Wild Camping for the First Time

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A 3-day hill expedition, provided Pablo and Lara with their first wild camping experience in the splendour of the Scottish Highlands in the midst of a rare 6 week long heatwave. "It's so green!" was an often-repeated remark looking on the new year’s growth of bracken climbing the hillsides. Although the usually vibrant coloured mosses had turned a pale colour due to being so crisped by this dry spell, the grasses were still surprisingly fresh looking. The white and lilac wild orchids and the dappling yellow of buttercups added their own spell to this spectacle.

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Hot weather made us slow down, forcing us to carry fluid on the waterless upland sections. Taking a toll on our energy, we changed our plans from a longer hike into something that was still an excellent circuit, although shorter, ensuring the experience was enjoyed rather than endured. After a stone skimming competition on a placid stretch of water that mirrored the high hills, we fell under the siesta spell as the water gurgled under a wooden bridge deep in the wilds. Revived, another section was walked, coffee and lunch taken at a wayside café then a further hike to leisurely soak in rock pools. Pitching camp early we ensured our hikes were kept short.

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The variety of scenery often brought to mind settings from Tolkein’s tales. We passed from high passes, strode along old drove routes falling into disuse and down through sun-dappled woodlands of birch and pine. Following a cascading river, we came to a lilly covered lochan with a much longer loch stretching out of sight beyond the spur of a hill. Eventually we reached the yellow brown seaweed strewn shores of a sea loch passing fjord-like inland along this much indented, mountainous coastline. The walk finished walking the pebble sands at low water at the head of Loch Carron under the haunting calls of oyster catchers. Half an hour later, the water covered all traces of our passing, giving us a sense of having taken a secret way.

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With Scotland's free access laws, you can camp in some fantastic locations with views that no amount of money at top hotels could rival. Bedding down on mosses and yielding peat was more comfortable than Pablo and Lara expected. Midges are a pest at this time of year, but by camping up high on exposed hill ridges or on passes, ensured we made the most of what breeze was blowing, keeping the majority at bay. We carefully tended a small fire on top of a rock one evening to smoke away the insects as we ate and watched the light mellow out west, casting the many hill ridges into deepening grey silhouettes. The vast horizons of hill ridge upon ridge set against a backdrop of the sea and islands of the Hebrides, without signs of human presence, left a lasting impression that delved deep into the core of the soul, leaving a state of euphoria that trailed on into the coming days.

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martin haworth