THE second day of my September 2019 trip continued two themes of the previous one. The first of those was distance, in that I’d have done another 26 miles by the end of it. The second was going by road instead of footpath, though I had no idea, when I set off, that that’s what I’d be doing.
KNOWING that I would push myself with respect to terrain and distance in the first half of my April 2019 trip, I had anticipated that I would feel somewhat tired towards the end of it. Accordingly, the last three days were all much shorter walks, coming in at just under fifteen miles each. This meant that I had no issues about trying to cram x miles into only y hours and so could afford to have a lie-in and catch up on some Zzz.
THE third day of my April 2019 trip promised to be a long one. This was entirely of my own choosing because, when I’d looked at the map, something had leapt right out at me —two places called Shieldaig! This isn’t that amazing in itself; Gaelic toponyms are often repeated as they’re mostly descriptive in nature. ‘Shieldaig’, for instance, is the Anglicised spelling of a Gaelicised version of Old Norse síld-vík, meaning ‘herring bay’ and more than one bay in Scotland would have had herring in it. So, why my excitement about spotting two Shieldaigs?
THE previous day’s walk may have ended ended in grey raininess but the third day of September 2018 began with mostly bluish skies and sunshine, though a crisp bite to the air had developed. As I stepped from my hotel, I was confronted with the sight of the Cuillin veiled lightly in thin, misty haze.
THE first day of September 2018 saw me back in Portree, wondering what had happened to the blazing sunshine in which I’d travelled the day before. A band of low cloud had swept in overnight and was filling the air with the sort of misty drizzle that isn’t so much rain as floaty dampness.
BREAKFAST in my Dunvegan B&B was a communal affair that could have easily been an awkward occasion as the mostly English guests avoided talking to each other. We were saved from silent discomfort by two things — firstly the rampant idiosyncrasy of our landlady, which prompted remark (from me at least as she decided I was sat in the wrong seat and made me move) and secondly that amongst our number were a couple from New York, for whom embarrassed reticence was quite literally something that only happened to other people. Panicked by their attempts to chat with total strangers, we took refuge in non-committal answers and trying to hide behind the marmalade…
TWO days into July 2018 and three days into a walking trip, I arose bright and early to find that outside it was brighter (though no earlier) than I was. The grey skies and rain of the previous evening — which had added a level of meteorological mockery after searing heat had prompted route revisions — had dissipated overnight and the air temperature was back to feeling like the inside of an oven. This was brought home to me as I stood on the shoreline, looking across to the harbour pier where I’d stood in the rain twelve hours earlier.
I AWOKE on the first of July with some alarm and trepidation. Not just because it heralded the second half of 2018, meaning six months had passed and I’d so far achieved almost none of the goals I’d set myself for the year but also because it was once again oppressively hot and my plan for that day would have been doubtful whatever the weather. There was a very real chance that I’d fail to achieve my goals for that day alone and it was more tempting than it should have been to sit in the shade all morning and relax and enjoy the view.
IT’S been a month since my last walking trip, which occurred at the end of June 2018 but which I hadn’t gotten around to writing up until now. I had more success in returning to Scotland than I’d enjoyed on the previous trip, though a bus terminating unexpectedly at London Bridge due to roadworks did have me jogging across central London in the small hours of the morning in order to catch the first train out. I travelled up to Mallaig and stayed the night there, ready to take the ferry back to Armadale in the morning. Which I did.
MY PLAN for day two of my May ’18 walking trip involved placing one foot in front of the other a lot until I got somewhere else. Well, nothing unusual there. Except this time, I planned to do that in the Knoydart Peninsula, a rather remote sticky-out bit of Great Britain. So much so that, while I can’t say that it doesn’t have roads, I can say that they’re not connected to the rest of the roads on GB. So, if you want to visit the village of Inverie, for instance, you need to do so on foot or by boat.