Soul soaring and sore soles

What an avalanche of emotions: saying goodbye to my 'babies' for I know not how long; and taking the first steps on my world walk.

Our journey started with jokes and laughter as Tammy and Bonnie dragged their suitcases on wheels from Iona Hostel 2km for the ferry crossing to the nearby Isle of Mull. And naturally enough, true to Scottish tradition, it was drizzling although nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for this long-awaited day.


With Bonnie and Tammy at Iona Abbey

Hugging and saying final goodbyes, Bon handed me a note to read later.

After a couple of minutes they drove up alongside me in their borrowed car, snapping photographs. I sensed they too didn't want the moment to end and to lose sight of their Dad, a solitary figure strolling towards distant horizons.

I was feeling euphoric and experiencing an overwhelming sense of freedom. I'd given up most of my worldly possessions and was at last walking my talk and being the change I wish to see in the world.

The blisters would come later.

After around four hours I came across the hamlet of Bunessan, bought a banana and chocolate and stretched out on the grass, drifting off for a few minutes. I awoke feeling an incredible peace, knowing I was doing the right thing and being true to my inner promptings.

A pedometer on my waist records every footstep, giving me a readout in steps, time to the second, and distance in metres and kilometres.

My soul was soaring but my soles were increasingly sore. The heat build-up underfoot was not a good sign and after 26km (16 miles) I decided to find somewhere cheap to sleep and rest my feet.

A B&B almost too modest to advertise itself beckoned and I met Gren and Joy who agreed to a lower than normal price, feeding me tea and cake and reassuring: "There's no charge. Have another slice?" They were lovely.

GeoffPilgrimage9Setting off at 7am I was suddenly aware of a shadow and looked up to see a magnificent Sea Eagle. What an auspicious omen, I decided. These magnificent birds were demonised as child-snatchers and shot, poisoned and their nests burned, until a little less than a century ago they were pushed over the cliff of extinction in Britain.

Now, thanks to years of dedicated work by conservationists, they're back after many chicks from Norway were patiently hand-reared and then set free.

What a fabulous day I was having, first meeting artist Faye Cameron on her electric bicycle when she stopped to free a sheep entangled in fencing wire, then being invited to brunch by a delightful family and their friends.

How interesting and warmly hospitable they were, one of the group being an avid hiker who showed me how to better adjust my rucksack for comfort; while a teenage daughter shared a brilliant idea for my blisters. "Collect some of the sheep's wool you find everywhere and use it to pad the painful bits," she wisely suggested. I've been doing so ever since.

With 35km (21 miles) of magnificent scenery behind me, on Day 2 I limped into the Killichronan Campsite. The approach resembled a junkyard for cars, many abandoned or awaiting attention. I couldn't help thinking uncharitably that the mechanic was enjoying a zero percent success rate and should consider alternate work. Maybe running the campsite was it, although it would have been nice to offer showers. Still, the toilets were clean and there was hot water in the basin.

GeoffPilgrimage7I'd heard about the West Coast's notorious midges and they arrived in swarms, the little blood-suckers driving me crazy until I crawled into my bivvy bag (a too-snug waterproof outer cover for my sleeping bag) and zipped it up tight. The midges were awful and the hot sweaty claustrophobia of the bag was hardly better. I had a miserable night with almost no sleep, gratefully setting off at 6am.

More breathtaking scenery and then one of those breathtaking moments to cherish forever. I heard a haunting cry and looked up to see not one, but four eagles, spiralling above me! Could it get any better than this? I trudged on, spirits soaring.

My feet were killing me and it was a huge relief to limp into Tobermory, one of the most beautiful seaside villages I've ever seen. Not surprisingly the tourists have discovered it and there was no accommodation to be had, so I reluctantly hopped the ferry across to the mainland. Goodbye Mull and thanks for an amazing scenic adventure. I could live here…

GeoffPilgrimage6Stepping off the ferry I discovered I was just 11km (7 miles) from Adnamurchan, the most westerly point in mainland Britain, so there was an immediate change of plan. I'd walk west instead of east, even though it would mean backtracking later.

It's now Sunday morning, Day 4, and I've stood at the Adnamurchan Lighthouse in the rain and had the beginnings of a crazy idea. How about walking to Britain's furthermost compass points – west, east, north and south – as well summiting the highest point in the land with an ascent of Ben Nevis? Mmm …

I'm now snugly ensconced behind a borrowed laptop at the Sonachan Hotel, the most westerly hotel on the British mainland, writing this blog. The staff are lovely, the food great, and there's a bed in the adjoining bunkhouse that's within my price range.

Owner Helen Ferguson has promised to plant a tree in honour of my walk if I come back when the 40 075km (25 000 miles) are behind me. Why not!

See you in a few years, Helen…

Geoff Dalglish

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