i'd love to say that walking is overrated, but i'd be fibbing if i did. in the early nineties, the washingmachinepost family took on a black labrador belonging to a couple who were moving to glasgow and didn't want to take the dog with them. the kids pledged that they would be overjoyed to take the lovely animal for a walk every morning and every evening, but in the grand scheme of things, that was never ever going to be the way of the world. so yours truly ended up with the task of so doing every day of the year, no matter the weather or how dark it was in those winter mornings.
it has been said that carrying out any task for a period of twenty-one days or more, creates a habit. in short, this means that my taking the dog for a walk became no more remarkable than having breakfast each day or going to bed each night. clad in highly effective waterproofs, going out into the teeth of an atlantic gale became considerably less onerous than it sounds as if it might have been. the labrador lived to an impressive 17 years, rest her soul and i now find myself still going out each morning for a walk prior to heading to the office.
of course, now the walk has a different purpose; there is no longer any dog to exercise. like many in modern society, i spend the majority of my day sat in a computer chair staring at a large screened imac. walking a mile or so each morning tends to loosen up the muscles that might cease to function or atrophy were they not exercised every bit as well as our doggie.
walking, rather tautologically, preceded cycling. the latter is credited with increasing the gene pool throughout every country in which it became an original means of transport. any healthy individual can walk several miles in a day, but that same individual could cycle considerably further. and further often meant a previously unreachable village or town. it's the very reason that charities such as world bicycle relief donate bicycles to the poor in the less salubrious regions of africa. young girls scarcely have time to walk several miles to school after undertaking the chores that seem to devolve upon the female members of the tribe. give them a bicycle, however, and they can cycle the distance in a timeous manner, allowing them to gain an education that will undoubtedly help them as well as their famiies and tribes.
walking, in the western world has sadly diminished as a means of transport; shanks' pony as we'd say north of the border. you need only take a look at the school run each morning to realise just how many kids are driven to their place of education, when once they would have walked. however, as an extra curricular activity, walking is as healthy as it's ever been. possibly more so. as the more intrepid of the world's outdoor folk become more adventurous, the market for comprehensive guide books becomes ever greater, a market for which cicerone publishing are well placed to take advantage.
but, i hear you ask, is not this a place of velocipedinal discussion? do we not concern ourselves with the world of the bicycle in these pixels? indeed we do, and i believe with the increasing popularity of cyclocross, mountain biking and the recently invented gravel bikes, it strikes me that there exists something of an overlap between more rugged walking routes and those that might be accessed by any or all of the above genres of bicycle.
add to that the fact that the scottish hebrides, both inner and outer are hosts to some of the most dramatic and pleasing scenery this side of easter island, and it behoves us well, i believe, to impinge on the landscape of the walker.
peter edwards knows corners and crevices of the hebrides like no-one else. he and his wife have travelled from south (islay) to north (lewis), taking in mull, skye, tiree, coll, harris, barra and even st kilda along with several others. not only is he well educated in the topography of each, but seems rather adept at capturing the beauty of each on what would once have been referred to as film. the photography in the hebrides is often breathtaking, particularly the mountainous regions of skye.
i'd be guilty of fibbing once more if i gave you to believe that each and every walk detailed within is also suitable to be ridden by bicycle. i daresay those with more daredevil tendencies might scoff at my feebleness, but there are more than just one or two on which i'd be loathe to entrust self and 'cross bike. however, there's no doubt that many are more than equitable from the saddle; which ones depend on which of the hebrides you might wish to visit, or the inherent level of temerity sat between front and rear wheels.
each and every route is detailed by specific location, length, ascent an distance, as well as a precis of the terrain you might legitimately expect to encounter. all are additionally illustrated by a small, detailed map while indicating which os landranger map it would be best to acquire. the subsequent narrative is highly detailed in its description with turn by turn directions.
the combination of early hebridean history narrated in the opening chapter and copious illustration actually makes this a book that can be read as an armchair guide to the very best place in the world to live.
and i'm not fibbing about that bit.
sunday 14 june 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................