Walking to Cape Wrath, Day 9 May 19, 2022
I usually try to keep up with the local football teams when I visit a country or city. The other day in Peebles, I sat in a pub watching Celtic win a game and be awarded the Scottish Premier League championship trophy, then watched Liverpool win the FA cup over Chelsea in PKs, all in one afternoon. Yesterday in Kilsyth, I noticed some people walking about town draped in a flag, but given my sore feet, I was focused on getting plasters, etc. and neglected to check what was up. Later in the night I heard what was clearly a fan-base ruckus, and out of my hotel window saw red and blue smoke bombs deployed. It wasn’t until today, on stopping by the Hotel Artto to drop my bag, did I learn that Rangers had made it to the Europa league final, only to lose to Frankfurt in penalties. Now, here in Glasgow the afternoon after the game, tables of fans sitting in the sun on sidewalks by pubs occasionally erupt in chants, cheers, and table thumping.
The morning walk out was uneventful but the weather was beautiful. A good breakfast at the Kilmyths “Coachman” and I was down the road, soon gaining the canal path for a last day’s flat hike. The early hours on the canal are good for some solitude (only the occasional jogger), so the birds, particularly the waterfowl, are not yet disturbed. Yesterday’s swans were definitely one-upped by today’s. A pair were feeding in the canal and, on my approach, took to the air, or at least got off the surface briefly. The wings beat hard and they each push at the water with both webbed feet in unison, trying to propel themselves in the air. Then they were airborne, wing muscles powerful beneath all those feathers, they flew briefly, landing in the next widened part of the canal where, from my vantage point, they touched beaks, making the familiar double swan-necked heart image seen on countless Hallmark cards. Then the male proceeded forward while the female gathered from the rushes half-dozen cygnets who paddled behind her, making their way slowly upstream.
Thankfully today marks the end of the canal section of the trek (note: anyone considering the Scottish National Trail should arrange to bicycle that section). Tomorrow begins a whole new phase, heading into the Trossachs, an area I’ve visited before (Walter Scott land), and then on to the Cairngorms. So today I took the train to city centre Glasgow, wandered a bit, took care of some minor resupply, and rested my sore feet.
T. Hugh Crawford