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!”
The weather is really, really shit. Heavy rain pelts down on me. I put my tent up in some woods just half a kilometre before Philipstoun.
A tip to other hikers: do not hike in Scotland with a tent where you have to pitch the inner layer first. As it shits it down with rain, I pitch the tent (inner layer first) as fast as I can. But it’s raining so hard that by the time I get the tent up, there’s pools of water inside. I use my towel to mop up the water and grumble to myself all evening.
Day 8: Philipstoun -> Falkirk wheel, Forth & Clyde canal (22km)
It’s another dreary day of rain. One of the highlights is the Falkirk tunnel, which is like stepping back in time and entering an old dungeon, complete with dripping rocks. This is the end of section 10 of the official trail notes, and the start of section 11.
I arrive at the Falkirk wheel in the pouring rain. A lovely man working at the canal says I can camp on the grass next to the moored boats on the Forth and Clyde canal. I get access to the heated shower block, have a long shower and huddle next to the radiator, not wanting to ever set foot in the rain again.
It rains solidly til 5am.
Day 9: Falkirk wheel to Cadder (28km)
I pack away a soaking wet tent and walk along the pretty canal all day in torrential rain. I am soaked through and my feet really hurt from all the asphalt. I join section 12 of the official trail notes.
The SNT leaves the canal at Cadder, on the outskirts of Glasgow, so I also come off here. I take a bus into Glasgow, and then another bus to my Mum and step-Dad’s flat in Ayr, giving me another few days’ break from the relentless rain, and a lovely cooked breakfast.
The canal section’s been much prettier than I imagined, and camping’s been surprisingly easy. But oh! the rain and the asphalt! I calculate that so far roughly half of the SNT has been on an asphalt/tarmac surface.
For part 3 of my hike across Scotland, see here.