How cutting corners on Hay's Way went so wrong

Katharine Hay writes about the travails of restarting her journey on foot around Scotland

‘More haste, less speed’ was the sort of proverb uttered by someone you looked up to as a child when you embarked on a task.

To this day, I hear it echoing in my mind when I want to cut corners. And still, to this day, I ignore it.

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After a break from Hay’s Way while passing through Edinburgh, my friend Kathleen came to join me for a few days. We walked out the front door to my flat together and headed north west along the coast.

A little pressed for time after leaving later than planned, we decided to take a shortcut to the Forth Road Bridge. Rather than heading up stream to an official crossing over the River Almond, which meets the sea at Cramond where we were, and which would have taken about an hour, we chose to cross the estuary. Feeling a little peckish, I bought an ice cream from a food van we passed on our way down to the water.

Taking it in turns to steady one another, we removed our boots and socks, laughing at ‘more haste, less speed’ and how maybe we should pay more attention to it. The laughing suddenly stopped as we clumsily navigated the jagged rocks hidden under the fast-flowing water bare foot. Making it to the other side of the river wasn’t much better either as we got stuck in the thick sediment and slipped on slimy seaweed. In hindsight, our ‘shortcut’ took longer.

Getting stuck in the sediment before finally reaching the coastal path behind the beach Getting stuck in the sediment before finally reaching the coastal path behind the beach
Getting stuck in the sediment before finally reaching the coastal path behind the beach | Katharine Hay

With the path in sight beyond the estuary, we were nearly back on track. But the relief was fleeting after I was hit by a wave of nausea. I knew it was the ice cream. The thought of it alone made me freeze on the spot. I was caught short, and panicked I was in full view of walkers going about their day visiting Cramond Island. I squatted, praying that the bolder next to me was big enough to order some modesty in the expanse of this unsheltered, wide open plain as I sunk slowly into the sediment. It was a low point, but having a friend with me turned the humiliating and frankly crap situation into something marginally comical.

Kathleen is the first friend to walk with me on Hay’s Way, and it made me realise how having a friend there enables us to laugh off life’s mishaps.

Another one happened the following night when, somehow, we had managed to lock ourselves out of a hotel room in Kinross. The bedroom door wouldn’t shut properly, so we pulled it to with a bit of force (cutting corners again).

Following a bite to eat and ready for bed after a long day’s walk while I was recovering from the rip-off Mr Whippy, we found the lock wouldn’t budge.

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The hotel owners asked us to wait in the bar as they battled the jammed door for about 45 minutes. Finally one of them came down, armed with a fish slice, and said the lock snib had slipped, locking the door from the inside and forcing them to be inventive. They had tried to call the local locksmith, but he’d had too much to drink to come out.

And so Hay’s Way continues, but this time with more haste, less speed.

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