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.
AFTER the conclusion of my seven-day walking trip last April, I had blithely assumed that the next one would happen in May, or June at a push. As things turned out, they were far pushier than that. Due in part to my own commitments but mostly to difficulty in booking accommodation, I had to wait until September, by which time the glorious summer weather was pretty much over.
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…
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.
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 FOURTH walking day in 2018 began with dull grey skies and the promise of drizzle all morning. Who can resist such tempting conditions as that? Clearly not me. Noël Coward once sang that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun but he never said anything about venturing out in an antemeridian downpour. Even the maddest of dogs would refuse to countenance such nonsense and so, like the Englishman I was, I would have to do this walk alone.
THE morning of 6th May 2017 found me blinking at the sun’s harsh glare as its rays danced and sparkled across a vivid blue sea. The sky was azure, dotted here and there with fluffy clouds and palm trees stood proudly in front of the B&B in which I breakfasted. Mountains rose from the island’s interior. Had I somehow travelled to St Lucia by mistake? A glance at my breakfast plate disabused me of the notion. No, this was definitely Scotland.
MOST times, if I go walking, I do two or three days at a time. Thus, I usually know, if it’s day three, that it is the last day of the trip. Not so on my last adventure, where it was the middle day of five. It was also the longest day’s walk of the trip and, coming as it did after the fatigue of two previous days of walking (which came, in turn, after five months without walks), it threatened to be a challenge.
WAY back in the distant dawn of time, known to some as ‘last October’, I plodded step by step from Dalbeattie to Kirkcudbright, fitting in my last walk of the year before the days got too short. As it turned out, they already had, which goes some way to explain why I was up and about in Dalbeattie before it was properly light.
I AWOKE in Southerness to find blue skies and warm sunshine. It was almost as if the weather had forgotten that this was October in Scotland. Still, I was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if it was pulling the chariot of the sun.