Trails and trials of the writer who walks
Today I set out ‘off-piste’, on a northwards compass bearing to traverse the inland hills of the Sleat peninsula. Apologies to all you hardened back-packing bongos, but this is my very first (intentional) pathless trek into the unknown – and it’s such slow going! Up and down hill, hopping over squelchy bits, tripping over heather roots. I think I’m making about one mile an hour, not necessarily all in the right direction. Thank goodness I’ve got a clear sunny day which rewards me on all sides by views of cerulean waters, snow-capped mountains, and romantic islands. The sea horizon behind me is dominated by the shape of Rum: high and steep on one side like a giant boat forging through the waves.
It takes me almost all day to cover about five miles, most of which I spend head down, trying to avoid the next bog, but when I pause to look up, a large animal is on the ridge staring down at me. The monarch of the glen! It is indeed a fully antlered stag. Later I spot his harem as well, and then find their droppings on the crest of a hill. I also get excited about the droppings I find on the pavements of my home village, but it’s a different kind of excitement.
Carried along by the inspiration of the seal and the stag, I convince myself next that it’s an eagle I can see circling above the highest outcrop. The first wing feather is long and slightly curled. Buzzards have a more rounded shape at the end of their wings. Well, let’s just agree it’s an eagle and complete the hat-trick of wild-life spotting.
After my wilderness route, which was 70% planned and 30% chance, I finally arrive at Armadale’s one hotel and realise how truly tired my legs are. In Scotland’s remote areas you will be lucky to find a pub, but the hotels always have a public bar (often closed during the afternoon though!).
Armadale’s two shops both have half-day closing on Saturdays, so no chance to re-stock until Monday. There are no other shops on the whole of the Sleat Peninsula until you get to Broadford which is 11 miles away by main road with no footpath alternative. I haven’t got the energy to do that sort of distance off-piste again! To take care of Sunday, I work out a circular route following a minor road to the west of the peninsula, northwards and then back east to join up with the main road to Broadford. on Monday when there will surely be buses …. won’t there?