“But how can words express the feel of sunlight in the morning; in the hills, away from city strife? I need a country woman for my wife – I’m city born, but I love the country life…” ~Don Maclean
He’s captured it perfectly for me.
When I was back in for two weeks Scotland I did my ISACS Chemistry conference, relaxed in Edinburgh and then headed up to the Scottish Highlands for 4 days of hiking and camping.
In the 3rd year of my secondary school education at Madras College I signed up for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme – an incredibly valuable program of that encourages volunteering, citizenship, teamwork, extra-curricular activities and appreciation of the great outdoors in young people. I got my Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards in efficient succession. Then, by the time I was in my 6th and final year I was already assisting with the Award expeditions. This assistance on 1 or 2 expeditions per year has continued for the past 5 years after I left Madras College, passed through university and adventured abroad.
I believe that the DoE is a brilliant initiative for young people to be involved in. And because I believe that I continue to volunteer with it. For health & safety reasons, there needs to be female supervisors out on the hills with any female groups – amongst the Madras teaching staff there are few women willing to do this. As such, I know my inherent value is high.
This expedition was composed of two Gold groups hiking around the furthest north-west of Scotland, starting out from Torridon. This has to be one of the most beautiful and isolated parts of the country.
On the first day the supervisors only needed to check in with the groups at midday and in the evening. Three of us decided to hike up some of the nearby Munros while we waited – given the weather it would have been a shame not to.
The Alps may be higher, there may be more mountains concentrated in Upstate New York. Yet neither of these match the fierce ruggedness of the Highlands. There are no marked footpaths or designated routes (“follow the coloured markers”) up here: it’s you and your map and an imprint in the grass. And the imprint in the grass is optional: in Scotland we have “right to roam” laws, allowing us to go off the footpaths as we so wish.
It is on trips like these that I consider myself proudest to be Scottish.