Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 4 May 14, 2022
In hiker’s parlance, a zero day is a rest day— walking zero miles (or kilometers). A Nero is short for “nearly zero.” After the last three long days, today was pretty close to a Nero— officially only 12 km. Of course since I was in Innerleithen, the actual trail was already a few km away, and because I got (sort of) lost, it might not qualify as a true Nero. Still, the whole point was to rest my weary bones.
I’d thought I’d have a quiet cup of coffee before setting off, but time in the northern latitudes wakes sleepers early, so I was ready to walk long before the cafes opened. Trusting my usual luck though, I passed a wonderful bakery which supplied me with a sausage pastry and coffee. Hiker’s tip— a meat pie is always preferable, but while walking, a sausage pastry can be held in one hand with no chin gravy. With the streets empty, I made my way out of town, heading back toward Traquair, finding a short cut to the Traquair house, part of which was originally built by 1107 and is the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland. I was there long before the doors opened but was able to wander a bit in the silence. An impressive place.
Unlike the last few days which have been on well-established old tracks—the St. Cuthbert and South Upland Ways— today required point to point navigation with little to no signage (which accounts for a number of missteps). Fortunately the destination was always clear— due west along the River Tweed to Peebles. I guess to provide some variety, the path-makers decided to take me up a ridge above the river through an old forest, past on old slate works (a geology lesson in itself) where I flushed a deer (reminded me of home). The tough part came when the path markers gave out. I think Storm Arwen has forced a rerouting of a number of paths, and while some were probably re-signed immediately, others (like the one I was following) drifted off the map. By mid-morning I found myself on a well-made forest road that, according to my navigation software, was not where I was supposed to be. Fortunately I knew the river was down the ridge and there was likely a road there (hopefully on my side). I proceeded cross-country scrambling over down trees to gain a road that soon became my route. Never was a crisis, but was cause for some excitement in what was supposed to be a calm stroll to Peebles.
I was curious about a sign on a broken down fence I encountered in my perambulations: “Private Shoot.” I’ve been reading Nick Hayes’s Book of Trespass which tells stories of hunts on private land, so it was interesting to think my disorientation was somehow linked to some upper-class pleasure. My pleasure was gaining the paved bicycle path in Cardrona, then following it to city center in Peebles—a lively town full of Saturday wanderers enjoying the sunshine. I found myself in a Costa, sipping coffee looking out the window with the sun shining and people walking about. I felt I needed to get out there to walk around, then I remembered that’s all I’ve been doing the last 3 1/2 days. Spent the latter part of the afternoon in the Crown Hotel Pub watching Celtic take the trophy of the Scottish Premier league(and listening to drunken Scots argue over nothing). A day well spent.
T. Hugh Crawford