It is a gruelling journey over tumultuous seas and rugged landscapes that enthralled readers of Robert Louis Stevenson. Some 130 years after publication of his acclaimed adventure Kidnapped, two modern day pioneers will retrace the steps of David Balfour and Jacobite adventurer Alan Breck Stewart.
In what has been billed as the first ever re-enactment of Stevenson’s celebrated work, two men are hoping to raise funds for a host of charities by sailing north to the Inner Hebrides before returning toEdinburgh on foot.
Alan Rankin and Willie Gibson will set off next month on a quest that will span 500 miles around Scotland’s coastline and a 260 mile trek, almost exactly mirroring the odyssey taken by the teenage protagonist in Stevenson’s 1886 novel.
From South Queensferry, where Balfour is kidnapped by his uncle aboard a brig, the two men will venture north to Orkney, passing Cape Wrath and then the outside of Skye before landing on the rocky island of Erraid near Mull, where Balfour is washed ashore after a shipwreck.
They will then don their boots to hike and run the 260 miles back to Edinburgh, an overland route that crosses Morvern, Appin, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and the Trossachs before returning over the Forth to South Queensferry and on to Edinburgh, where Stevenson’s story concludes.
In all, the pair hope to complete the journey in less than three weeks and raise money for Parkinson’s UK, Ocean Youth Trust Scotland and Stevenson Adventures.
Given the nautical leg of their journey will take their yacht, Trade Winds, into busy shipping areas and tidal headlands, they will be joined by Richard Marshal, an experienced sailor.
“We plan to follow as close as possible to the route described in the book,” said Mr Rankin, a former Scottish decathlon champion. “However, unlike the story, there will be no real-life kidnapping and, hopefully, no shipwreck either.
“We hope to complete the whole trip in under 18 days. Heading off in late May offers us long daylight hours for the sailing leg and hopefully we will be finished the trek before the midges are out in force.”
Even so, the hard work will not stop once both men are on dry land, according to Mr Gibson, an experienced mountain marathon competitor who has planned the landward route, which takes in the Stevenson Way, a wilderness trail based on the writer’s descriptions in Kidnapped which covers the mountains around Loch Ericht, Loch Voil and Balquhidder.
Although it sold well during his lifetime, Stevenson’s novel came to be regarded as a simplistic text suited to young boys. Nowadays it is critically acclaimed and viewed as one of his best works. Weather permitting, Mr Rankin and Mr Gibson plan to set off on 22 May. Nine companies are supporting their expedition but they are appealing for further sponsors and patrons to come on board.