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Archive for the ‘Better Know Our Route’ Category

10
Oct

Words from the Road: Glasgow, part 2

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Getting sick is never convenient, but sometimes the timing is worse than others. Anyone who has come down with a head cold on the first day of a vacation will understand my current predicament.

A head cold I could have kept walking through. Food poisoning, unfortunately, I couldn’t. Worse, my bout of food poisoning seems to have brought friends–low blood pressure, light-headedness, weakness, and dizziness that have kept us from moving on with the trip for the past two days even though my stomach feels better.

I’ve been told to stay on bedrest for a few days and then to stick to “1-2 weeks without heavy exertion.” Walking isn’t hard when you’re well, but I’m pretty sure that 20-30 km a day counts as exertion in any doctor’s books (and may be beyond what I can do right now) so we’re currently reassessing our options.

We’re planning on staying in Glasgow for the next few days and then travelling to Inverness on the 6th of October. We’re going to skip Fort William altogether. In Inverness, we’ll be setting up a home base and then walking every day without our packs. This will give me time to recover and rebuild strength even as we continue with the walk and, hopefully, make up for some of the mileage we’ve already lost.

At this point, it is entirely possible that we won’t be walking the full distance that we originally set ourselves. It is certain that we won’t be walking the original route–it’s already too late for that, even if we left Glasgow tomorrow.

But don’t mistake realism for giving up.

Provided that I am fully recovered, which seems likely, we will be walking the second half of our route as planned. We’re also going to be making up as much lost distance as we can before then, by walking within cities and by making day trips and shorter overnight hops around Glasgow and other cities.

This means we’ll be able to post more ‘blogs than expected because we’ll have internet access more often. I’ll be talking both about my recovery and about what I’m learning in the UK; about travel, adventures, and the differences our modern world makes in all of those things.

I hate being sick and I hate what this has meant for the trip. I miss my girlfriend, I miss my family, I miss my friends. I even (though I never thought I’d say this!) miss my work. Goodness knows, I miss the galumphing dog that loves to greet me with a headbutt and a wagging tail every evening. But to give up and return home now would mean betraying the Quest, and we’re not about to do that.

Wish us luck and send good thoughts. Don’t forget to check here every couple of days (or Facebook, or Twitter!), and please do tell your friends and family about two crazy Canadians who are doing everything in their power to make it through a cursed Quest to raise money for something that has touched us all.

Remember to donate when you can. Every single dollar we see go into those accounts is helping to motivate us.

You are all fantastic. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the outpouring of support we’ve been getting and I look forward to seeing and speaking with you soon.

10
Oct

Better Know Our Route: Fort William

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With a population of just under 10,000, I found it very difficult to find cities of roughly the same size to compare Scotland’s Fort William to in Canada and the United States.  There are plenty – probably hundreds of communities with between five and ten thousand residents.  But we’ve never heard of them.

Fort William is a port town on Loch Linnhe, a sea loch that lead to its use as the base for warships in the second world war.  The town grew originally around an English garrison put there for population control after the English civil war, its strength based both on its accessibility by sea and its location at the southern point of what is now known as the Great Glen, a walking trail that was essentially the only major route used by highlanders coming down to the lowlands during the middle ages.

Named after King William III of England, the fort gave birth to a small community as many military forts do – which they called Marysburgh after their esteemed Queen.  The town went through several names changes as it grew before finally just taking the name of “Fort William” … this time not for William III but rather of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, whose claim to fame was a slaughter of Scotsmen on Culloden Moor in 1746.  Culloden is a location we will be visiting later on in our trip, so William will be spoken about more during my post about that.  Because of that history, however, there are occasional pushes to once again rename the town.

One of the places I am most interested in going while in Fort William is the WestHighland Museum, which contains a lot of about the Jacobite uprisings in the 18th century that we will be seeing history from during the course of our walk – Culloden Moor, as mentioned above, but also in Stirling, Edinburgh and elsewhere.

For a town its size it is still the second-largest in the highlands, showing exactly how populous the treacherous northern half of the area can be.  In comparison only one city in the highlands makes it into the top fifty list of cities and towns in Scotland – Inverness, which we will be skirting the edges of but not actually visiting, on our way from Loch Ness to Culloden Moor.

Join us next Friday for Adam’s bi-weekly Q&A, and in two weeks for our next Better Know Your Route article.  Visit our Facebook page to vote on your preference for the next location examined!

10
Oct

Better Know Our Route: Edinburgh

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Due to overwhelming* response on our page‘s Facebook poll, today we are looking at Dùn Èideann, capital city of Scotland and second-largest city north of Hadrian’s Wall.

Edinburgh, by all sources we’ve been able to find, was named after an area called “Eidyn” several millenia ago.  The convenient dormant volcano (now called “Arthur’s Seat”) was made home to a hill fort, called a dun, which soon became a small city – which the Germanic influence from raiding longshipmen turned into Eidyn burgh, or Edinburgh.

When we walk into Edinburgh from the south – our last stop on the trip before this final destination will be the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew above Roslin Glen, better known as Rosslyn Chapel, and is 12km south-west of Edinburgh’s famous castle – we will have been walking for almost four weeks through rain and cold, and in a twist of sadism (or maybe masochism) we will be finishing our walk with a climb up the castle hill to Edinburgh Castle, pictured above.

Today’s Edinburgh is, of course, very different than it was when the castle was built; despite the “new city” and expansion outside of the traditional walls, though, it remains a centre of history and tradition.  A full 23% of the city is taken by “conservation areas” – protected areas like historical buildings and sites that mean something culturally to the area.  One of the big stretches in the city, called the Royal Mile, stretches from one of the best-known features (the ruined Holyrood Abbey, whose guest house was once a royal residence) to the Castle which dominates Edinburgh’s skyline and takes a place of honour on its flag.

In the middle ages, when the city’s walls dictated the limits of the city itself, buildings were built up as the population expanded – there are examples of buildings from eleven to a full fifteen stories tall, built centuries before skyscrapers became commonplace in urban centres worldwide.  It is creativity and problem-solving like this that has given rise to creative minds and a huge art scene in the relatively sparsely-populated city.  (With only a little under 500,000 residents, Edinburgh is 7th-most populous in the United Kingdom, smaller than even nearby Glasgow.  To compare, London, Ontario and Kitchener-Waterloo are roughly the size of Edinburgh in Canada; the US has 35 cities larger than its rough equivalent, Sacramento California.)

Edinburgh is home to a number of world-famous festivals, the one closest to my heart being Edinburgh Fringe – a theatre festival that has stretched as far as Toronto – but also including the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the largest festival of its kind in the world.

Edinburgh has been home to Robert Bruce in ancient times and has not let the world down in terms of famous residents: Charles Darwin, David Hume, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Sean Connery and the band The Proclaimers, who had no small part in inspiring the nice round number that our route has been brought to.

I know several of our readers have been to Edinburgh: what should we see while we’re there?  It’s the one city we’re spending a few days in, at the end of our journey – are there must-see attractions after we take a picture in the same place Bruce Campbell (star of Army of Darkness and countless other cult hits) is standing here?  Let us know!

 

 

*If “one vote more than the three-way tie” is overwhelming, at least.

10
Oct

Better Know Our Route: Loch Lomond

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A little under a week after we leave our home country on a long flight to Ireland, we will be taking our first day of rest beside the freshwater lake – or “loch” – Lomond.

Loch Lomond is purportedly the most beautiful place in Scotland.  Just a day’s walk outside of the city of Glasgow, it’s the largest lake in Great Britain by surface area and second-largest by water volume, beaten by our second major loch of the trip, the famous Ness.

With songs, poems and prose all written about Loch Lomond it is one of the places I am personally looking forward to most on this trip.  As a photographer I am hoping to capture some images like the one to the right – and with three mornings spent at her shores, it seems I may get my chance.

We’ll likely arrive at Loch Lomond the night after we leave Glasgow’s city centre, spending a night at the southern tip before starting the hike along its 39km (24mi) length; the A82 highway runs along its western shore which is conveniently the side of the loch that we want to be on when heading towards Fort William.  After our first day of walking the shores we’ll spend a full day there, resting our legs and enjoying the scenery… and maybe singing a song or two.

The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond is one of the most famous songs known around the world as a Scottish anthem, first published during the Scottish romantic movement almost a century after the Jacobite rebellions of the 18th century but popular before it.  Rumours persist of it being written by a Scottish nationalist (possibly from the 1745 Jacobite rebellion itself) imprisoned in England, who writes of his desire to return home.

Oh, ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.

The “high road,” or highway, refers to a normal road… where as the “low road” is supposed to refer to the path that a soul takes to return home.  In Scottish folk-lore, the faeries that inhabit the British Isles are supposed to bring souls back to Scotland along a road of their construction through their half-worlds, and the story goes that the soldier knew he would die in an English prison but wanted his love to know.

In addition to being the largest loch in Scotland, Lomond holds the most islands – most think 30-36, though some centuries-old reports go as high as 60.  The magnificent views afforded by the loch’s shores also include the mountain Ben Lomond, pictured above; this most southern of the Munros (a collection of mountains in Scotland collected by Sir Hugh Munro) is almost a kilometre high and can be seen as far away as Glasgow on a clear day.

Though we’re certainly not planning on it, with luck we’ll have plenty of those – and Ben Lomond will provide for us a goal as we start out of Glasgow on a sunny Tuesday morning next October.

While walking along the river today, the rain was light enough that I could pull out my camera and get shots of the mist-covered mountains, one of which I’ve climbed.

Even though this isn’t working out the way I hoped, the way I planned, it is truly amazing and something I recommend to everyone.

Have an adventure.

Do something crazy.

In costume, if you can bear it, because it makes people really willing to talk to you.

A few pictures from the past week appear behind the jump:

Cows and mountains: Scotland in a picture. (Not really, but it’s so pretty!)

Pretty sure I took this at Stirling railway station. We’ll be back on the 22nd!

I refer to this, a part of our regular route within Inverness, as the “Althing spot” – a perfect place for a meeting of 40-odd people.

I wish both of us could have been in this picture. Perfect book cover or what?

Culloden Avenue, a long pedestrian path leading to Culloden House, has these amazing sculptures along the way, all chosen in theme by local schoolchildren. I thought this was an appropriate one to grab a picture of.

I also love dragons.

 

Can’t forget the dragon’s children. These sculptures are fantastic.

The original estate that stood near the Culloden Moor battlefield in 1746, this gigantic and beautiful manor house, has been turned into what I am sure is an exorbitantly expensive hotel. I still want to stay there.

We climbed a mountain, Craig Dunain. It wasn’t the largest mountain in the area, but it was tiring enough!

Here are the mountains I was talking about up above, there. I love this country.

We found a hollowed-out tree. Who could resist such temptation?

After yesterday’s rain, the river is swollen but beautiful.

More soon!

10
Oct

Words from the Road: Inverness, part 2

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Today, according to the original plan, we were meant to be arriving at the hostel in which I am already lying as I write this ‘blog post. Rain is pattering against the windowpane.

We learned yesterday that when it rains in Inverness, the sidewalk glistens and the poetry carved in to some of the paving stones on Church Street becomes easier to read… even if one is less inclined to want to stop and read it. I have been wondering about it for a week now, though, so I stopped. Drew didn’t.

The room where we are staying wouldn’t fit six, but is perfect for the two of us. It overlooks the River Ness and if you squish up close you can see the castle to the right.

We have been walking hard for the last week. On three separate days we clocked over 30  kilometers. We saw Culloden city and Culloden House, but missed the battlefield because of the cycling route that we were following, sparking the need for a second trip (come on, twist my arm). We walked south to Craig Dunain and climbed it to the top, panting and sweating on a summer-warm day. We have walked a circuit around the Ness Islands so many times even its spectacular beauty is becoming commonplace to us.

Yesterday was the first day that the weather hit us hard, with a cold rain that soaked us through within hours. We opted to take it easy for the day, allowing for the fact that we had covered a total of 70 km in the two days prior and both slept poorly last night. Tomorrow we aim for another 30 km, rain or shine.

More pictures will be coming soon as well – some from the mountain, some from Culloden House, some from random walking in Inverness. It’s a small city but a beautiful one, with poetry in the sidewalk stones.

As of right now, we are 79 km behind our target for this point in the trip. The 3 days I was out of commission with food poisoning put us 81 kilometres down, so we are right on track except for that and we have a few days at the end which will hopefully provide the opportunity to complete our goal. We are still pushing forward, making every effort to make up those 79 km in the course of our planned walks.

Wish us luck, and talk to you all soon.

Yesterday, laden with bags and hoping for a better middle to our adventure than the start, Drew and I hopped on the ScotRail from Glasgow to Perth and from Perth to Inverness.

The Scottish countryside is the single most beautiful place I have ever seen. While those who know me can confirm that I haven’t exactly traveled the world, I can say that even the most stunning pictures don’t do this country justice.

Inverness is quite a pretty city. With roughly 72,000 residents, I knew it would be smaller than Glasgow (sitting at almost 600,000), but I hadn’t put it together just how much smaller until we really looked around this morning and ran out of city within two hours.

As a result, we ended up walking south along the River Ness, which provided yet more stunning scenery. There were (many) times when the only evidence of humanity we could see was the pavement beneath our feet and the occasional lamp post–less than an hour out of the city. We crossed beautiful bridges following the Great Glen Way, a route from Inverness to Fort William that we were, not so long ago, planning to walk down in the other direction starting on Tuesday morning. (Such is life.)

We walked 28 km today, instead of the 22 km we had planned on the original schedule. I’m relieved to be able to report that we’re making headway on the mileage we lost last week.

Tomorrow we’ll be waking up early and starting a two-day camp. We intend to visit Culloden Moor and walk along National Cycle Route 1, which runs through Inverness and alongside the famous battlefield at Culloden. We’ll be camping overnight on Monday and returning to our new home base hostel in Inverness on Tuesday evening. That means we can leave a lot of our modern gear (changes of clothes, the netbook I’m using to blog, etc.) at the hostel to keep as much weight off of my still-recovering shoulders as possible.

For those of you in Canada, have a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll check the ‘blog after your turkey dinners for a few thoughts on giving thanks and on our Thanksgiving here in Scotland.

For those of you in America, well, it’s Columbus Day so, uh, enjoy your day off.

For the rest of you: Sorry. It’s Monday.

10
Oct

Words from the Road: Glasgow, part 3

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Recovery from illness is never a fun road. The past few days have seen me sitting in hostel lobbies, watching everyone around me wander in and out on tours and adventures. I’m glad I waited and mended, because I feel worlds better today, but I’m not sorry I pushed Drew out the door so he could see some of the area while we skipped three days of our walking route.

Yesterday I felt up to a short walk, so we decided to do what turned into a 10km, self-guided scenic tour of the city of Glasgow. I’m sure that there are things we missed, but after seeing an old friend (enemy?) in Waterstones, I couldn’t resist pulling out my camera and making my way through the city streets.

This post could get long and picture-heavy, so I’m going to put the aforementioned picture and the rest behind the cut:

I also hugged him, but he didn’t respond.

So it began. Glasgow’s architecture is beautiful, and while (after a 35km day today that was mostly up and down the same street simply because we knew the distance between point A and point B) we are now rather tired of Sauchiehall Street, it provides some great vistas:

This was a little north of Sauchiehall actually, but the hot chocolate is worth the fib.

Boy oh boy do I ever like old buildings. Scotland is the place for them.

And as you walk down Sauchiehall, much of which is pedestrian-only, you’ll get to a big mall; turn right from there and you’re on Buchanan, another pedestrian-only open-air market with more great views:

The hill isn’t bad the first five times, but it can get pretty tiring on the next five.

We cut through the Queen Street train station and went to check out the cathedral. Back in the day, the difference between a city and a town in the United Kingdom was whether or not the place had a cathedral – if it did, it was a city. Without one it would never be more than a town.

Nowadays, the title of “city” is bestowed by the Queen, but most of the older cities in the country still have beautiful old cathedrals, remnants of that historical distinction.

“This renovation project is ruining my pictures” was definitely not said by me. Twice.

And, as a guidebook I picked up says, what’s a cathedral without a cemetary? The Glasgow Necropolis is huge and beautiful, but I wasn’t up for the steep climb to the top just yet. The front gates are mid-19th century, though, and we could spot some neat things just on the way in:

I need a cool gate for MY Necropoli— wait.

I love statues even more than I love old buildings, but I’ll leave most of my statue photos off this page. There were a lot of them.

And, since I am very (very!) tired and feeling bed beckoning to me, I’ll stick a few more photos here to get you through until my next ‘blog post… probably tomorrow night. Tomorrow we’ll be travelling to Inverness, which we intend to set up as “home base” for a couple weeks while we do our best to make up the mileage that we’ve lost.

Enjoy the photos, folks, and remember to get the word out there and donate what you can. Cheers!

Are government buildings everywhere so majestic? Even Toronto has nice buildings for governance.

On our now-over-familiar George Square, this building was covered in statues. The perfect building?

Another victim of Glasgow’s infamous weather.

There are churches everywhere in Glasgow, unsurprisingly. They are all beautiful.

I love lions. Glasgow has two gigantic white ones!

Of course, it wouldn’t be the UK for nerds without…

Allons-y!