Monday, 5 April 2021

The Weekend Fix, Take Two

It looks like we might soon be allowed further afield again, and I can't wait.

In the meantime I've got news for you! The second, improved edition of my hillwalking book, The Weekend Fix, is coming out on Thursday 8 April 2021!
I'm doing a launch event on Twitter at 1pm on Thursday with the hashtag #TheWeekendFix, and you're welcome to pop along. If you can't wait till then, you can buy a copy from the following places:

* Order on Amazon
* Order on Blackwells
* Order at Portobello Bookshop (support your local independent bookstore!)
* Order on Waterstones

Perhaps I will see you on Thursday and in the meantime, take care!

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Confessions of a Tump Bagger

Lockdown has lead to some desperate measures.

A friend confessed he was bagging the Tumps of West Lothian, all the 'hills' with a 100ft all-round drop. This is a man who once did a first route in the Andes! 😂

But then it got me thinking. How many Tumps are there where I live? So here I am on Arniston Colliery bing, wondering what on earth I am doing.



This post was going to be highly derogatory about the Tumps, the hillwalking equivalent of skip-diving bottle banks for dregs off discarded alcopops.



But in fact it has led to a couple of lovely days. Skylarks and brown hares, lapwings in the Moorfoots, snowdrops in farmyards, the kind of lowland countryside I would never normally visit on a hill walk. The Tumps may be pretty obscure, but there are over 17,000 of them in Britain. No matter where you are stuck for lockdown, there are some Tumps nearby.

Still, let us up the Highlands soon please. Because after the Tumps, there's nowhere legal to go.

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Boring Hills and County Tops

This is the tree guarding the path of adventure, the path that leads at last to the wilderness of the foolish cry.



(a.k.a. Blackhope Scar, highpoint of Midlothian county, a slight rise in the middle of acres of quaking bog.)



I have maligned the Moorfoots before as the most boring hills in Scotland. But no more. The day started early morning at Gladhouse Reservoir, a mass of honking geese and a little ice on the water where the sun had not yet reached. I breathed in fresh spring air and walked up the secretive glen of the upper River South Esk, a fresh mountain burn this far upstream, full of latent promise.



What a cracking day out in sunshine and moorland. Skylarks, stonechat, grouse - I even saw a mountain hare! It was the first I knew they lived in southern Scotland.



A great daytrip despite all the bogs higher up, and as Blackhope Scar at 651m is the highest point in Midlothian, I've finally bagged the top of my local county!



Wonder how many more county tops there are to do...

Monday, 8 February 2021

Castles of Midlothian

Still stuck in our local county with lockdown...

Borthwick Castle:


It was out with the Midlothian Core Paths maps as we stayed local again yesterday. Disappointed beforehand not to be up the Highlands but had a fantastic walk, and you can see why!

Crichton Castle:


This route between Crichton and Borthwick castles was the way less travelled. No human prints in the snow, but rabbit, deer, squirrel, fox, and plenty birds...



Visiting the Highlands would be great, but the Lowlands scrub up not bad themselves, eh?

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Pentland Sunrise

Thank goodness for local hills.

Pentland sunrise:


It's tough being forced to stay local, but when you have hills like the Pentlands nearby, it could be worse.

West Kip:


I met a woman the other day who confessed she had been up the Highlands during the recent travel restrictions, and was planning to go again.

It made me think of the Sabbath on Lewis a couple of decades ago. It was socially unacceptable to do anything other than Bible study, but behind closed doors people would cook, watch TV, do housework, make babies, etc. The key was to not flaunt your Sabbath-beeaking.

Most of us publicly accept the current restrictions, but I wonder how many are privately like that woman in the Pentlands?

Sub-blushed Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin, achingly inacessible across the Lowland plain:

Monday, 30 November 2020

Scotland's Story

This blog has been quiet over the last couple of years. There's one good reason for that. This:
Let's take a closer look...

It's my history book, published this week! So new, I only have the proof copy. But you can buy your own copy here and get it delivered before Christmas.

I love Scottish history, and years ago decided to systematically discover more. I loved finding out things I never knew about, like the story of the Picts, or the Scottish origins of the American rednecks. What was even more intriguing was discovering things I thought I knew, that turned out not to quite be the case: Scottish history has so many myths and legends that there were plenty of those! What is the real origin story of the Saltire, for example?

Eventually I realised that there was a book in what I'd learned. An accessible, yet fact-checked and up-to-date history of Scotland.

'From Ice Age to Indyref',

I subtitled it. But the first draft was half a million words, and there was no way that was going to be published! The edits alone would take years.

So I split the book into three volumes:
  • Covenant covers from 1513 to 1815, and the pivotal moments of Reformation, Union, Empire and the titanic showdown with Napoleonic France.
  • Citizen covers from 1815 to 2014, and the struggle for ordinary people for dignity and representation, while others try their fortunes abroad.
  • And this first book, Foundation is the cornerstone of them all: covering all the way up to 1513 and the Battle of Flodden, it describes how several different peoples combined to form and then defend a country called Scotland.
Researching and writing this has been a real labour of love. And you can get the fruits of this labour by heading over here and buying your own copy!

Friday, 21 August 2020

The Light and the Land


A rainy day in the Black Mount.

Yet between sweeping showers, moments of beauty can be found.

Wet feet at a high lochan, tin-tacked with rain.

We take to the cloud-swallowed hills.

We get back wet and tired. This has not been a classically good day. Yet who could say we had not been priviledged?