The older I get, the more I enjoy walking, so holidays and time off are increasingly filled with plans for hiking and getting out into the fresh air. I made plans for a first serious walk in the UK to celebrate my fortieth birthday last year in the Lake District, when I went as far as buying gaiters and hiking up into the hills in some pretty chilly weather.
One of my goals for our recent trip to the Western Isles of Scotland was to get out and walk; more walking and enjoyment than any particular drive for a photographic expedition. The goal for our single full day on Skye – between longer breaks on Mull and with Jo’s parents in the north of Scotland – was to do one of the easier walks on the island. I chose to see the famous Old Man of Storr and the surrounding landslip remains up close, in particular as it is an immensely dramatic landscape. Sadly, Jo was unwell, but the sun shone on the right day and so I donned my walking gear, put lunch in my rucksack and headed out.
The path up to the Old Man of Storr was steeper than I’d thought, but despite it being classed as only moderately challenging, it starts climbing abruptly from the car park and so I was pretty quickly out of breath. A sign that I need to continue with regular exercise if ever there was one! After stopping to shed a fleecy layer – the wind wasn’t cooling me down as much as I’d expected – I pressed on through what had been a forest until recently, before being slightly aggravated that the lumberjacks felling the remaining trees high on the slopes above the Storr lochs had driven up. Out of the forest, I stopped for a short break within first close sight of the pinnacle whilst other walkers plodded past, both up and down.
From this point on, I was glad of the water- and windproof layers, as the wind started to pick up and the rolling mist I’d seen from a distance began to lower the temperature. Passing a number of late middle-aged walkers with red faces and young tourists wearing inadequate footwear, I diverted off from the main path towards the rocky goal to continue north and do my best to get a classic photographic view. Eating lunch whilst fully wrapped-up against the cold wind, I was rewarded for my patience and for my tenacity by the misty cloud clearing enough for me to get some wonderfully moody shots.
A “proper” walker – complete with GPS equipment and a proper Ordnance Survey map – returning from the top of the mountain advised me of the thick mist higher up, so I turned back towards the bowl of rocky scree behind the famous pinnacle; slightly disappointed that I couldn’t continue on and bag my first serious Scottish summit, but sensible to the conditions and the fact that I was pretty much alone on the slopes. I’m realistic enough to know that I am nowhere near fit enough to consider hiking a Munro – not yet! – but I am looking forward to walking to my first proper Scottish peak.