After a two day journey of ferries and driving I am finally home. Islay and Jura were simply stunning, although I was treated pretty badly by the weather gods. I suffered an endless series of severe gales and heavy rain which hampered my plans a little bit (to the extent that I had to turn back on a 380 metre hill!). Thankfully in between all that wind and rain I did have two bright days that were so warm I was in a t-shirt whilst backpacking. There was a lot of sitting in the campervan reading but I did manage to get out for a two day backpack on Islay and another two day one on Jura. I will do a couple of posts in the coming week.
Whilst out I attempted to a bit of live blogging (due to spending a lot of time waiting for the rain to stop!). However I failed miserably as I probably need to download an app for my iPhone. So here is a retrospective live blog with the photo that I tried to upload from my phone whilst away! (hence the poor quality).
I think that I am all packed, just need to do a final idiot check. Tomorrow to get through at work and then I will start the long drive north. Excited and nervous at the same time because I will be doing my most remote backpack ever whilst on Jura. As a walking destination there is really not that much written about the place, even on the internet. A bit of searching and I did manage to unearth a booklet written by a local guy, ordered it from Amazon where the postage was the same as the booklet! I wanted to see what he had to say about the area I am heading to, the uninhabited west coast. All he says is:
“This is a wild and interesting area but very inaccessible except to the most hardy. It is dotted with wide sandy bays, small sandy coves, high cliffs, many caves, arches, stacks, miles of raised beaches and spectacular sills and dykes. It is well worth a visit. Due to its remoteness it is not practical to explore very much in a day”. Gordon Wright
I am looking forward to really getting off the beaten track. Unfortunately the weather is looking pretty ‘mobile’ at the moment so I may well be blasted by wind and rain. Fingers crossed the wind will behave and I will be able to get a pitch beside the sea on the spot shown below.
Anyway I have digressed as I was going to say that some gear has not come in time for this trip. At the beginning of Oct I made ‘My most expensive ever gear purchase‘ with the hope that it would be delivered in time. I knew that I would have to wait for up to 30 days for it to be made, but I had my fingers crossed that it would arrive sooner. Maybe I should have contacted the manufacturer to say it was needed for a specific trip. As it turns out it is going to be a mild week and to be honest I am not sure I want it to smell like a bothy fire. Well what did I spend a vast amount of money on?
In my minds eye I am a rugged backpacker effortlessly eating up the miles and powering up mountains to reach my distant destination. In reality I am that slightly tired bloke sitting on a rock thinking that I really should get going and walk those miles. In the distance I can see the mountain that I planned to climb but it looks much much bigger and steeper than I imagined it would have done from reading the map.
Reading up on other peoples backpacking exploits I have started to feel that maybe I am just a little lazy. I read of all of those 15 mile days people do, when I often find that after about 8 miles I fancy my dinner and a bit of a snooze. I decided not to apply for the TGO challenge this year because of the chunk of time it would take out of my holiday entitlement. I have a deep sneaky suspicion at the back of my mind that it is also because I am just a little lazy. What happens on day 4 of the challenge when you decide you really can’t be bothered with all that walking business and just want to burn wood on the bothy fire? What happens when you feel like that a couple of days later as well?!
I have often read that the main reason for lightening your backpacking load is so that you can walk further and quicker. I have to admit to lightening my load simply because it is lighter! A lighter pack means that I fall over less.
Being in the hills and the wild places for me is one of my favourite things, its just that what I plan to do and actually end up doing are often very different. I can remember a trip I did to the Monadhliath a few years ago that turned into a real slackpacking trip. At the planning stage I was looking at all those empty miles and devised a long route across the hills. In reality I got off of the train at Newtonmore and walked up Glen Banchor, when only a few miles up the valley I found a rather lovely bothy. Ok it was still early but was a splendid place to spend the night and I was looking forward to reading my book. The next day I managed my shortest backpacking day ever, a mammoth 2 miles to the high col above Dudh loch. I had not planned to camp so early or at that location, it was just that it was such a cracking spot and I really fancied laying down to read my book…………….The next day I managed 5 miles and spotted another bothy, you get the picture!
In a weeks time I will be on Islay and then Jura. I have a 3 day 30 mile backpack planned on Jura over some of the toughest remotest terrain available in the UK. No paths, no people, just tussocks, boulders, cliffs and probably a screaming gale. The first night will be spent at a really remote coastal bothy with the second night wild camping on a beach 10 miles away. Well that is the plan. Will reality see me spending day 2 looking for driftwood and shuffling around the bothy or will I be striding purposely across the tussocky moors. Will I be a backpacker or a slackpacker?
Now to be honest when I am planning a backpacking trip I don’t often give too much thought about the road that I am going to drive along to get there. However whilst doing some surfing on Geograph I noticed some photos of the main ‘A’ road that runs the length of the Island. If this is what an ‘A’ road is like then I feel that Jura is going to be my kind of place!
This time next week and I will have just started my long drive north, can’t wait!
In April this year I had a fantastic week with Rich crossing Scotland coast to coast from Evanton to Ullapool. A leisurely 60 miles in 6 days passing through one of the remotest parts of the UK. A route that was a couple of years in the making, constantly returning to maps and picking out tracks and bothies to help with progress through this wild area. Therefore I feel rather proud that a fellow blogger recently undertook the same journey and it looks like he too had a splendid time. You should definitely check out his blog:
Marcus is currently on day two of his write up and I am following it with anticipation. Already he is half a day ahead of Rich and myself on the second day and I am looking forward to see how the rest of the trip went. I hope that his and my trip reports inspire more people who would like to do a Scottish coast to coast but don’t have a full two weeks to give this route a go. If you missed my write up here are the links:
I am forever planning my next big trip and I plan to do another week long coast to coast late next April. I really fancy following in the footsteps of Cameron McNeish and doing the Sutherland trail, which is sort of a coast to coast (west to north!). Or I have my eyes on the map again and have spotted another possible east to west crossing, this time much further north, across the Flow country of Caithness and into Sutherland. I am sure I can twist Rich’s arm again………………………….