Particularly applicable on a day of bad weather, the hardest part of any walk is that first step over the threshold or, if away from home, that opening of the car door. Once outside, it would be embarrassing to be seen doing a quick U-turn. The second hardest part is the decision of where to walk; a problem made more difficult if part of a small indecisive group. The usual local walk, an easy fall back, lacks any sense of exploration. Venturing further afield requires planning but motivation comes from having a fixed destination, ideally into unknown territory.
Having written a walking column every Saturday in The Scotsman for over 15 years – some 750 walks –motivation was never an issue. The call of the publication timetable and the joy in exploring new areas were quite sufficient. Scotland may be a small country yet there are still some parts, glens to coasts, I have yet to visit. Ideas for walks came from prior knowledge, suggestions from friends, research or news items. Poring over maps (more interesting than reading books?) often led to a new walk.
As for planning, the only consideration was to vary the locations of the walks and to ensure that any difficulty was not inappropriate for the time of year. Munros were generally put on hold during winter months.
However, writing a book based on The Scotsman walks is quite another matter. Different challenges arise. Every effort has to be made to ensure that information is brought up to date. It is surprising how much can change within a few months to paths and forestation and especially to places of refreshment.
Then there is the matter of publication and a whole new world of complexity.
I was lucky in that my first book, 100 Scotsman Walks, published in 2001 and still available at book shops, found a publisher in Whittles Publishing Ltd. Keith Whittles and his staff were most helpful and patient in guiding this tyro through all the complexities.
Bringing to an end my Scotsman chapter, Another 100 Scotsman Walks was published this year by MKRY Publishing, an independent family venture now with a stable of three books. Now this was a culture shock, more challenging than finding and doing new walks; a step out of the front door into thick mist and having to learn a new language.
Previously referred to demeaningly as vanity publishing, independent publishing has grown in recent years and is perhaps best known to the general public due to the success of Fifty Shades of Grey.
Publishing my second book was only possible with the considerable help of Kim and Sinclair Macleod of Indie Authors World (I have tried their patience) and the understanding support of my wife, Margaret, who started the ball rolling a few years earlier.
Another 100 Scotsman Walks covers the most recent five years; a collection of mostly shorter and easier walks. Whilst my enthusiasm relates more to the high tops such as Munros, the pragmatic book author has to recognise his market. Some readers are happy to read about walks, but not to do them, and the majority are more interested in low level walks.
The other challenge was what walks to include. The original list of 150 had to be pruned, partly settled by the need to provide a sensible distribution across Scotland, but a painful exercise for all that. Nevertheless there were some walks that for personal reasons just had to be included such as using the Borders Railway to Tweedbank, then walking by Abbotsford and Melrose, and closer to home, the River Almond Walkway.
I am frequently asked what my favourite parts of Scotland are. For the high tops that is easy to answer - Fisherfield, Skye and the far north-west. For easier walks that would be rural Perthshire and, yet again, the far north-west.
In a top ten of favourite walks the north-west would predominate.
• Argyll & Bute The Crinan Canal
• Inverclyde The Greenock Cut
• Perth & Kinross, The Fungarth Walk, Dunkeld;
• Loch Leven Heritage Trail
• Highlands, Craig Bothy from Torridon;
• Round the back of Liathach
• Islands The Viking Canal, Skye;
• Raasay Iron Mine and Dun Caan;
• Loch Coruisk to Sligachan, Skye;
• St Kilda
That list of course is very subjective, but here’s a thought – why not make your own list or even better expand your walks into a book, possibly just for circulation amongst your family and friends? Kim and Sinclair Macleod of Indie Authors World would be pleased to help. n
• Another 100 Scotsman Walks by Robin Howie is published by MKRY Publishing at £14.99, available at www.amazon.com