It was nice to be home. The garden had grown a bit! I enjoyed a few days doing very little except washing and mending my kit. Everything (including me) was getting a bit tired. For example: the rubber was wearing off my walking poles, my t-shirt had developed an irreparable hole and I had to order a new one, my shorts needed sewing up yet again, and my sandals had to be washed and soaked 3 times to rid them of their foul smell.
I also took the opportunity to visit my mum as I hadn’t seen her for over 6 months and I don’t want to be written out of her will. Plus, she’s good at sewing. Love you mum.
I’m not sure how I was persuaded to spent a week camping in Cornwall, but I was. I admit I wasn’t thrilled at the thought of camping, but Cornwall had gotten under my skin and I was struggling to tear myself away. Anyway, I’m now the expert on choosing where to visit.
It was nice to have a week off walking, and blog writing (no wifi and little phone reception were the cause). I was also secretly pleased that I seemed to have taken the rainy week as a holiday – the only time I’ll be pleased about that.
I caught up on sleep, swam in the sea, visited friends, ate BBQs and relaxed. Bliss.
I watched the media reports from the comfort of home as storms Abigail and Barney touched the Welsh coast. I don’t think it was as bad as predicted but photos of waves crashing over the front at Aberystwyth, reports that Aberdaron suffered 85mph winds and the suspension of the coastal rail service from Machynlleth for a couple of days due to the sea battering the trains did make me feel happy with my decision to take a break.
I did nothing (except get a haircut). Lots of sleep, I watched some films and rested my feet. After a week not only did I have a serious craving for exercise, but I felt ready to get a job and start working. I need to remember that feeling when I finish this walk!
A lovely week off with my family, celebrating mum’s 70th birthday. I still did a fair bit of walking, although thankfully small children limited the mileage. I did manage an ascent of Snowdon (on a very windy and low visibility day) and a swim in the sea at Criccieth.
Firstly, a huge thank you to Diane, Colin and their children for inviting me into their home and making me so welcome. Colin did a great job of guiding me around the Isle of Man and I had a fantastic 4 days of sightseeing, made even better by unexpected sunny weather most of the time.
I visited the towns of Douglas, Castletown, Port Erin and St John’s, and the City of Peel.
I saw Tynwald Hill at St John’s, where the oldest continuous parliament in the world annually announces its laws to the people.
I caught the train to Laxey (saw the huge waterwheel named Isabella) and then up Mann’s mountain railway to the top of Snaefell.
I walked bits of the coast, particularly out to Langness Point and to the Chasms (huge splits in the rock at the South of the island).
I visited Cregneash Village (a crofting community maintained as it would have been in the 19th Century), Rushen Castle (one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe) and Mull Hill Neolithic burial site.
I visited the Manannan and Manx museums to learn about the history of Mann.
I sat in the cafe at Calf Sound and stared at the Calf of Man.
I ate Manx kippers, Manx cheese, Manx honey, Manx Queenies and drank the local Okells beer.
Amazingly, amongst all of that activity I managed to chill out a bit, enjoy the company of my hosts and deliver a hockey training session to the Buchan School under 12 girls.
The Isle of Man is a fantastic place; a small island with a big mentality (a bit like the UK then!). It seems to me that it is most influenced by its Viking history, when it was at the centre of the Viking world. In the 11-13th Century the King of Mann and the Isles (most of the Western Isles if Scotland) was a very influential ruler. Modern Mann seems quite wealthy – more big houses and SUVs than I’ve seen anywhere else – but then it does have a very low tax rate.
The main thing is, when Diane drove me to the ferry on Friday morning, I remembered to say goodbye to the fairies as we drove over the fairy bridge. Hopefully this means I’ll stay safe and be allowed back again!
I had always planned to visit Skye rather than walk around it and this had to be planned in advance, without knowing where I’d be at this point. It all turned out rather well as it happened and I really enjoyed my trip back up North, via Glasgow, Knoydart and Inverness, to get to Skye. My Skye road trip became my farewell to the Highlands, a place I’ve loved (despite the bad weather).
This was a gastronomic and wild swim tour of Skye and I loved it. Having a campervan was great and there was an even mix of wild camping and campsites. I think we actually had a whole week without rain…unheard of in Scotland for me this summer.
I think we travelled to every corner of Skye, crisscrossing from Waternish to Trotternish to Strathaird to Sleat to Duirnish to Minginnish. Highlights as follows:
1. All the wild swimming. I made it into the Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle (in spite of the worst midges I’ve experienced), dipped in various pools carved into rocks by the burns and went in the sea at Point of Sleat and Talisker Bay.
2. The Cuillins. What magnificent mountains. Although I didn’t walk up them I did get a boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and walked up Sgurr na Stri, the 495m high hill that faces the Cuillins.
3. Great food. I was lucky enough to sample 2 great restaurants: Loch Bay in Stein (sea food only) and The Three Chimneys at Carbost. Thank goodness for wild camping so no need to drive anywhere! The. There was The Oyster Shed in Carbost and a lovely cafe in one of the houses I have previously admired on Grand Designs.
4. Wonderful views. Sunny days make for great views. It was also nice to stand at the Point of Sleat and look across at Knoydart, Mallaig and Eigg.
5. The wildlife. There was always something to see. I didn’t manage to see an otter but I might have seen a pair of Eagles soaring above Glen Brittle. They were certainly enormous but too far away to identify. I saw a buzzard immediately after that was much closer and yet smaller.
Such a great holiday. Hopefully I’ll be back soon.
Having driven home in a hire car and had a couple of weeks off I needed a new plan. As I was already booked to go to Skye for a holiday in a campervan in September I developed a plan around that.
The thing about driving was that I missed out Knoydart as the only road from Kyle of Lochalsh heads inland to Fort William and back out to the coast at Mallaig. I figured I could walk this remote section as part of my trip back to Skye. Then after a holiday on Skye I would return to my finish point in Dumfries and Galloway, somewhere around Wigtown.
The plan was formed, all I needed to do know was to read Ring Of Brightwater by Gavin Maxwell and my preparation would be complete!
Needing to relinquish the hire car, getting close to leaving Scotland and just wanting to go home all combined into a plan to drive back down South, drop the car at Heathrow Airport and have some time at home.
I had a lovely couple of weeks off from my trip, didn’t give it any real thought and lapsed on my blog. I did however manage to do the following: see my mum, do the gardening, visit friends and family, go to my local pub, see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet (thanks Donna), take a guided tour around Westminster Palace (highly recommended), visit Birmingham library (also recommended), watch 2 Eurohockey matches and go to a wedding. I also ate and drank too much. I need to get walking again!
To aid my walking I managed to exchange my boots for a new pair, thanks to Cotswold Outdoors for that. The pair of Salomons I bought in Norwich had developed a split near the little toe (down to over use!) and because I’d only had them just over 3 months I was able to exchange them for free. Fortunately the shop assistant didn’t ask how much they’d been used as I’ve walked over 800 miles in them and worn them every day through sand, salt water and bogs. Bonus.
Week off in Shetland
South Voxter Lodges, Mainland
What a wonderful week in Shetland. It began with the overnight ferry from Aberdeen and I lay down with my eyes closed for 14 hours as the weather was bad and the sea rough. The tactic worked as I did get some sleep and I wasn’t sick. Glad to arrive.
If you include all the tiny islands with no inhabitants, there are over 100 Shetland Islands (enough reason not to walk around Shetland!). I visited 6 on my trip: Mainland, Yell, Unst, Bressler, Noss and Mousa.
Shetland reminded me of the Falklands a bit; barren and treeless moorland, small communities, hilly, water everywhere and fantastic views. I didn’t have the best summer weather (I wore all of my clothes all week) but it didn’t matter. Although it was occasionally annoying to hear on the radio that the rest of Britain seemed to be in the grip of a heatwave. Oh well, they didn’t have sea otters!
There were many highlights of the week and these are a few:
1. Visiting the most Northerly point of the the British Isles, Muckle Flugga and Out Stack. I made to the far North of Britain, awesome!
2. Sea kayaking down the Mainland coast on the only sunny day. The sea is so clear and the wildlife abundant. We saw 3 otters and plenty of seals were in attendance.
3. So much wildlife to see, including: seals, otters, gannets, bonxies (great skuas), arctic skuas, black-backed gulls, herring gulls, arctic terns, curlews, shags, cormorants, fulmars, kittiwakes, rock pipits, ringed plovers, sandpipers, storm petrels and, of course, puffins and oyster catchers.
4. St Ninian’s tombolo beach is possibly the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. Just fantastic. I went for a swim here in the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean.
5. Taking a late night boat across to the small island of Mousa to visit the best preserved Broch on Shetland (an ancient building probably built by Vikings but no-one knows what it was used for) to watch the storm petrels returning from feeding at sea. This is a nightly occurrence at dusk (about midnight in June). They nest in the cracks between the Broch’s stones and they swoop all around as you stand there; pretty amazing to watch and hear.
6. The views. Everywhere there were views of the sea and dramatic coastline.
By the end of the week I felt like I’d seen quite a bit of Shetland and it is a wonderful place. The people are really friendly too and I even went to a Sunday afternoon tea in Cunningsburgh Village Hall. I think the village hall must be the heart of the community because there weren’t really any pubs, nor were there many cafes (and those there were weren’t always very good, like the one that consisted of a microwave and instant coffee in the entrance to the community shop). At times it felt like the tourist trade was 20 years behind the rest of Britain as places were highlighted in brochures but then were difficult to find and nothing made of them. A quirky place.