On my most recent trip to Scotland (wedding planning sure is making it our second home!) the weather was less than pleasant. For most of our stay, what are usually stunning vistas over the mountains were misty veils of grey. We woke up each morning peering out from underneath the duvet, summoning the courage to brave the chill in the air. Not that it stopped us from getting out to experience what the highlands had to offer, no no: ‘The mountains are calling and I must go.” But it was on one particularly dreary day as we left the house to explore that I said, “Wow, I can’t wait to get home and sit by the fire with a glass of wine.”
It got me thinking about the whole experience of hiking and why I love it. I’m a huge fan of Tolkien and a large part of that is relating to that common theme of adventures and appreciating home and good food. Just like a hobbit, I love nothing more than disappearing off into the mountains for hours, then coming home and filling my belly with something warm and hearty!
So one hobbit to another (if you love hiking that is… or just a good bit of cake) here’s some of my favourite walks of late, and how to get the most out of them:
As someone who makes mental plans for a zombie apocalypse I’ve no problem carrying a backpack full of goodies for every eventuality when out in the wild. If anything I’m a bit of a back pack hoarder (I *may* have once brought a map of the Lake District on a walk in the Scottish Highlands…) but even if it’s a simple walk I don’t think you can’t be too prepared. For longer, more adventurous hikes I always carry a first aid kit, spare socks and a torch. And yes this really sounds like stating the obvious, but as someone who once hiked a mile high with only 1 litre of water and had a really bad/thirsty/can-we-drink-that-puddle time, I cannot stress enough the importance of water water water!
Once you’ve packed the sensible stuff, for the love of God don’t forget to take a camera or some binoculars! Q was once so keen to capture the views that he took a full size tripod on his back up a mountain… dedication or what?
I’m guilty of loving a precarious pose, much to Q’s discomfort. I’m a sucker for a ledge, I just love to dangle my legs over!
If you see a photo like this on the blog, I can guarantee that after it was shot I was asked, “Okay can you please get down now.” This incredibly comfortable ledge hung over Bracklinn Falls which is a stunning gorge near Callander in Scotland.
Adventures suddenly feel a lot less… adventurous, when you have to share them with hordes of other people. I like to feel like I’ve disappeared into the wilderness, so going early guarantees that, as well as uninterrupted photos. My favourite alone-in-the-wild moment? When Q proposed to me up Ben A’an of course <3 This climb is a serious thigh burner, particularly in the first third. It then levels out for a short while before you ascend to the top along a stone staircase cut into the mountain. Love that pointy top – just like you drew as a child!
Know your limits
Bad weather? Bad knee? Sun getting low in the sky? Don’t get caught out by getting caught up in the moment. One of my favourite hikes in recent years was Dove Crag and Little Hart Crag in the Lake District. We followed a known route with the standard path, or the ‘strenuous’ option of clambering on all fours for an hour up a very steep ascent. “Strenuous shmenuous” we thought, not wanting to take the easy road… Halfway up we realised that it really was tough, and what was I just saying about packing enough water? Yea, that.
No walk in history has ever been made worse by the presence of a Jelly Baby.
Without doubt my favourite thing is climbing high and feeling on top of the world. I can’t be the only person who finds a flat walk incredibly dull? Give me steep inclines and steps, clambering with all limbs and looking back to say, “Oooh look how far we’ve come!”
The Malverns are great for just that: climbing up and walking along a ridge with views either side for miles and miles… guaranteed to make you feel like a king surveying their empire.
Time for that fire and a glass of wine! Without a doubt nothing better than refuelling yourself with something warming and hearty. One of my favourite moments from last year was taking a full set up with us for outdoor cooking. Prosecco and Fresh hot dogs under a cliff? Sign me up.
Fellow hobbits, share with me your favourite walks!