THE Proclaimers famously chanted their willingness to walk 1,000 miles just to fall down at their beloved’s door.
But two retired Scottish bankers have already marched twice as far – and though they may have stumbled and limped a bit, they remain upright.
We got chased by a bull on one occasion in Caithness
Kenny Sword and Norman Turner set out on “a typical dreich and misty Scottish morning” more than six years ago to embark on the challenge of a lifetime: to walk all the way around Scotland’s rugged mainland coastline.
When they arrive in a west coast village on Wednesday after completing the final leg of their epic journey, they will have clocked up a total of 2,070 miles over 128 days and worn out ten pairs of hiking boots.
Their endeavours have seen them scrambling up cliffs, hacking through brambles and nettles, tramping over peat bogs and wading across rivers, all fuelled by “banter, laughs and wee swallies” along the way.
The pair, who have previously completed long walking trails including the Speyside Way, the Cateran Trail and the Great Glen Way, said they were “hell-bent” on proving they were fit enough for the endurance challenge.
A side activity – and labour of love – has been rating the hostelries and beverages they have sampled on their travels.
Turner, 66, Sword, 62, and regular “third man” Stewart Coutts, 67, said the trek has given them a completely new perspective on their homeland and made them feel more connected to it.
Turner said: “We were going round areas we had never been before, and we can say that almost every part of Scotland has something going for it: the scenery, the people. You can find enjoyment everywhere.”
Not forgetting the trove of local whiskies they discovered wherever they roamed.
But as they prepared for the remaining 23-mile stretch, they admitted the task they set themselves had not been as simple as they first thought. Some places proved virtually inaccessible.
Sword said: “People think there is a magic path that goes all the way round Scotland, but that is not the case. It is not as straightforward as it sounds.”
And there have been a few hairy moments.
“We got chased by a bull on one occasion, in Caithness,” he said. “I just shouted, ‘Norman, run.’ We legged it and had to jump over a five-bar gate to escape.”
Another time, while walking in Dumfries and Galloway, Turner had a sticky moment while crossing mudflats on the Solway Firth.
“We could see he was sinking deeper and deeper, and the mud was getting thicker and more gluey. So we told him to chuck us his car keys and wallet – just in case he vanished into the mire.”
They have walked in most weathers, only twice having to postpone expeditions because of particularly extreme conditions. Turner said: “On the walk from Cullen to Portknockie the heavens were black and sharp forks of lightning were stabbing down.
“We more or less ran that bit.”
They have lost count of the beers, drams and fish suppers they have consumed on the trail, but are looking forward to a slap-up meal and raising a few glasses at their final port of call in Arisaig.
Sword said he expects to feel a mixture of satisfaction, achievement and pride at crossing the finish line.
He added: “We would like to think we could inspire others: it’s out there, just go and do it.”