A Scottish Coast to Coast Walk (3)

22nd April 1994

Today the intention is to take it as easy as possible.

Loch Duich

Last night, after a fruitless search for treats I cooked myself some supper and then decided to walk on for another half a dozen miles or so with a view to just leaving a token walk into Kyle of Lochalsh. But I’d already done a good twenty miles already, and it was a really stupid move. Eventually I bivvied just off the side of the road, with the weather closing in rapidly. Clouds were rolling down the mountainsides and coming up the loch. By the time I was in my sleeping bag all hell broke loose. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything like it. The wind howled and shrieked and at times it screamed. And the rain that accompanied it absolutely hammered down. It seemed to go on for most of the night and I lay there unable to sleep for the noise.

Castle Eilean Donnan

But by six the rain had stopped and the wind dropped, although it was still having a good old blow. I got up, packed up, then walked a mile or so back up the road to get a photo of Castle Eilean Donnan which I’d passed in semi-darkness the previous evening.

Through the rest of the morning I walked along the side of the loch through alternate rain and sun and constant gusting winds. Or perhaps ‘limped’ would be a better description, since I was now extremely footsore, and perhaps that contributed to a slight sense of let down when I got to Kyle. Still, that was my target and I’ve achieved it in around three and a half days. I will have covered around eighty to eighty five miles and since a lot of it was over steep hills and bog, I’m quite pleased with that.

Looking down Loch Aish towards the Isle of Skye

I think it’s important to state here that even if I still enjoyed the same levels of fitness and stamina I enjoyed almost thirty years ago, and was able to repeat this walk, I would not do it this way.

I’ve no wish to set records and, really, I did not wish to do so then, but there is a sort of perverse pride that says ‘Look, I can walk thirty miles a day’, although that is not the only reason I covered so much ground each day. It was the middle of summer in Scotland, with very long daylight hours. The temptation to use them to do ‘just another couple of miles’ was too much at times.

Skye from Kyle of Lochalsh

And now I’m in a cheap guest house and about to have a shower and go out to find a café. Or maybe even a pub.

I suspect I’ll sleep well tonight.

14 thoughts on “A Scottish Coast to Coast Walk (3)

  1. I know some people who’ve done through-hikes — the entire Appalachian trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and so on, and it’s interesting to hear their reflections on the experience. Some talked only of their records, and how they were able to keep adding tenths of a mile to their daily average. Others, no longer able to make such a trek, clearly regret not taking time to truly enjoy the experience.

    You’ve brought to mind these wonderful words from Eliot’s “East Coker”:

    “And what there is to conquer
    By strength and submission, has already been discovered
    Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
    To emulate—but there is no competition—
    There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
    And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
    That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
    For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I quite agree. There is too much emphasis in the world on being ‘the best’, whatever that may mean, as though it mattered whether or not we were ‘the best’ at anything, or merely the second, third, or one thousandth best. I’ve written a few times on here about a favourite long distance walk (although not in the same league as the Appalachian Trail or others), which we’ve done several times, the South Downs Way. We take between a week and ten days to walk it, but I’ve known people who have made a point of doing it as fast as they can, in four or five days. Where’s the pleasure in that? For me it’s all about being in the moment.

      And you can always quote Eliot at me. Wonderful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved reading this, Mick. Although I have never trekked as far as you did here, as a seasoned hiker I know well the literal and figurative ups and downs of long hikes–thrills, accomplishments, dangers, and disappointments we encounter along the way. I’m glad you went back to get a photo of Castle Eilean Donnan. Appreciated your 30-year look back in italics, too. Now I am headed to see the first two parts of this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Jet. It felt longer because of the weather conditions, as well as the ground underfoot. If I’d been following easy paths in good weather, and maybe staying in bunk houses or guest houses along the way, it would have felt a really easy walk, even if I was still trying to walk too far each day.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. What a wonderful and exciting walk. Dramatic weather but the reward of
    seeing so much beauty and smell such fresh air must in itself be thrilling.
    Thanks for sharing this, Mick.
    I love your photos from the Lochs. They give such peace and beauty.

    Miriam

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your description of the wind howling during the night, reminded me of one trip my husband and I made to Cape Town. The wind was unbelievable and blew tiles off the roof and broke a few other items too. It was quite scary. We visited Castle Eilean Donnan and I think it’s one of the nicest we saw in Scotland. The setting is gorgeous and the history fascinating. We also visited Skye and went to Dunvegan Castle and saw the fairy flag and the gardens.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That must have been a good trip. I went across to Skye the day after I reached Kyle on this trip, but only wandered around the countryside immediately outside Kyleakin for a day. It’s somewhere I need to return to explore properly (one of a thousand places!).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a lot of variety in the English landscape, especially, Arv. Places like Dartmoor and the Lake District have a lot in common with the Scottish countryside, although other parts are very different. But Scotland has some parts much wilder and more remote than anywhere in England.

      Liked by 2 people

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