Goatfell Peak by silhouette from Brodick Bay.
A view of Brodick Bay from the stony trail up to Goatfell Peak.
Goatfell summit looking across at Cir Mhor or the “Great Comb.” (Properly pronounced here.)
Blasted by a piercing wind, jacket and pants inflated and puffy, we admire a wee wrinkle of hills.
“Take a wrinkle of hills, add a shower of rain. Blast regularly with a piercing wind, cover now and again with a soft blanket of snow. Thaw, melt, wave sunlight weakly for an hour or two, and start all over again and you have hillwalking in Scotland.”
-Scottish Mountaineering Club
Micah and Chloe, center-frame, walking downhill on the hillwalk down from Goatfell Peak. Micah is the frontman for the popular band, Iration.
1.) A humorously understated Scottish phrase meaning, to most ordinary people, a death march.
Hillwalking should not be confused with what many Americans refer to as hiking or what in practice often means for a Yank a short stroll through a forest along a gentle meandering path.
Hiking? That? Bah. Yer aff yer heid, ye eejit. That’s no’ a real hillwalk! (You’re out of your mind, you idiot. That’s not a real hike!)
Looking over the course of the trail from just below Goatfell Summit. The trail weaves through the boulders and on along the ridgeline, up the lesser peaks and down into the saddles between. Then down to a final saddle at the foot of Cir Mhor before dropping into the top of Glen Rosa.
A view of Glen Rosa below.
“Stephen and Adrian keep calling it ‘the hill,’ but that ain’t no hill I’ve ever seen. It’s a behemoth, an endless range of behemoths, one mountain giving way to a moor, giving way to another mountain, then more, then more.
There might be a hill somewhere in there but it’s probably between mountains after a five-mile up-hill walk.
It’s a daunting hike. The climb gradual, then steep. The footing ranging from rocky to spongy and wet mile after mile. Me, trying to look cool, make it seem like this is nothing unusual, but really I’m dying.
-Anthony Bourdain on hillwalking in Scotland, “Parts Unknown: Glasgow” (CNN)
My uncle once remarked dismissively about how most people seem to think hiking means an easy walk along a well-trod, wide-open canyon trail. “That ain’t hiking,” he insisted with the wave of a hand missing half an index finger.
In his opinion hiking is necessarily strenuous and should even many times involve a fair ration of bushwhacking, a key element in any real hike.
“How was Cuba,” I asked him a few months ago after he had just returned from a trip. “It’s still there,” he replied. He might appreciate the Scottish take on hiking, see some humor in it as I do.
In Scotland a day spent trudging over ten miles, slogging and scrambling up and over and down a craggy granite summit, is just a walk over a hill, lad. That’s no’ a hike, ye eejit!
Wikipedia claims hikes over mountains in Scotland are called hillwalking “especially when they include climbing a summit.” Summiting a peak, a mere walk up a hill.
Having descended from Goatfell to the bottomlands of Glen Rosa with trout in the stream.
How fitting that an understated language as such comes from a region of historically ruthless and rugged people. As Bourdain notes in the aforementioned episode:
“Until the 19th century, the Scottish Highlands were seen by many as a mysterious, hostile and dangerous land, populated, when populated at all, by scary ass barbarians, descendants of the terrifying Picts, tribes so ferocious, so extravagant in their violence and toughness, that even the Roman legions decided not to mess with them, and instead built a wall, hoping to keep them out and away from civilized society.”
Now that I’ve blown way out of proportion a difference between American and British parlance, made a mountain out of a molehill, let us move on.