Cross- country fun
Mark Fisher begins the trek from Perth to Fort William on bicycle, foot andcanoe.
Travelling in Scotland. you will
invariably meet someone who knows :
Norman Chalmers. The List‘s multi-instrumentalist folk editor has
the uncanny gift of being everywhere ;
and nowhere at the same time. I mention this because you might find it a useful conversation opener on your own countryside excursions. Try. ‘Do you know Norman Chalmers'." and see what happens. On Transcotland‘s coast-to-coast trek I met at least two people who knew Norman Chalmers. I say ‘at least‘. because it didn‘t occur to me to check with the three Germans. the otherjournalist. the woman with the photographic memory. or the couple who ran their own electronic systems company who were also on the trip.‘ Perhaps that was my loss. But there‘s plenty else to chat about on this kind ofventure. It‘s a sociable holiday made especially interesting by the fact that you don‘t meet your fellow travellers until you arrive in Perth. kitted out in waterproofs and walking boots. yet by the end ofthe week you‘ll know them intimately. ()ne ofeight routes currently being run by 'l‘ranscotland. the ‘(‘oast to (‘oast~ expedition takes a group of up to ten people by foot. bicycle and canoe from Perth to Fort William via the 3553ft Schiehallion mountain and the lZl’j-mile post-glacial stretch of Rannoch Moor. If that sounds daunting. it needn‘t be. (.‘ertainly on the strength ofthe first two days. in which we made it to Aberfeldy. the going is active. but
a, .9000... . 'W/I/l/Aﬁ
Meg and Chris Garner
85 The List 28June— l 1 July 1991
of Ben Nevis. But none of your Boy Scout masochism here: each activity is done in an uncompetitive. take-it-or-leave-it spirit. always leaving you free to set your owin pace. And it‘s not all work either. It‘ll be a long time before I forget the 7 lilting harmonies of the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir as they ﬂexed their vocal cords. with a little promoting from Chris Garner. over a post-rehearsal pint in their local. And I was sorry to miss the slide show given by group leader Brian - Wilson. based on his solo canoe trips ' around Scotland and Ireland during which he was caught by pirates. seen i naked by royalty and befriended by a dolphin.
Although we sampled the holiday for only two days. the intensity and
o... 1 h “3‘ 93:4“
The Transcotland minibus complete with bikes and canoe
gentle. Group leaders Chris and Meg l Garner set the tone from the start: I it‘s relaxed. far from competitive and geared to your own pace. I The great liberating feature of the holiday is the Transcotland minibus. Forget the heavy backpacks or the necessity to retrace your footsteps before dark. just set offin the specified direction and sooner or
view on all sides. is gently paced and conveniently downhill for much of ' the way. Ten miles on and you‘re trailing the group who chose to walk. and again you have the option to l follow on foot or. as we did. take to ' water in the canoe for a placid row downstream to Dunkeld.
Likewise. the options are open for the rest ofthe week. A breakfast
‘ variety ofexperience made it seem
i like we‘d been away for much
3 longer. In its combination ofphysical 3 challenge. group spirit and removal
‘ ofday-to-day hassles. Transcotland
later you‘ll meet up with the minibus complete with lunchtime
': sandwiches. changes ofclothes. a
trailerful of mountain bikes and a three-person canoe. It‘s there to drive you round the few less-than-riveting or impassable sections ofcountrysidc. to speed you to the local distillery before closing time. and generally to smooth over the problems that nature tends to throw at you. Another thing you don‘t need to think about is accommodation. The route is mapped around a series of tried and tested guest houses. providing breakfast and evening meal. and all included in the price of the holiday. Part ofthe appeal ofthis. the
company‘s most popular route. is the :
psychological challenge oftravelling the full width of the country under your own steam. For Americans. used to a 3()(l(l-mile Atlantic to Pacific leap. this has a particular attraction. One woman reputedly struggled her way across Rannoch Moor. ready to give in at any moment. but returned to the States to write such a glowing report of her achievements in the local press. that
' several Californians signed up
straight away. Their visit was reciprocated when Duncan. one of the tour guides. flew over to the USA for six months. The holiday initiates these chains ofevents. as the group coheres in the face of the journey ahead. striking up friendships in the process.
The group leaders are remarkably responsive to the whims of their charges. As soon as the first riverside walk - a relaxed getting-to-know- you amble along the Tay — is completed. you‘re given the choice to continue on foot (after a short drive) over Birnam Ilill or to take to the mountain bikes on a longer route. The bikes are well-maintained. sturdy. five-gear affairs with adjustable saddles to accommodate all sizes. The first run. along country roads and footpaths. pheasants and rabbits darting out of
. swim at Aberfeldy. rock climbing at
l creates the ideal environment to dip
Kinloch Rannoch. crossing Rannoch painlessly. but invigoratingly into
Moor by canal or a pre-dawn ascent
I The ‘Coast to Coast' holiday takes place about six times a year. departing Perth on a Sunday morning and reaching Fort William the following Friday night. They leave Perth to coincide with the arrival of buses from Edinburgh.
What to Take
I The atmosphere is informal so there is no need to bring special clothes for dinner. but the weather is unpredictable. so waterproots. spare sweaters and socks are advisable. Walking shoes forlow level rambles or hiking boots torthe more demandingtrips will be well complemented by comfortable shoes such as trainers. Space restrictions
Iimityou to one item of luggage plus a small day sack.
I Holidays are continually developed by Transcotland. but there are eight on offer for 1991 including ‘Coastto Coast‘. ‘Western Isles' explores Mull and nearby islands by toot. bicycle and
boat. with a keen eye open j tor bird life and wild
flowers. ‘Glen Aftric’ isa slightly shorter coast to
. coast trip mainly on foot through what many consider
the most beautiful glen in Scoland. ‘Fringe otGold’ lets you explore the fishing villages of the East Coast with an average of just three hours walking each day. ‘West Highland Trail' makes use of the West Highland Rover train ticket to get you up Ben Nevis and onto Loch Lomond. ‘Highland Bambles‘ serves as an introduction to
Highland walking with options to cycle and canoe. ‘Tweed Journey‘ takes you the 97 miles from source to sea. taking in sheep dogs. prehistoric sites and downstream canoeing. ‘Highland Heights' is aimed at fit and regularwalkers readyto cope with the climbs and high levels of Glencoe.
Trips cost £325 except ‘Fringe of Gold' and ‘Glen Aftric’ (both £245). This is an inclusive cost. covering
food. accommodation and
equipment. Write for details to Transcotland. 216 Newhaven Road. Edinburgh EH6 40E.031552 8360.
Other Activity Hoﬁdays
I Scottish Activity Holidays promotes sixteen holiday organisations offering a broad range of activities. Details available from Kim
; Forsyth on 05733 216.