Since moving to Scotland 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.
I am pleased to confirm that I have now moved north of the border to Scotland. I am hoping that this will inspire some good walking and trips to explore new areas.
“Edie” directed by Simon Hunter. (2018).
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.
I have just completed my first working holiday as a 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.
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.
The Thistle Camps website states that no prior experience is required for most of their camps as work is explained and techniques are demonstrated. Camps are graded according to their remoteness and the level of fitness required to do the work. Each camp is made up of eight to twelve volunteers of various ages and backgrounds, who contribute half the cost of the transport, food and accommodation for the trip. Volunteers share accommodation, as well as the communal tasks of cooking and cleaning, with the rest of the group.
My work in the North Perthshire woodlands was divided between The Hermitage at Dunkeld, Pass of Killiecrankie and the adjacent Linn of Tummel site, just as the leaves were turning in the second half of October. Supervised by the NTS Rangers, the work included clearing leaves from the paths and public areas, path edging, fencing, removing non native species, chopping non native wood for the charcoal kiln, helping to prepare Ossian Hall for a wedding, and burning brash from storm damaged areas. Some of the many bonuses include gaining a more intimate knowledge of the sites, and having the opportunity to ask the Rangers questions about their history and stewardship.
These are some pictures of the historic and beautiful locations in which I worked, in one of my favourite parts of mainland Scotland.
Killiecrankie – (Site of the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27th July 1689).
Linn of Tummel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have just returned from the 65 mile Speyside Way walk from Aviemore in the Scottish Cairngorms to Buckie on the Moray coast, accompanied by my new tent. My write up can be found in the trails section.
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.
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.
Sometimes in life we have to make the most of where we are, and the time and the resources available to us, and these dictate our adventures more than our daydreams and long term plans. So a couple of days in Edinburgh is to me the equivalent of an expedition to the Matterhorn in terms of the escapism it affords at the moment. As I spent a good while living in London, I have learned to appreciate urban walking and green spaces, and how much they can add to the quality of life in a large city.
A recent trip to Edinburgh became a microadventure as I decided on the train to finally climb up the crags to Arthur’s Seat, and experience this familiar city from a new angle.
The views across Edinburgh and out onto the Firth of Forth just get better and better as you go, so don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.