Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Beach and Brae

For the first time in 2021, we're allowed out our local area!

Aberlady Bay:


I've been having video catch-ups with fellow hillwalkers, and assumed my first trip would be to the Highlands. But it's hard to describe how important the seaside is to me. On Saturday morning we set off for Gullane and Aberlady in East Lothian, entranced by the clear air and sunshine, sandy beaches and rockpools, links soil and fascinating rocks. The great sweep of Aberlady Bay, looking like something out of the Med. As we approached the beach and smelled the salty air, I got a bit emotional.



I love the hills. It's where I go to escape. But the sea is where I go to come home. ❤

That did not mean the hills were going to be neglected!

On Càrn an Tuirc, Glenshee:


The next day brought a contrast weather-wise, but a return to familiar things I'd missed. The companionship of a good friend. The smell of a damp ham sandwich made the night before. The sight and feel of a lichen-covered piece of quartzite, set in a bed of heather.



There was so much wildlife! Ptarmigan, mountain hares, red grouse and the occasional field vole scurrying into a hole in the grass.

A rare moment below the cloud, looking into Coire Kander:


Sunday was a bit blowy with low cloud and sleet/snow on the tops east of Glenshee. Still, it was great to get out of Midlothian after four months!

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! ­čśé

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: