Solitude in the Migneint?

by backpackingbongos

I am reading a great book at the moment.  It is written by Robert Krull and is called, ‘Solitude – seeking wisdom in extremes’.  It is the diary of a guy who travelled to a remote Island in Patagonia’s coastal wilderness to live alone for a year.  He wanted to study the effects of solitude as part of his university course and the diary is broken up by essays on the subject.  I am only part way through it and I may even be inspired to do a review when I have finished it.  So far well worth seeking out, you can find out more through his website here.

His book has started me thinking about my relationship with solitude.  I have to admit that I really enjoy backpacking the hills when I am alone and recently I have started hankering for ever more remote places.  You may have noticed from my trip reports that I tend to seek out the quiet and undisturbed rather than the spectacular but busy.  My mind keeps on drifting back to the very wild and uninhabited west coast of Jura, just about as remote as you can get in the UK.  I am starting to get the urge to pay it a visit in the depths of mid winter, now that would almost definitely entail deep solitude!  The flow country of Caithness has also been on the backburner the last couple of years, I have planned a very wild coast to coast up there ,I just need to be brave enough to walk it.  I am not sure if it is the bogs or the sheer empty size of the wilderness out there that has been putting me off.  I think that I will find heaps of solitude up there.

I often find myself getting out a map of somewhere like the Lake District and putting it back on the shelf as I can’t find a satisfactory route.  It’s not that the scenery and backpacking is poor, far from it, it’s a stunning place.  It’s just the thought of passing large amounts of people that puts me off, there is also the high probability that the tarn selected for a wild camp will already be occupied.  The Lakes for me is a place to be visited in the winter months.

I fear that I must be turning into a misanthrope, maybe that is represented in how I decide to tramp the hills.  I do really enjoy being in the hills with friends and for some reason my ‘people on the hill’ tolerance is much higher if I have company with me.  But when I am alone I want those hills to myself!

I am therefore thinking about setting up the Misanthropic Backpackers Association, i.e the real MBA.  We could unite in our misanthropy with regular meets where we head to far flung parts of the UK.  Alone.  Anyone is free to join, just keep the fact to yourself.

Bugger, I have really strayed off course with this post.  It was meant to be a pondering on what to do this Bank Holiday, a weekend when the hills will be heaving.  I need to use my imagination and head for somewhere remote but without a big drive that involves getting tangled up in a traffic jam.  Head where there are no paths, with giant tussocks and deep heather to slow you down.  If the vegetation does not get you the bogs will.  I visited one such place a few years back and it was empty.  Tough, but empty.

If you want solitude just remember the word Migneint.  And don’t bloody well go there this weekend.

17 Comments to “Solitude in the Migneint?”

  1. Great, sign me up for the Real MBA! You can guess that I’ll recommend a winter sojourn on the west coast of Jura from the bottom of my heart. The only trouble is you might bump into me. I’ll promise to pretend I haven’t seen you though. I think I might find vast, landlocked expanses of wilderness a bit daunting on my own; the thing about the WCJ is there’s the Firth of Lorne to look out on. It’s sort of liberating, whereas I wonder if vast widerness with no apparent edges might be a bit claustrophobic on your own. Who knows? We’re all different, but I definitely relate to the old solitude trip, James.

    • Ok real MBA member number 1! If I do head to Jura for a winter weekend I will give you a shout Pete, I am sure that you would be great company and a knowlegeable guidebook writer to boot! I am not really that unsociable, I like people its just ‘the public’ that I don’t like! The bigger the wilderness the happier I am, although the Islands do give a different persective when the sea is to one side.

      • Any time you like James, give me a shout. As to the psychologogical impact of prolonged exposure to my company, you’d have to ask the long-suffering Fiona.

        I’d also subscribe to the distinction between the people you meet out on the hill or at a bothy/refuge and the ‘public’ at large. Iit’s the multifarious forms of unbelievably ignorant and selfish behaviour that people are capable of that depresses me. I blame it all on Thatcher and the cult of privatisation. So many people live in their own privatised bubbles where they have no sense of responsibility or obligation towards the environment, society at large or anyone else on an individual level. For that reason, being around the ‘public’ can make for a frustrating and annoying experience.

        Moan, moan, complain, complain. Rant over.

      • I will do Pete. I personally blame it all on strictly come dancing myself, that for me sums up ‘the public’.

  2. James, I like to meet a few people, because I often have an interesting chat with backpackers on route. I agree I don’t like hordes, but a few are OK. I must be lucky in the Lakes, because even when I go in the summer – I never seem to come across anyone when choosing my place for the night. I quite fancy doing the walk up to Cape Wrath – I am sure you would find solitude there.


    • I do like bumping into backpackers Mark when out in the wilds, you tend to find that the more remote you are the friendlier and more relaxed people are. You can’t beat a good night in a bothy with great company. I have been to Sandwood bay near Cape wrath, simply stunning, one day I will head further north.

  3. I rarely visit the Lakes in the summer months, in fact it has less appeal year on year in recent times although that’s partly due to over familiarity and the growing sense that they’re turning it into a theme park.
    I / we have been going on regular meets with the MBA right from from the beginning. Never walked with anybody ever, nobody can have better credentials for the presidency.
    Don’t worry about us in the Migneint, we still have one route in our portfolio in that region but not this weekend!. Great choice for a bank holiday.

  4. I too, like to visit the lesser-visited spots of our wee island, but although I’ll do day trips alone, I’ll usually have the company of my hubby on the over-nighters. (Got to share the weight of the tent, stove, etc!)

    Since I work weekends in the summer, my April to Sept hikes are during the midweek and even in the busiest spots such as the Cairngorms I can go 6, 7, or 8 hours without seeing a soul once I leave the parking area behind.

  5. Geoff you can be the president of the real MBA, I have been using your routes as inspiration for years now. I ended up getting lazy this weekend and staying at home, so much for the solitude!

    Sheila, so so lucky being able to visit the cairngorms on your days off in the summer. Scotlands busy spots are so much different than the hot spots further south.

  6. I started reading Bob’s book after being inspired by Sara Maitland’s ‘The Book of Silence’ (not quite the same as solitude). Not sure what I think of it yet!

    Last week I finished the West Highland Way and initially was put off by anticipating a large number of people on it, however, I think the weather put them off! But I must say that surprisingly for me one of the biggest aspects of enjoyment was the interaction with others on the walk and sharing a common purpose. I didn’t walk with any of them for long but this was a new realisation for me as I have only walked with about 5 people this year – anything from 1 hour to a weekend. Last year I didn’t walk with anyone at all. It’s a debate I have about how much exposure to the public I want, and as you say it completely influences what I want to do and where to go, but I realise I can learn a lot from other backpackers particularly.
    As I become more adventurous and stretch myself I anticipate fewer and fewer people being around but would certainly be up for an MBA!

    • Hi there Helen. Hope that you had a great time on the West Highland Way. That was one of the first backpacks that I did, a very sociable event although there were not many people walking it as it was March! We kept bumping into the same people in the pub every night which was nice. When backpacking I like to spend the day on my own and then spend the evening with like minded folk in Bothies etc, especially in winter when there are many dark hours to while away. Once you are confident with you own abilities you will probably find yourself further and further off the beaten track. Have you finished Bob’s book yet?

  7. I’ve always sought solitude myself as well. But I’ve recently taken off from work, perhaps permanently, and I was wondering if I’d want to hike with other people more in the future, because I’ll miss being overwhelmed by all of their needs at work. I guess we’ll see.

  8. I do like hiking with people sometimes Philip, its being surrounded by hoards of people that I am not too keen on! Good luck in the future, will you have lots of time to do more hiking?

  9. Do you think Nietzsche would have a blog if he were alive? Certainly if Thus Spoke Zarathustra were modernized his hermit phases would continue to be sans blog. I am offended by your version of solitude, winter or no. I suggest that you are a hiker and nothing more. The real solitude lover, or solitude needer, is a hikikumori, or something similar. The old time hermits went into the wild for solitude, I’m pretty sure it was hard and not fun in the sense your’ proposed solitude expeditions would be. Perhaps, rather than starting an anonymous disconnected hikers group, you should just join an ordinary hiking group. At least, please don’t use the word solitude, I need it for private thoughts, you’re hurting it.

    • It’s ‘Thus Spake…’ with an ‘a’, Jake. You should get out less and stop responding to people’s blog posts if you’re so precious about your version of ‘solitude’. Peace and love.

    • Hi Jake, sorry for not replying sooner but I was on the wild and remote Isle of Rum enjoying some blissful solitude! I think that if you are offended by my definition of solitude you really need to lighten up a little bit. The dictionary definition of solitude is as follows:

      1. the state of being or living alone; seclusion: to enjoy one’s solitude.
      2. remoteness from habitations, as of a place; absence of human activity: the solitude of the mountains.
      3. a lonely, unfrequented place: a solitude in the mountains.

      By the way I never suggested that I am anything but a hiker, just a hiker who enjoys solitude in the mountains.

  10. ‘Course4, the time when you’re really alone is when you’re in a big crowd…

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