For many of us, walking is not as important as family and friends during this crisis, but for those who are able, exercise can be essential for remaining positive. Anyone who enjoys walking as a hobby will not be enjoying the present restrictions one bit, but while they are vital now, they will pass.
Five years ago during a spell in Newcastle I had to compromise all my adventure plans and explore what was on my doorstep due to family responsibilities and lack of resources. Following a long period of walking in the Scottish Borders and North Northumberland, it was difficult not to view these walks as a poor substitute.
During this period of local walking I learned that there are still some interesting things to see, as well as wild spaces, if you know where to look. Inspired by the movement to create city parks in Glasgow and London, and by writers promoting the idea of local do-able adventures, I have been exploring my own back yard here in Edinburgh due to the present restrictions.
It is easy to believe that your local area holds no surprises. Luckily for me Edinburgh is still full of surprises which I was really looking forward to exploring this year. However like everyone else, I am shaping my interests around the possible for the moment.
Wherever we live, we either discount local walking and sit at home with cabin fever or we get out there and discover, or rediscover, our own local area. I am not recommending that anyone break the guidelines, but that they check out the places nearby which they may have taken for granted.
The Pentland Hills lay just beyond my radius when I was living on the border, so I was glad when a walking friend offered to introduce me to this lovely area, which is a straightforward bus journey from Edinburgh. I was just on the verge of venturing out to feature the area on this blog when the restrictions were introduced, so this is just a taster of an area I hope to focus on in future posts. I hope you are safe and well.
This post was created from my phone so I hope the layout is without issues.
Although my first complete year in Scotland has been a relatively quiet year since losing my father in July, I think I have made the right decision to move here after living on the border for 10 years. I have had some great day walks, trips and life experiences, which only living in Scotland could have afforded me. I wish you all a very happy and successful year for 2020 and hope you will return to my sites in the New Year.
I have recently discovered that my long distance hiking has given me a certain amount of stamina, which I have finally found a constructive use for, delivering leaflets, letters and canvassing for the forthcoming election. It is nice to be able to combine doing something I enjoy, with something I believe in, so I am discovering the people, the tenements and the colonies of Edinburgh one staircase at a time.
While doing this I have developed a huge respect for the postal workers of the city, who climb the equivalent of a mountain in an average week. I have also discovered a secret side to the city I love in the many hidden gardens high up in the tenement blocks. I thought I’d share some of my urban explorations here to prove that you don’t need to be in the countryside to have an adventure, and that electioneering can be a unique way to get to know a place.
If you aren’t already registered to vote, it only takes 5 minutes on the UK government website to make sure your voice is heard.
Since moving to Scotland last year I have joined a walking group so that I can keep fit for bigger projects and get to know the country better. This has involved some lovely trips so far including Peebles, Bridge of Earn, Killearn and Glen Devon. On other fronts it has been a busy year which is why I haven’t posted for a while.
If there are rooms available when you need them, hostelling can enable you to stay in or near places where accommodation prices are at a premium, as well as places which are only accessible on foot. In comparison to the blandness of some budget hotels, hostels embrace a cornucopia of styles and periods, from humble cottages to grand mansions.
Unfortunately there has been a recent tendency towards whole hostel letting by the YHA which has had the effect of sidelining individual and family customers like myself. In spite of the name, I am told that you do not have to be young to stay at a youth hostel. Apparently the remit of the YHA is aimed at people of all ages.
There is no such thing as a “typical” hostel which is why they can be such a pleasure to stay in.
Hiking can become an expensive hobby by the time you have spent money buying your kit, paid high season B&B prices & possibly employed a courier. I was told by many hikers that camping was the answer, and to some extent it is. Keeping open the option to camp will mean that you are never stuck for somewhere to stay.
However there will sometimes be days, even when you camp, when you need some rest and recuperation, as well as some first world facilities such as warmth, power supplies, hot showers, laundry facilities, cooking facilities, meals, a bar, wifi and even an en-suite private room. These are some of the facilities sometimes on offer when rooms are available.
Some routes and areas are more generously appointed with hostels and bunkhouses than others. The Pennine Way and the Lake District for example, because of their popularity, are very well provided with excellent places, but Northumberland has very few.
One advantage of joining one of the hosteling organisations is that you can get a discount on the cost of a room and membership of the International organisation Hostelling International.
In addition to YHA hostels, a huge range of independent hostels and bunkhouses can be found on the independenthostelguide website. They are sometimes easier to get in to than the YHA hostels.
I was quite a late starter to hostelling, so in case you are like me, here are some pointers about what to expect when you stay at a hostel:
What to expect.
Rooms are sometimes only available at weekends or in high season for individuals and families because of block booking.
You will usually have the choice of a shared dormitory room with bunkbeds (usually but not always single sex) or a private or family room.
You may be expected to make your own bed up when you arrive and put your used bedding in the laundry baskets when you leave.
Youth hostels sometimes close during the day from about 10am until 4pm for cleaning so it is unwise to arrive during these hours.
You may have the choice to self cater or eat meals provided by the hostel. It is worth indicating your intention before you arrive
There are usually lockers available on request for your gear.
There is sometimes a curfew time when the doors are locked but you should be given a key or code which will enable you to get in after hours
Three things which are often useful in shared dormitories are a little torch for creeping in after other people have gone to bed, an extension lead as there are sometimes not enough sockets for recharging if the room is full, and ear plugs if you are easily disturbed during the night.
Staff are normally knowledgable about the local area and are happy to suggest facilities, walks or climbs nearby.
You can wash and dry clothes and boots at most hostels and they are usually willing to hold parcels for you until you arrive.
Wifi is available in most hostels except those in remote locations.
Most hostels are relaxed and friendly but the ethos is fairly DIY.
This is an updated re-issue of a page originally published in 2013 following a couple of years of using hostels on long distance walks and some shorter trips.
This post is intended to be an occasional feature showcasing some of the websites which I have enjoyed recently. I would welcome your suggestions about good sites.
Chris Townsend Outdoors Blog by a very experienced backpacker with an impressive outdoor CV. Unparalleled knowledge of gear and environmental issues.
Grough Magazine An independently owned site featuring news and features about the outdoors and outdoor activities.
Hiking in Finland A European backpacking blog in English written by the multi skilled Hendrick Morkel
Homemade Wanderlust Blog and Vlog following trailhiker Dixie’s interesting and involving attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and become a hiking triple crowner.
John Muir Trust Founded in 1983 with the aim of conserving and protecting wild places for the benefit of present and future generations
Northumberland National Park This site is growing into a well researched and interesting website about the area. They are quite responsive to comments and criticisms from users.
The Outdoors Station Podcast A professionally produced podcast covering many aspects of the outdoors from the Cartwrights at Backpacking Light UK
Tramplite Ultralight long distance hiker who designs and makes his own line of hiking equipment when he isn’t hiking trails around the world
Walk Highlands All aspects of walking in Scotland are covered in this engaging blog which has a good mix of trail data, downloads and long form posts. It is supported by accommodation providers who want to appeal to the outdoor market.