“Walking the Southern Upland Way — and the other Scotland treks I have done — solo and reflective, I feel I have become part of a vast community of walkers, humans that have traveled on foot across the land, their feet carving paths into soil and stone, crossing the landscape. Their reasons varied, their goals were disparate, the stretch of time beyond imagining, but as the days spread out, and my own footsteps accumulate, the presence of their passing becomes almost tangible. The drovers, the pilgrims,the soldiers, the dispossessed women and men — children strapped to their backs — the wanderers and seekers. There are all those other souls that passed along these paths, covered this land, moving across it, leaving invisible marks and untold stories. My feet, now weary and sore, have pressed into the earth where all those who have gone before have set their own feet, moving into an unknown future, walking, ever walking towards some distant goal.”
Journal Entry, Southern Upland Way, Scotland, 2008
To walk in Scotland is truly to become part of a community that stretches across time and place. The land holds a network of trails used over many centuries, mixed in with new routes made for today’s intrepid hillwalkers. At times paths cross open moors with only skylark song and the cry of the curlew for company. Other trails traverse farmlands where sheep and cattle groom the pastures and the walking is easy and pastoral. There are rugged trails and rocky stretches where centuries of walkers have carved the path into the stone itself. Ruins and remnants of past people stand along the way, from Bronze Age standing stones to 19th century cottages that have not echoed with voices since the time of the Clearances.
I’ve done my share of walking in the country. It’s how I’ve become familiar with the land and its diversity of flora and wildlife. Walking has also connected me with the local people, who share their homes in the many rural B&Bs found throughout the UK. The number of day hikes are too numerous to detail, but a few of the long distance walks I’ve completed include:
to be continued.