The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Summer Walkers

Besides this being the name of one of my favorite traditional songs, it also describes my latest adventure in this beautiful country. Nikki, Shauna, Amy and I just completed one of Scotland's amazing long distance walks called the West Highland Way. To an American the word 'walk' implies a leisurely stroll. Hiking is not a term that is used over here but that certainly is what this was. The 95 mile trail took us from just outside of Glasgow, north to the town of Fort William, through glens (valleys) and forests, alongside beautiful Loch Lomond, up and over small mountains, and through the incredibly stunning and desolate Rannoch Moor. We took 8 days to do it, averaging 12-14 miles a day. And, NO, we didn't camp! I think the hike itself is enough of an accomplishment without carrying everything on my back and sleeping on the hard ground. We ended each day in whatever small town was nearby and slept in a B&B each night. On a couple of occasions there was no town, just an inn that catered to walkers...walkers from all over the world. We met people along the Way from Germany, England, the Czech Republic, Australia, America, India, and of course, Scotland, to name a few. Some people camped. Some stayed in hostels and some, like us, used B%Bs. I was definitely grateful for a hot shower and a comfy bed at the end of each day!

I'm still amazed at how lucky we were with the weather. We carried jackets and rain gear every day but never needed them. Not a drop of rain in 8 days! (Scotland?) Perfect hiking temps. Maybe mid 50s in the morning and rarely getting above 70 in the afternoon. We couldn't have chosen a better week if we'd used a soothsayer!

The scenery was incredible. A couple of times we were sure we had made it to Mordor(!) and, more than once, we felt as if we were walking through a fairy forest. We stopped to eat our packed dinner one evening on a peaceful beach alongside Loch Lomond. On another day lunch was eaten atop a mountain with wide open views that boggled the mind and still another lunch break found us sitting peacefully next to a small stone bridge that crossed one of the innumerable little streams along the way. Every day offered new bounties for our visual feast and reminded me how incredibly lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country.

To spend so much simple and uninterrupted time with my girls and share this experience with them was a gift beyond measure. We are already talking about doing another hike next Spring called the Great Glen Way. It's 75 miles starting where we left off in Fort William and ending practically at my doorstep in Inverness. I hiked about a quarter of it with my friend Marie earlier this summer.

When the girls and I returned to Inverness from Fort William, the day after we finished, we went to the Gellions for what we dubbed our 'victory celebration'. It was a Sunday afternoon and of course Schiehallion was gearing up to play and a bunch of my friends were there (it's our normal practice on a Sunday). As we walked in, the pub erupted in a round of applause for us. What a very sweet and unexpected surprise that was! Everyone was very congratulatory and the drinks started flowing! Kenny lived up to his promise and sang Summer Walkers for me. It's one that he rarely sings live (not really a 'pub song') but my favorite of everything I've ever heard him sing. He sang it for me last year on my birthday and promised to sing it again this year but he was out of town that night. The title was especially appropriate upon our return from the West Highland Way. It's a beautiful song about treasuring the history and geography of northern Scotland. Kenny sings it acappella with just the beat of his hand on his acoustic guitar during the chorus. It is such a special treat for me to hear him sing that song. I'm pretty sure he knows by now that I will ask for it every year on my birthday!

My precious girls left Inverness yesterday morning and I started my second year of classes in the afternoon. So summer is officially over and I shall, once again, have my nose buried in the books for the next several months, soaking up all I can about my favorite subject... Scottish History! I love my life!

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