No matter where I live, the North will always be my home. It’s woefully misunderstood by (a large number of) southerners, who take one look at faded seaside resorts like Blackpool and subsequently tar everywhere north of the M25 with the same brush, but for me, it feels like home in a way the south never will.
Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield is the UK’s oldest National Park: the Peak District. It’s a bit short on peaks (unless you class a plateau at 600-odd metres above sea level as a peak), but fortunately it more than compensates for that with its picture-perfect villages, adorable furry residents and heather-covered moorland.
Given the West Highland Way finishes in Fort William, it’d be rude not to climb ‘the Ben’ whilst in the area – or that was our thinking, at any rate. Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level (a dwarf compared to many peaks in Europe, but a giant by British standards), Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the UK – and the only one of the Three Peaks we hadn’t yet summited.
Sitting on the shore of Loch Linnhe, Fort William (or An Gearasdan, “The Garrison”, in Scottish Gaelic) is a picturesque town and tourist hub in the Scottish Highlands. Much like Betws-y-Coed in Wales, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Whatever you fancy doing – whether it’s bagging a few Munros (more on Ben Nevis in the next post), trying your hand at sea kayaking or hitting the trails on a mountain bike – you can do it in Fort William. If you just fancy meandering round the town, that’s fine too. We spent a couple of days unwinding in Fort William at the end of our trip to Scotland, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone wanting a taste of the Highlands.
If there’s one teensy, tiny silver lining to the big, black cloud that is delayed trains, it’s more reading time. I’ve read some truly cracking books over the past three months, and inevitably not all of them could be included in this post. As such, honourable mentions go to: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (an immensely enjoyable read and a worthy winner of the Pulitzer), Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (the definition of a literary masterpiece) and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (a truly heart-warming and hilarious page-turner).
Six months have passed since my first update on life ‘Down South’, and that means only one thing: it’s time for the second. I’m putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – a little later than usual this weekend, as it’s been all go chez moi. Open House London took place this weekend, and Laurence and I decided to make a day of it. We took a rooftop tour around King’s Cross (the area, not the station), whizzed up to Landing Forty-Two at the Leadenhall Building (à la the final five in The Apprentice), learnt about arms smuggling at Custom House, ventured underground to see Billingsgate Roman Baths and visited the opulent Clothworkers’ Hall. I also took up running earlier this year (primarily as a means of getting in shape ahead of the West Highland Way), and spent this morning running round Jesus Green in the rain doing the Decathlon Sports Series 5k.
The West Highland Way only came onto my radar earlier this year, and when we began plotting a budget break for the summer, it sprang to mind as a suitable option. Scotland’s first long-distance footpath traverses through some seriously scenic countryside, and if you’re planning on walking it, these top tips should come in handy!