a quick note to apologize for the radio silence. we are here, at the castle (CASTLE!), and I am sitting finishing this post off before heading to the quaint pub in the 14th century village for pints and supper. below is a quick recap of our Scotland leg. more detail to follow…there’s a Maypole here, by the way. an actual Maypole….
Bad news, guys.
Pillows in Scotland are like broken down cardboard boxes.
We stayed at a different star-rated hotel each night, and though the service and food were better the higher we went, the f***ing pillows were always the same. Flat and hard.
So, my first recommendation: if you love a good, soft fluffy pillow (as I do), are planning on traveling there anytime soon, and NOT hiking The Way, bring your own.
(My husband’s recommendation: harden the f*** up.)
But wait! Positive things are coming out of this post, I promise!
That, then, would be the first disappointment. The second: I didn’t finish the hike.
Ugh. That’s a hearty groan, right from my soul. Because, we got so far….only to not finish…..
We got through nearly 40km over two days, which, yes, was quite the achievement in itself. But my daughter and I had to bail on the third and final day because of some of the worst weather I have ever seen – gale force winds, pelting rain coming in sideways, all whipping through the mountain village, which was tucked away in a valley and sheltered from the worst of it. It would have been sheer madness to take our daughter out, struggling with her for the final 24km. It would not have been fair to subject her to that, and most certainly dangerous (I think my husband actually used the word “peril”), so she and I took a taxi to the last stop, Fort William, and my husband set out on his own. He’s an experienced hiker, so I wasn’t worried about him being alone. I was more afraid in the damn taxi ride, winding through the narrow mountain roads, our driver going 80mph while talking on his cell phone the whole time oh my god!! I was clutching my daughter as she slept soundly against my chest, imagining the next day’s Daily Mail headline: Young-ish Canadian Mum And Beautiful Baby Killed On Hols Because Cabbie Was ON HIS MOBILE! (I don’t know, do they say ‘cabbie’ over here??)
(Seriously, I do not – nor will I ever – understand how people talk on their phones and drive at the same time. It it ridiculously idiotic and insanely dangerous and just turn it off while you’re on the road, people!!)
We arrived in Fort William in one piece by 10am and went straight to our hotel. I was praying that our room would be ready early so I could check in, dry off and put the baby (and me!) down for a much needed nap. Stupidly, I had forgotten that no hotel on planet Earth would allow guests to check in that early, and since our room was still being occupied by people who I assumed were staying out of the rain for as long as their reservation would allow (and who could BLAME THEM?!), I was then faced with the task of figuring out what to do to keep my increasingly drowsy-therefore-increasingly-fussy daughter entertained for a few hours in a city I didn’t know from Adam in the scariest, horror-movie weather EVER.
Amazingly, my prayer was answered in the form of the Nevis Centre, a rec centre at the other end of town which had an entire floor dedicated to children’s play: padded floors, mini-mazes, ball pits, tiny go carts, “sensory rooms” with fairy lights and bubble walls. At £2.50, it was the bargain of the century, and my daughter was in HEAVEN. Not only did she tire herself out from all the fun, but she made a few little Scottish friends, too. Too adorable for words!
We eventually made our way back to the hotel through the rain via a wonderful little pub (mama was in desperate need of a quick pint!), and were welcomed by the most gorgeous room with a four-poster king sized bed and a humungous soaker tub…I immediately burst into tears.
I then dried us off, curled up in the bed together, and slept.
My husband arrived about an hour later and woke us up gently, beaming with pride and exhaustion. He had done it! He had finished what we had travelled all that way to do, and I was so incredibly happy for him! At least one of us got to do it, and I know it meant so much to him, too. He told me it was terribly hard, not only because of the weather, but having to leave us behind…getting back to us was his motivation to keep going, to push through. And after a hot bath, he joined us in the bed and we all went back to sleep.
Although it was a tough day for me – not being able to finish – it was for the best. Even though I had been looking forward to this trip for so long – despite the moaning in the days and weeks leading up to it – there was no way it could have played out any differently on that final leg of the journey.
What I discovered along the way was that, yes, I had my doubts and was a little anxious setting off, but underneath it all I was SO excited for the challenge. To see what I was actually made of. And to go through it all with my wonderful husband and daughter…especially my daughter. And let me tell you – she was every bit as incredible as we could have asked for. She sat happily and comfortably in her chariot the entire time…except when the midges would swarm. Oh, God, the midges. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE WARN US ABOUT THE MIDGES.
My other discovery was that, oh, wow, yeah, I actually LOVE hiking. Like, maybe addicted, love. I know, I know – all you “hikers” out there are probably saying, “um, you only did 40k over 2 days through some of the greatest locations on Earth. DOESN’T COUNT AS HIKING.” At least, that’s what I’d imagine you’d say, since we met some pretty intense people along the way who I’m sure were saying that to us through polite eyes.
But as I mentioned in a previous post, I am not an exerciser. I was for a split second in the past, but now I’d say I’m just healthy and maybe fit, but not to any umpth-degree. And so walking those 40km, through those mystical green, rolling hills of my dreams, was a supreme accomplishment of my life. One that I will talk about with my daughter forever.
Because, come on. I did it all with her, smiling all the way.