I’ve been to Scotland five times which makes me a beginner with the burns, a newcomer at the hills, a novice on Ben Nevis: which I walked in glorious sunshine on my first trip, 2010. I went back to Glen Shiel and Skye in 2011 in a wonderful hot April,camping at Loch Tay and Tyndrum, and had a wonderful trip up to Torridon and the Fannaichs. I walked the former but not the latter. When I came back down to Glencoe, where I'd started and also walked, it felt like another place. The far north is remarkable.
Some people, even when they don’t live in Scotland, have a good a knowledge of the highlands like I do of Wales, the Lake District and Peak District. Actually I’ve been to Scotland seven times but the first two don’t count. When I was a small boy on a family holiday, and about ten years ago attending an Edinburgh University conference. It was called Understanding Creativity about which I wrote a report for my employer, Salford University.
A few of us walked the city after I’d had a sleepless night, What I remember of that visit was the car ride through low level hills south of Edinburgh. They had a soft misty light and the air had a cold peaty freshness which I'd never experienced before. I had the same impressions when I climbed Ben Lui and Ben Lawers, went for a drive across Rannoch Moor and down to the Blackmount area which leads, across mountains, over to Glen Etive. Same air, same light.
I want more of it but always plan carefully. I don’t like the idea of successive days of rain, cold, and gloom. Long distance walks with wild camping are the best but Scotland is not a good place for it compared, for example, to the Pyrenees. Midges are a bad summer problem and the weather, unless you're lucky, is predominantly bad.
I want to explore Glen Affric, the Fainnachs, return to Glen Shiel for the Forcan Ridge which I missed: a fabulous area with a high concentration of excellent hills.The train to Corrour leads to other possibilities although the freedom of a car is a joy. You explore, travel to other areas, cross vast lonely places you may not wish to walk but still want to see. It’s like having a hire car in another country. A coach trip to Aviemore and the Cairngorms is another option, although it's not an area I find especially interesting.
It's raining today in Manchester. There’s a scene in the movie Braveheart where Mel Gibson, in kilt and shirt sleeves, calls the rain “good Sco-ish weather”. He doesn’t mind getting wet and he’s not cold. Then again, he's not taking photographs and hiking with a rucksack for fun.