Lured by the view that (probably didn’t) inspire Tolkein: Walking Heads blogger Fay Young takes the Great British Walking Challenge to the Inner Hebrides.
Week 2 Better come clean. I covered many miles last week but spent most of them sitting on trains and boats. Not just any old trains. The West Highland Line from Glasgow to Mallaig is one of the world’s best rail journeys and Kyle to Inverness via Plockton is not at all bad either.
Between stops there was time to explore mountain tracks and woodland paths. Wbile GB Walkers were pounding city streets (Tesco Bank Glasgow still top workplace at 132 miles) we clocked up a modest 30 (ish) miles over four days, walking with corncrakes and cuckoos, sniffing wild garlic and bluebells, working off the Great British Breakfast.
My feet felt the miles (maybe I should have bought the boots earlier) but on the spectacular 400-mile round trip – from Glasgow to Edinburgh via Arisaig, Eigg, Mallaig, Knoydart, Kyle, Plockton and Inverness – it was my eyes that really covered the ground.
So much long distance looking! Released from the flat screen, my eyes were set free to wander far and wide. A whole new 3D world of mountains and lochs, rolling seas and far horizons with sunsets to make you weep.
We got a little lost on our day trip to Eigg and I blame the views. Rum lured us off course (I don’t think anyone on Eigg believes the legend that Tolkien was inspired to create Mordor by that same view from his cottage at the end of the island but you can see why he might have been). A short cut turned into a long climb under suddenly blazing sun.
Luckily a friendly wayside tearoom selling home-made Italian ice-cream appeared out of nowhere. Eigg is full of surprises. And enterprising people. (Check Eigg Yurts).
And then there was food. We could have had hand-dived scallops for breakfast, dinner and tea (some of us did). It was obviously going to take more than 30 miles to burn up what we ate.
To be honest, walking was not the main aim of the trip planned long before I signed up for the Great British Walking Challenge. Our big idea was to travel only by public transport: to Arisaig, Eigg, Knoydart, Plockton and home by train, ferry and bus.
But walking added extra sense of purpose and every evening I unclipped my pedometer to share the grand total with my friends. Thanks to that view of Rum – and a longish walk to Cnoc na Faire restaurant near Arisaig that night – we managed almost 10 miles (each!) on our first day. Our reward? Tasty fish pie and a sunset feast for the eyes.
Places to stay: Nightingale House, Arisaig; Knoydart Lodge.