Life in Lockdown

Monday 16th March: I was collecting a group from Glasgow train station for some snowy fun in The Trossachs and Glen Coe areas of Scotland. At this point we were aware of the C-word and that it had made its way to our shores. However, the “stay indoors” guidance had yet to be issued, so off to the hills we went.

Thursday 19th March: Things were beginning to get a bit more serious. Non-essential travel was advised against and the social distancing measures that we’re all now so familiar with were being introduced. We headed back to Glasgow so the group could get back to their homes in London as quickly as possible.


In search of isolation

For me though, things were different. I don't have a fixed abode. I’m a vagabond, navigating my way around and between the mountains of the UK. Travel is my life. I camp when I'm on my own and I stay in 'regular' accommodation when guiding groups. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to stay? Do I stay in Scotland, or do I head south of the border?

I decided to stay in my comfort zone. I decided to stay in Scotland.

I was going to go remote. After all, getting away from people and self-isolating is what I do best! I had two weeks’ worth of freeze-dried food left over from a 'Winter Traverse of The Cairngorms' trip that I led in February. I had gas canisters and a stove. I had my trusty tent and sleeping bag. I was good to go!

A few days into my mountain based self-isolation though my world unravelled...We were told that, save for shopping or once daily exercise, we couldn't be outside at all: LOCKDOWN!

When I found out about the lockdown I was camping north of Glen Avon in The Cairngorms and, for the first time in a very long time, I was lost. Not lost in the landscape, but in my head. What was I supposed to do? Where was I supposed to go? I have just been told that my existence, the one I’ve lived for the past four years, was not acceptable. In fact, it was illegal. Was I now illegal? It was incomprehensible and not worth consideration.

The mountains around me started spinning. The ground beneath me began to warp as I stood motionless, wondering: “What the f**k do I do now?”


Home in the hills

I collected my kit and headed back to the minibus in the vain hope that a plan would simply come to me. As I approached the minibus I received a message from my good friend, Ewan, who resides in Inveralligin, a small hamlet just beyond Torridon.

Ewan and his wife Claire are currently working overseas and their home - usually let to holidayers - was now empty. Ewan and Claire very kindly offered up their beautiful home for me to isolate within.

My friends would tell you that I am a rather stubborn person who would usually turn down any offer of help, but on this occasion, with nowhere else to go, I thanked them and made my way to the west coast.

So, for the first time in four years, I have a base. I have a bed. I have a kitchen with a fridge and running water. I have all day access to a flushing toilet, and I have a sofa. I can take my shoes off and walk around in just my socks. These small things that you may take for granted are usually absent in my life, and the return to a more civilised existence has definitely offered me some comfort in this predicament.

I have been asked a lot over the past couple of weeks about whether there are any downsides to being in such an isolated location up here. The answer, for me, is simply: no!

I love isolated and wild places and here I have access to the rugged west coast of Scotland, which is quite literally on my doorstep. I have the mighty Beinn Alligin peering down at me from the front of the house and the high tide kisses the dry stone wall at the far end of the garden.

The birds are returning to full song, the otters have been playing in the stream, red deer roam the gardens and the local seal keeps me amused with his intrigue as I balance precariously on the ruined pier trying to get a better look. Frankly, I couldn’t be “locked-down” in a much better place.