Hay's Way: Why am I about to spend the next six months walking around Scotland

Get in touch if you want to meet along the way as I walk around Scotland

Why am I about to set off on a walk around Scotland? To be honest, I don’t really have a straightforward answer.

Part of it is to do with getting a bit tired of reporting on stories from a desk in Edinburgh. I wanted to change my approach to gathering news and storytelling. I wanted to try doing journalism in a different way.

Setting out on foot to gather stories isn’t anything new, but in the world of AI-generated content and with home working taking more of a hold, it just felt right to do the opposite. So, when The Scotsman said it was behind me and this journey, that was it really.

Next month, I will have been in the role of rural affairs correspondent at the publication for a year. I have learned a lot from the people who I have spoken with about the big questions facing Scotland’s countryside, from wildlife to land ownership to what is driving depopulation in parts of the country. But visiting Scotland’s rural landscape, which makes up 98 per cent of the country, and the communities within it can only bring deeper understanding.

It’s easy to set off with preconceived ideas of what you want to find, what you want to report on. But the beauty of walking is that you’re leaving room for discovery. You’re going at a pace where the ideas and the stories you might not expect or may have not even thought of come to you.

As the German film director and author Werner Herzog is once reported to have said: “The world reveals itself to you when on foot.”

On a more personal note, walking has helped me through some truly difficult times. Putting one foot in front of the other assuages the anxiety when it hits hard.

A tip I learnt recently from a pilgrim who I met on a trek in Galicia was don’t set off with a thought in your head to chew over. Try your best to empty your mind either before you set off or at the beginning of your walk, then, as you go, that’s when the best thoughts come. Clarity comes.

Funnily enough, it was on that pilgrimage the idea of doing this walk around Scotland came to me.



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