It’s a leisurely breakfast of haddock and poached egg at the hotel. We’re in a kind of dorm, but get to indulge at the poshness next door. Our hostess Leah tells us they normally close Oct 1st, but only stayed open when they lost a month of business due to Covid.
As far as a superb rest spot. The weather? Not so much.
Funny how the rain sets in just as we suit up for a day’s walk. Leah also tells us she and her colleagues were amazed we set out in this horrendous weather.
It was the Scots who originated the quip, “It’s not bad weather, just improper dress.” We’re dressed in layers, waterproofs and positive attitudes as we cross the stone bridge over the boiling Oykel and push north, wind straight in our faces.
But it’s a wide track, so we walk side-by-side talking, often having to ask for sentences to be repeated in the din. The guide book describes the fanciful river as the sun lights it up. I imagine it would be. Right now, it’s in spate, pushing hard against its banks. At least the trees changing color offer something for the eyes.
We head uphill towards a farm. A man is driving a tractor through deep muck – which we also are forced to walk through. Beautiful cows take a good look at us marching past, thrn scatter even though protected behind a fence. A woman ahead says they always do that when walkers pass.
The rain lets off briefly and I pull off my hood. Scotland’s light never ceases to capture my imagination as the sun pops out for a brief moment on gnarled birch near a rushing stream. It’s as if a postcard.
The walking is easy, but we need it. Yes, I’m disappointed we’re not doing every step of this in order, but we’re still out, braving the elements and seeing what there is to see.
The biggest mountains are far ahead and frankly, we’re paralleling a main road across the river, but in rain, we feel off in the wilderness.
Except for the fishing huts along the way, and benches happily used when this area is bathed in the aforementioned sunlight. We skip by heading to a loch where we plan to turn around.
But just as we get to the end of the road and the beginning of trail, the rain really comes down. I am not one to give up – and my friend Ted is an ultra runner, so even less so.
But let’s face it, this day is not changing and views – aside from the wee spotlight earlier in the day – are not going to open up for us a half hour down the track.
We retreat to a fishing hut, surprised it’s unlocked. Inside are two benches and loads of chairs, including two for the dining room with velour seats.
We avoid those since we’re soaked and share a candy bar as the rain sheets down. I’m sitting below a small leak, but protected in my rain coat. Was the walk worth it? We both think so since it stretched the legs, burned the chocolate bars and showed us something different in Scotland.
On the return, we pop into each hut, more benches and more velour chairs. The salmon run ended at the beginning of the month, so the place is empty. And turned around, the wind is at our back and the rain feels surprisingly relaxing.
We pass the pretty trees and the rushing burn, the skittish cows and the deep muck and finally the lovely stone bridges where we snap pictures just as the sky turns blue and the sun appears again.
A hot shower awaits and a local cider plus venison pie. My socks are drying on the radiator and I’m refreshed knowing tomorrow’s walk will introduce more steep uphill to views, route finding and soggy, boggy walk.
I can’t wait.