Home to Cape Wrath Volume II

After reaching Edinburgh in May 2009, I wrote in my Preface & Disclaimer, “I still have hundreds of miles ahead of me. Goodness knows if I’ll ever finish what began as a daydream, let alone write it up. Maybe what matters most is not so much the finishing, rather the taking part.”

I’ve come to believe that last sentence. Those responsible for Edinburgh’s tram project probably feel the same: the streets were extensively dug up in 2009, but the disruption seemed even more wretched in May 2012.

Princes Street, Edinburgh’s iconic thoroughfare

When I started out in 2009 I intended to avoid rushing and to engage with the landscape. Despite myself, at times I raced along when I should have paused, stared, rested or declared an early finish to the day. Old habits die hard.

I’m pleased to say that in May 2012 between Edinburgh and Cape Wrath I exercised more self-control. I couldn’t have hurried if I’d wanted to, because I carried camping gear. That extra load reduced my average walking speed by 25%. It forced me to make frequent stops, during which I was rewarded with leisurely views of the scenery and an opportunity to take stock of my position and condition. Solo camping gave me total flexibility: some days I started walking at 4am, finished by midday, pitched my tent and lazed away the hot and sunny (yes, really!) afternoon.

The weather was, as ever, a hugely significant factor. In the topsy-turvy first half of 2012, I wore shorts and tee shirt in March, whilst in April and the first half of May I found myself fighting gales, rain and cold. As I walked through wet and windy days on the Fife Coastal Path, fresh snow was falling on the Cairngorms, and that produced conditions too severe for me. As a consequence I missed out some of my route, but what the heck: from 19th May I was blessed with superb weather as I made my journey from Inverness to Cape Wrath.
So I didn’t walk all the way, but even if I never walk across the Cairngorms I won’t feel disappointed. I learned how to enjoy my journey. I cut out some of the road walking. It hadn’t looked too bad when I sat at home with the map, but when push came to shove I rebelled, resentful of expending energy in plodding to the best areas, rather than spending time in those places. I had a great walk, and I know how I’ll organise my future sorties to the incomparable wild places of Scotland.

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