Birds of Britain and Europe.
“Puffins! I want to see puffins!” I say.