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.
Having created a long distance route from a map for a challenge event, I was reminded that following pre-existing routes with signs, guides, waymarks, apps and other hikers for company is reassuring and even soporific at times. However as you may know, once you can absorb the information contained in a map, it becomes easier to create a route of your own. If you have ever looked at Foul Weather Alternatives or taken a short cut, then you have created your own walk.
My background has involved following a lot of other people’s routes, and a helpful spell of route checking for the Ramblers. Their training covered areas such as safety, legality, accessibility, topography, themes and focal points on routes. There are then two stages involved in the process of creating a route. One involves looking at the route on your map and in satellite view (which can reveal inaccuracies in the map), and the other is to reccy the route on foot with all these issues in mind.
What should a good route involve?
The legality of a route is essential if you are offering it for other people to follow. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the symbols which denote what type of track it is; right of way, bridle way etc and any rules and exemptions which apply.
Safety is a crucial issue so it is important to be aware of any potential hazards such as river’s in spate, slippery rocks, eroded tracks or obstructions such as fallen trees. You should then try to incorporate these into your route data.
In case of access issues and the use of wheeled vehicles, it is helpful to mention any steps or stiles on the route and a note on the condition of the tracks i.e whether they are full of potholes or overgrown.
The received wisdom when I trained was that a good walk should involve a focal point/s. This could be a view, or historic, natural, sacred, architectural or topographic features in the case of a day hike. In the case of a distance hike there is the opportunity to introduce a theme or feature such as the Pennines (Pennine Way), historic landmarks (Hadrian’s Wall), Abbeys (Borders Abbeys Way) or geographical features such as a river (Speyside Way). A walk could also follow a person’s life (John Muir Trail) or encompass a pilgrimage route (Camino di Santiago).
When working from the map, the following questions could be considered when creating a day hike:
Are the start and finish accessible?
Is the walk is do-able?
What are the gradients like?
Has it got a gradual start?
Does it have variety?
Does it include suitable rest places and shelter?
Are there any avoidable eyesores?
For a distance hike you could add these questions to your list:
How far apart are the resupply points?
Where are the water supplies?
Is there a variety of accommodation?
Is it possible to backpack the route?
Are refreshments available?
This is just a sketch of some of the issues and questions to bear in mind when walking somebody else’s route or creating your own. It can be interesting to evaluate the decisions which have been made for you on pre-existing routes, and to try and improve on them on your own walk. This can become the first step towards creating your own.
With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.
I have been digging my old trumpet out from the top of the cupboard and dusting it off to receive this very exciting ViewRanger award, alongside 9 other distinguished recipients.
Craig Wareham, Co-Founder and CEO at ViewRanger, describes the annual award as follows:
‘The Top Publisher Award recognises people, organizations and publishers creating interesting, engaging, and high quality trail guide content. Each year, just ten outdoor organizations and authors receive our top award for contributing outstanding digital content, including route descriptions, turn-by-turn directions and photos to share with the growing ViewRanger outdoor community’
By way of acknowledgement, ViewRanger has dragged my blog out of the dusty filing cabinets and card indexes where it was created, and into the digital present. The ViewRanger App provided me with exactly the tools I needed to make my routes accessible to a wider audience and to communicate directly with users.
Thanks to my followers and all at ViewRanger for making it happen for all my Rucksack Rose sites.
As National No Smoking Day is coming up on 14th March, I thought I would include a post about giving up. On or about this time of year a few years ago, I finally gave up smoking using nicotine patches and healthy nibbles, after a couple of failed attempts. I am not trying to preach about the dangers of smoking, because any smoker would be hard pressed to ignore the warnings emblazoned on cigarette boxes.
If you decide to give up, focussing on a physical activity you enjoy helps to remind you how much better you feel by not smoking. I started with easy walks and built up over the course of a year or so to more challenging routes. Getting fit again was not an overnight achievement and I had to work at it gradually.
If friends find it hard to accept your decision to stop, maybe it’s best to broaden your circle to include more non smokers. Since I gave up smoking I have met new friends through my hiking who have made me feel like a reasonably normal person without a cigarette in my hand. I may not be an elite athlete, but this doesn’t matter as much to me as having improved my health.
I am happy to support anyone who tries to give up, having seen the damage it can do to a member of my family. Statistically many of us are likely to have friends or family affected by lung disease, so please donate to the British Lung Foundation if you have a few pounds to spare.