What was your experience – tell us about the fun bits, the challenges?
I had an incredible experience. Journeying under your own power from home to somewhere completely different is something that’s always captured my imagination. Getting the train back home to the Lake District, I realised just how far I went – all the way from the Lake District to Ullapool!
The most fun bits were just meeting all the people along the way – ones who came to ride with me – friends, family, complete strangers – and those who just wanted to help in some way, like ferrying me to Knoydart or buying me a chippy.
If you enjoy cycling, I recommend riding in the Corrour Estate. It really is a great experience, and the venison burgers at the train station are amazing.
The ride itself was generally challenging (as is eating that much for a week!), but I think the weather in the final two days were what really made it tough. I think I got quite cold on the section between Kinlochewe and Ullapool, and that meant I came down with something.
In the end, I stopped at Ullapool because I wanted to enjoy that section for what it deserves, rather than grimacing and pushing through. I want to respect wild places and enjoy them to the fullest, not just stare at the tarmac or gravel!
What was the highlight?
Day five saw me cycle along the Great Glen to Invergarry, along Glen Garry to Kinloch Hourn, jump on a boat to Knoydart and then to Arnisdale, before cycling to Glenelg to catch the ferry to Skye. I then finished with a camp at the foot of Bla Bheinn.
That day was just incredible. The landscape changed so much! I saw my first pine marten, I had great conversations with people, and there were no midges at Bla Bheinn – result!
The most interesting part, though, was getting the boat from Kinloch Hourn to Knoydart and back to Arnisdale. I got to see the effects of reduced grazing inside the exclusion fence, and the difference is incredible compared with outside. Just shows how much deer impact the landscape.
Did you learn anything/have any revelations about nature, others, yourself, anything?
In myself, I learned that you can go a lot further than you think you can. I was pleasantly surprised at how well I recovered and how, even though your bum hurts for the first 10 minutes of the ride, I could still get up and go every day and feel pretty good.
I also just saw how heavily influenced our wild places are by people. Peter, who took me across to Knoydart, spoke of how the mussel population in Loch Hourn has diminished following the expansion of the nearby fish farm. Five years ago, mussels lined the rocks on the shore – now they are gone.
However, I met so many people working so hard to protect these places (like Peter), and others who connect with nature for many different reasons, such as the wellbeing aspect and meeting other likeminded people.
What would you say to others who are thinking about doing it?
Doing a Journey for Wildness isn’t just about raising money for the Trust – though, that helps the Trust care for wild places immensely! What I did alongside fundraising was raising awareness of the value of wild places and the people who care for them.
It got a lot of buzz online, and I think people can do something quite clever to make an engaging story.
Do you have thoughts for what you’ll do next time?
Well, I need to finish this challenge, so will return to Ullapool to finish the final section to Sandwood Bay. I do have an eye on a Bob Graham Round later this year (like Joe and Magnus on their Journey for Wildness), which people try to run in under 24-hours. There are lots of other things that I like to imagine, too!