Thursday, 26 April 2012

Canoeing: The New Doing the Munros?

I blame Hamish Brown. Years ago, when Hamish's Mountain Walk came out, Munrobaggers were a rare and ridiculed breed: bearded, bespectacled oddballs, trainspotters who got their ticks from cairns instead of railway platforms. Hamish broke that stereotype and the SMC guides, Muriel Grey, etc, rode the subsequent Munro wave. Nowadays, Munrobagging is mainstream. Normal, good looking people who deodorise bag Munros. Partly this is because of the improvement in the appearance and comfort of outdoor clothing. Largely it is because of the greater convenience and speed of modern cars and roads. But mainly it is because of the great increase in knowledge around the Munros, the landscape and process demystified, taken apart, analysed, and put back together again with an obvious path made from thousands of footfalls and magazines and popular websites (some with GPS tracks!) devoted to the subject. Munros mean £££s.

But if you want to write a book about the Munros, then I'm afraid you are too late to get in on a good thing at the ground floor. The golden age of expansion is over and only the glossiness of guidebooks remains to be improved.

So, given that the Munros are gone, what else remains? I thought that The Weekend Fix might hit a new readership gagging for fresh material about the Marilyns: but it seems that the Marilyns remain a niche interest, lacking in baggers, still awaiting their HM Brown or A Wainwright.

I fell into conversation on this subject recently with a keen hillwalker who wants to write a book about her travels by bike from Glasgow to China. Well written travelogues are always in vogue, especially if she has some interesting pictures of foreign lands. But Bill Bryson apart, I can't think of any that are big sellers.

What was needed, another man announced, was for someone to write about the new Doing the Munros. But what would that be? I predicted that, with the likes of the Caledonian Canal being promoted as a canoe route, the varied and interesting coasts, and the rise in the number of experienced hillwalkers looking for a new challenge, that it would most likely be kayaking that takes off in the next few years. He, in contrast, reckoned that wild swimming was going to be the big up and coming thing, and the first person to write a proper guidebook to wild swimming spots in the Highlands would do well. (Mountain biking is already with us of course, but unless someone escapes the confines of the laid out trails like Glentress or Seven Stanes it is going to be pretty dull to read about.) So what do you reckon is going to be the new Doing the Munros? Canoeing? Swimming? Mountain biking? Something else??

On the Caledonian Canal:

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