I always wanted to be a rambler. I mean a real rambler – not just someone who takes the odd stroll, but a person who goes for really long walks for days, alone, in nature. To fulfil my obsession I chose Scotland. As summed up in The Great Glen Way Rucksack Readers guidebook: ‘Long distance walks run like threads through Scotland’s history. Walk one and you’re walking in the footsteps of drovers, pilgrims, soldiers, clansmen and cattle-rustlers.’
Scotland is ideal for rambling. It has a vast network of well-maintained walks and accommodation options that range from cheap youth hostels, friendly and functional B&Bs to delightful hotels. It’s just a matter of choosing which one of the multitude of walks suits you. You can ramble through the Highlands, along the beaches of the Fife Coastal Path, amble from whisky distillery to distillery, or walk the remote trail on the Isle of Skye. There’s even a four-day Abbeys walk that takes in a different monastic ruin each day.
I chose the Great Glen Way, affectionately known as the GGW. At 117km, spread over five or six days (depending on your fitness level) it’s not too demanding for a first-time ramble and yet with stretches of up to 29km, it’s not a dawdle. Running between Fort William and Inverness along a combination of canal paths, forest tracks and a few hill climbs, it takes in some of most spectacular scenery in the Highlands. I also felt comfortable tackling it alone without fearing for my safety or battling with a compass only to find myself lost!
As the train rumbles on from Edinburgh towards Fort William my anticipation mounts. There is snow on the hills and we pass desolate, spooky landscapes – brown and straw-coloured hillocks with large rocky outcrops. Three women board with mighty bikes and serious outdoor gear, as many of these walks are also popular with cyclists. We pass lochs fringed with birch trees. When the carriage door opens there’s a whiff akin to coconut from the gorse, its bright yellow flowers in bloom.
I disembark at Fort William, drop my suitcase at the appointed pick-up point, don my wet-weather gear and day pack and head off into the mist.
*The Oxford English Dictionary
Text and Photographs Naomi Larkin
To view the full original article, turn to page 166 of the October 2014 issue of House and Leisure magazine