FOLLOWING my thirty-miler from Durness to Tongue, I slept the sleep of the absolutely steam-rollered. Come the next morning, my body was not at all keen to stop sleeping and carry on with the walking part of my walking trip.
FOLLOWING a day spent idling lazily in Durness (thanks to my plans reCape Wrath coming to naught), the first Sunday of October 2019 saw me up and about bright and early. Well, early, at least. It wasn’t actually all that bright, being grey and overcast. But while brightness was elusive, earliness was unavoidable; I had a long day of walking ahead of me…
I MUST have been tired after three days of hiking because, on the fourth morning of my September 2019 trip, I first slept through my alarm and then slept right through breakfast. This was highly appropriate, though, as it was nine years since I set off on my first walk from Gravesend and I set off late then too.
AROUND the middle of April 2019, I found myself back in Wester Ross, ready to embark upon a seven-day trek from Strathcarron to Ullapool. This naturally required that I start in Strathcarron, which would have been easier had the Strathcarron Hotel had a vacancy. Alas, it did not. Plan B was to stay in Kyle of Lochalsh, knowing that I could catch the early morning train (on which I’d left the area at the end of my last trip) to whisk myself there at some awful, ungodly pre-breakfast hour. So that’s what I did.
FOR reasons I’ll dub ‘theThree Ws’ — work, weather and walking-related injury — a six-month gap interceded between my last trip and this one. But March 2019 presented me with a window of opportunity. It was a narrow window and made no efficient or economic sense but that hardly mattered. I thus spent two days almost entirely on trains (i.e. there and back) for one single day of walking. I was, you might say, getting back on track…
DAY four of my May ’18 trip began with a surprising absence of shuffling discomfort. My legs, feet and dodgy knee all appeared to have forgiven me for the 28-miler I’d inflicted on them the day before. Hurrying, lest they change their tune, I fuelled myself up with a hearty breakfast in advance of this day’s efforts. Fully fed, I then took stock of the weather conditions.
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.
AS THE winter nights shortened and the calendar crept towards the spring of 2018, I looked forward to resuming my perambulatory pastime. The warmer weather would also be more welcome except that it never arrived. Instead, a cold front — nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ — swept across Britain, burying rural areas under drifts of snow and even dusting London with the stuff.
ON THE fifth and final day of my August 2017 trip I walked from South Ballachulish to Fort William, which lay about 15 miles up what was once a drove road along the shores of Loch Linnhe but is now the A82. With this in mind, I emerged from the Ballachulish Hotel to face the narrows at the mouth of Loch Leven, which stood between me and that road. If I wanted to walk it, I would first need to cross them.
IT HAD been raining when I reached Oban and it rained through the night with thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure. I knew then, when I woke bleary-eyed in the morning, what the cold, grey light seeping through the curtains must mean. The only real question was how bad would it be? I hesitated, my hand halfway to the window, not at all sure that I was keen to find out…