Make tracks while the sun shines

The train journey through the Highlands to lnverness isn’t as impressive as you’d think. You get a few grand mountains, a couple of shaggy cows and some grass, which is all very nice, but hardly sensational. Luckily, things perk up when you actually get there. lnverness is the starting point of the newly opened Great Glen Way, a route that follows canals and lochs along the base of the Great Glen, looping through the foothills while avoiding any backbreaking ascents.

Once you get past the obvious drawbacks (midges, lack of brightly lit shopping centres and burger joints), the walk is hugely entertaining, offering fairly easy walking and numerous vehicle access points - plus a parallel cycle route. And while the views are less spectacular than those you get from the towering ridges, the fact that you’re less likely to be wrestling with thick gorse, rock- strewn slopes and diabolical weather means that you can appreciate what surrounds you, instead of having to keep your head down and your legs on autopilot.

The other end of the route is Fort William, with its strange mix of awesome scenery and ugly estates. As you wander, you encounter the brooding Loch Ness and villages with pleasant (if not exactly cheap) accommodation on offer.

If venturing too far from home is a problem, the Fife Coastal Path may be a

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better option - it also goes past more pubs and fish ‘n’ chip shops. Although the path currently ends in Crail, when completed it will extend from the Forth Bridges to beyond the Tay Bridge. It’s shockingly easy to miss the things that lie on your own doorstep, so it’s great as an Edinburgh resident to see the Forth from the other side. Once you get past the suburban sprawl of Kirkcaldy, the picturesque harbours of St Monans, Anstruther and Pittenweem await (currently only Pittenweem is used for major hauls), before the Path meanders its way past the golfing fanatics and tourists that populate St Andrews. Perhaps the most fascinating part of the trail is the section by East Wemyss, where the caves contain a vast array of Pictish carvings whose magic, despite vandalism both ancient and modern, remains fully intact.

They may be a hundred miles apart, but the Fife Coastal Trail and the Great Glen Way share the advantage of accessibility. Making nature easy to appreciate is one of the thornier issues environmentalists find themselves presented with: they want people to be able to see the wilderness, without encouraging them to trample over it. Merely breathing over the ancient carvings of East Wemyss speeds their eventual destruction, meaning they may one day only exist in textbooks. But closing the caves off means people will only see them in those same books. It’s worth making tracks while the sun shines. (James Smart)

St Monans

Excess baggage

Festivals, flights and fabulous fares

I FESTIVAL MADNESS is upon us and everyone's getting in on the action. So if you fancy a bit of a culture injection away from home, get booking and check out the Sidmouth International Festival (2—9 August) in Devon.

Expect a full programme


arena shows and world-

of—dance performances. What's more. the good-

hearted organisers have

even extended the range of family packages, making the whole holiday more

affordable for those with

little'uns. Check out

wwwsidmouthfestivaloom. I NEXT UP WHY NOT go for a short break to Finland and take in the delights of the Tampere Theatre Festival (6-11 August)? This year’s fest includes adaptations of theatre classics by young Baltic directors. See theatre/ for more info. I IF YOU WANT TO BE really organised. the Belfast Festival at Queen's (25 Oct—1 0 November) is worth a look. Check out www.belfastfestival.com for details. Look out for a preview of the Dublin Festival next issue.



nights are creeping in and the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board has plans aplenty to help you shake off those cobwebs. If you were understandably inspired by our Great Glen Way article why not check out w. walkingwild.com for a whole range of midsummer walks?

I BIG BROTHER followers beware STA is still trying to lure you to foreign climes with its ‘Escape Big Brother' campaign. See www.statravel.co.uk for some great offers. We were particularly excited by the European Breaks. For a bargainous £124pp why not head to gay Paris with flights and accommodation included in the price there'll be plenty left over for a small tipple on the Champs Elysee. I FINALLY, DO YOUR bit for charity. The Meningitis Research Foundafionin Scotland is looking for big hearted and enthusiastic people to take part in this year’s Munro Madness (3—5 August). Climb your favourite Munro and make money for charity at the same time. For a free Information Pack call 0131 228 3322, or email HattieChubb @scotland- meneingitis. org.uk



Travels with the Flea (The In Pinn £12.95) .00

Those familiar with Jim Perrin are unlikely to be surprised by this rather odd collection. His work with the Telegraph, Climber and T60 have him accepted as one of the finest outdoor writers around.

In Travels with the Flea he turns his hand to travel writing as he moves between Kazakhstan and Cuba, the Himalaya and the High Arctic. There is no consistent tone to Perrin’s work: sometimes he seems irritated, at others he is utterly captivated.

Don't be put off by Perrin’s pretentious nature. While initially overbearing it lends itself well to his descriptions of downtown Hungary and whale- watching at Tadoussac. Often esoteric, the images he describes are skillfully interspersed with discussions and quotations that range from Bob Dylan to WB Yeats and Hazlitt to Susan Sontag.

Not so much enjoyable as intriguing. (Anna Millar)

AVA-l8 Jul 2002 THE LIST 125