2019: A Year in Scotland

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.

Rose 🌹

Election Exercise

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.

“Edie” Review

“Edie” directed by Simon Hunter. (2018).

edie

Edie tells the story of a woman who has dutifully cared for her controlling, bad tempered husband for 30 years until his death. The film begins 3 years later with Edie reminiscing about happier times with her father which preceded her marriage.

Finding her old rucksack and camping kit in the loft reminds her of camping trips and adventures when she was young. She then finds an old postcard of Suilven Mountain in Sutherland from her father suggesting a trip there. During the arguments with her husband about this trip, he has a stroke which renders him unable to speak or walk for the remainder of his life, condemning Edie to a life she describes as “cleaning and caring”.

Faced with her daughter’s attempts to put her into a care home, Edie decides to complete the trip to Suilven in a bid for independence. She travels to Lochinver and the film follows her quest to summit the mountain with local fixer Jonny, played by Kevin Guthrie.

The film is shot in situ at locations in London, Scotland and Lochinver. Sheila Hancock, who plays Edie, does not appear to have a stunt double, and has apparently become the oldest person to summit Suilven. Many of the shots on the mountain were filmed with the use of drones.

The film is well acted, authentic to look at, offering an interesting and humorous insight into how wilful outdoor people of all ages can be in pursuit of their goals.

 

I rented this film for the normal rate.

Twitter Detox

As a digital immigrant, I didn’t really know much about online safety when I started Rucksack Rose using a pseudonym in 2012. My aims were to celebrate the life of my late mother and to remind myself, after her long illness, that beauty and kindness still existed in the world. I wanted to connect with other outdoor people, particularly people who are normally excluded from outdoor debates. Naively I thought that is what the internet was for. Because of this, I didn’t know how to react or who to turn to when my sites were targeted by cyberstalkers, malware and organised trolling. For the last 5 years I have made repeated attempts to refer people to my personal site for information and news, but the main thing I have learned is that trolls can’t, or won’t, read.

After my studies in 2016, issues from the same people flared up again when I mentioned that my application had been accepted for the TGO challenge, and their sheer unpleasantness resulted in my withdrawal from the event. This was soon followed by another outburst from a couple of people from the same group (without even knowing the circumstances) when I mentioned that I had made a call to Mountain Rescue for advice during a walk in memory of a relative.

RR Bullying 1
Blow the whistle on trolling and harassment

This group seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than to wreak emotional devastation on Twitter. After haranguing me for over two years, they eventually pressured me into disclosing private information which was really off topic on this blog.

All these experiences have changed my approach to blogging and social media, which is ironic on a blog intended to share beauty and kindness. As a result I have put Twitter on hold for the moment as I’m not sure it is the right platform for remembering people, beauty, kindness, survivors or fledgling businesses. When I try to balance out the positive contribution it is making to Rucksack Rose against the emotional damage being caused by trolls, and the lax safety responses from the company involved, the option to come off Twitter is becoming an increasingly tempting one.

Otherwise all is good, and everything else will hopefully carry on with improved productivity in a less toxic environment. Thanks again to the people who have stopped by. It means a great deal to me.

Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers near Malham

Outdoor Conservation

I have just completed my first working holiday as an outdoor conservation volunteer for the National Trust for Scotland’s Thistle Camps in North Perthshire. If you’re interested in conservation and the outdoors, this is a great opportunity to give something back, and make a difference to Scotland’s unique natural heritage. To read and see more about this trip, take a look at my Outdoor Conservation page.

image
Foliage at Garry Bridge, Killiecrankie (un-edited)

The working holidays are residential projects, based at National Trust for Scotland properties, which help the NTS to conserve and manage the historic locations under its care. Volunteers have the opportunity to live and work in some of Scotland’s remote and remarkable places for the duration of the camp.

Convalloch
Convalloch Lodge, Ballinluig

These are some pictures of the historic and beautiful locations in which I worked, in one of my favourite parts of mainland Scotland. To see more take a look at my Outdoor Conservation page.

Killiecrankie – (Site of the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27th July 1689).

Charcoal Kiln
Making charcoal at Killiecrankie

Linn of Tummel

Garry Bridge
View from Garry Bridge, Linn of Tummel

The Hermitage, Dunkeld.

Hermitage
Woodland at The Hermitage, Dunkeld

I hope that these pictures show what a beautiful and unique area this is, and give some indication of how much there is to see at these three National Trust for Scotland sites.

Many thanks to the NTS Rangers, the Thistle Camp leader and co-leaders, and my fellow volunteers for an endlessly fun, fascinating and informative week. I paid the listed price towards my upkeep on this camp.

A Couple of Camps

I have been catching up with my writing up of two recent short backpacking trips in Scotland, which were designed to enable me to get some experience of wild camping with my newish Duomid shelter. Up to now my focus has mainly been on the hiking rather than the camping, which is why I was drawn to use existing long distance trails on both these trips.

My first four long distance trails utilised a variety of B&Bs, hostels and bunkhouses where all my needs were catered for, but the costs of these trips mounted up. Because of this I finally bought a tent for the Pennine Way in 2013 and began to use some small campsites and gardens. This experience kickstarted my journey towards wild camping.

Kit
Backpacking kit unpacked

The first trip in June was to Perthshire on part of the Cateran Trail, hiking from Blairgowrie to Kirkmichael and camping at Pitcarmick in Strathardle.

Lornty Burn
Farmland near Lornty Burn

Pitcarmick Camp
View from my tent at Pitcarmick

The second trip in August was to Stirlingshire and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park on part of the Rob Roy Way, hiking from Drymen to Strathyre and camping at Bealach Cumhang near the Menteith Hills. For those who don’t speak Gaelic, bealach apparently means col.

Loch Venacher
Ominous skies at Loch Venacher

Camp site
Bealach Cumhang

On the whole, I think my ability to chose reasonable places to pitch is improving a little bit, and I have begun to establish a camp routine which works for me, although heavy rain on both hikes affected my decisions, and I could still do with shaving some weight off my pack.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the write ups of Pitcarmick and Bealach Cumhang in my new Camps section.

Pocket kit
Pocket kit

A crack at the Cateran Trail

I chose the Cateran Trail, which is divided between Perthshire & Angus, for my next hike, partly because it looks to be a fine route, but also because this area was my introduction to central Scotland some years ago.

The Cateran Trail is a 65 mile / 104km circular route which includes Strathardle as well as parts of Glen Shee and Glen Isla. The route is named after the bands of cattle thieves known as Caterans who previously brought terror to these glens.

Cateran Trail
Cateran Trail, Perthshire and Angus courtesy of Walkhighlands and Ordnance Survey ©

The Strathardle section I completed between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael contains all the different types of terrain which this area is known for; various types of woodland, untamed heather moorland, rolling farmland pastures, and many burns feeding into the Ericht and Ardle rivers.

Unfortunately for me, a recent event on the trail had left it a bit muddy. If I had worn my boots and taken my gaiters, it would have improved things, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway here are a few photos of the varied section between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael, which included a camp at Pitcarmick, to give you an idea of the route.

River Ericht
River Ericht near Blairgowrie

Lornty Burn
Farmland near Lornty Burn

Blackcraig Forest
Views across Strathardle from Blackcraig Forest

Dalnabreck
Near Easter Dalnabreck

Dalnabreck
Near Dalnabreck

Pitcarmick Burn
Pitcarmick Burn

These pictures give some indication of how lovely the trail is, but avoid the mud underfoot. At this point it began to rain heavily, so I pitched the tent quite early to dry out.

Pitcarmick Camp
Dreich view from my tent at Pitcarmick

Drying out
Drying out in the Duomid

I continued my hike the following morning down the lovely, verdant country lanes into Kirkmichael for a much needed hot breakfast. There I decided to return to this trail when it has had the chance to recover, and I can focus more on the lovely countryside and less on where I am putting my feet.

My first wild camped trail

I realise that circumstances have meant that it has taken me a while to get round to wild camping my first trail. As I have attempted to explain in my camping section, it has been a gradual journey from bed and breakfasts on Hadrian’s Wall to tea in a tent on the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

I don’t often hear this dramatic trail come up in conversation on social media or blogs, perhaps because people who backpack in Scotland are understandably drawn to the magnetic Munros, the famous national parks or the beautiful highlands and islands, ignoring the beauty of parts of the east coast.

Berwickshire Coastal Path
Berwickshire Coastal Path; My first wild camping trail

When I moved to the borders, I was struck by the beauty of the east coast between Bamburgh in Northumberland and St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire, so I am often tempted to return there to walk.

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I was gazing out of the window, as the train runs so close to the coast between Berwick and Burnmouth that it almost knocks walkers into the sea. I noticed a couple of backpackers across the field walking along the coast path, who stopped and waved at us on the train. I got an overwhelming urge to be there waving, instead of on the train on my business errand, and so a week later I was.

Berwickshire has some of the longest and most dramatic cliffs on the British coast, which make walking this path a challenging and attractive experience which is ideal for wild camping. I’m sure I made some rookie wild camping errors, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I hope you will take a look at my trip report.