I think I gave the night porter a fright this morning when I came bounding down the hotel stairs before dawn. It was raining and cold outside as I set out, determined to climb Cademuir Hill just outside of Peebles, Scotland. I wolfed down a Cadbury's Milk Chocolate Bar and drank some water to get my energy up and then wandered about town in the dark for a while trying to find the trail head for the John Buchan Way (JBW), a 13 mile trail linking Peebles to Boughton, named in honor of a famous local author.
My destination, Cademuir Hill, was a 5-6 mile round trip from town and our hotel, The Tontine, where I needed to meet my wife for breakfast by 9 am. The hill is notable because it is a local highpoint at 407 meters, and the site of two old forts, including one with chevaux de frise, sharp projecting stones set firmly in the hillside, designed to halt charging enemies.
I walked across Tweed Bridge following the signs to the JBW into a nice residential area south of Peebles center, where the homeowners name their houses, passing The Anchorage and The Tantah House, before coming to a gate leading to a hilly cow pasture. From there the trail continued uphill through pastureland and heather over several windswept hills, past a large stand of coniferous trees.
Trees grow in wooded clumps in these hills, hemmed in by walled pasture. Bowed by the stiff breeze, they sounded like a rocky stream in spate, that drowned out all other noise around me. The wind has been a constant companion on all of my dawn walks this vacation, blowing stiffly and icily against my bare skin and light fleece hat. This morning, I was suited up in a hard Goretext shell and GoLite Reed pants with several layers of capilene underneath for warmth. The next time I walk in Scotland I will be sure to bring along a gore windstopper hat and balaclava.
I climbed my hill and had a commanding view of the surrounding countryside and many sheep. The hills here are very steep. I wonder how they came to be that way. They're also very exposed to the wind. Kneeling on one leg didn't help reduce the chill, so I came down a bit and got out of the wind following the mowed path back to Peebles.
On the way back I came by some blooming heather and some burnt heather. I assume that the farmers burn the heather to create more grassland for their sheep.
The sky was dark when I climbed Cademuir in the morning, but the clouds were gradually breaking up as I walked home. There's something about Scottish sunshine that is always inspiring for me. There's a Scottish painter, named Turner, whose work I am very fond of. His paintings all exude a golden glow, as if the light source is in the middle of the canvas and not shining on its subjects from above.
That's the experience that I have when I see the Scottish countryside. The sunlight here appears to exude from the earth itself and not from the sky.