Here in Scotland we’re over forty days into lockdown during the Coronavirus pandemic. I wasn’t going to even mention the virus on my blog but I think it’s important to acknowledge it. This is, after all, something that will be in the history books of the future. I’m not going to suddenly become a medical expert or spout doom and gloom. There are plenty of other people filling these niches. I haven’t changed my social media coverage of providing inspiration of places to visit in Scotland. In fact I have heartily encouraged people to use this time to research their first or next trip to this spectacular country. Because it will still be here once it is safe to travel. I want to actively incite visitors to change the way they travel and bide a while. Travel in Scotland after lockdown will be different. We should take the opportunity to promote slow travel, working holidays and doing workshops. Activities that will leave you feeling like you’ve really scratched more than the surface of a place. I wanted to share some of our little walks from home during lockdown.
First of all I want to take you back thirty something years. From the age of three I was brought up on a big housing estate in the West Midlands. Everyone pretty much knew everyone else. There were shops, a big pub and all of the schools I went to were less than a ten minute walk away.
Growing up there were a couple of milestones I passed although I don’t remember exactly what age. I could go and call for friends and we were allowed to ride our bicycles around the block. There were no roads to cross so this was classed as being safe in the ’80’s. We knew where all the other kids our ages lived and where they hung out too.
Then as I got older I was allowed further afield, across the rest of the estate. This is the bit that has resonated with me recently. The whole estate was basically one giant playground. My friends and I would know all the shortcuts, alleyways, rat runs and hiding places. We knew it like the backs of hands and even though I haven’t lived there since I was 16 I’m sure I could still find my way around.
My teenage years meant that I dispersed further afield to the neighbouring estate, mostly just the park. Again, learning where all my new high school pals lived and getting to know where the nearest phoneboxes were (no mobile phones) so I could call home if I was going to be late.
Fast forward to 2020 when we are told to stay home, save lives but can still go out for exercise once a day. Making many of us realise we’ve become detached from things right under our noses. We no longer know everyone on the street or walk along the shortcuts. We drive the shortest of distance for a bar of chocolate or to take the children to school rather than walk.
Dude and I have been in our house here in Perthshire for over four years and I am used to working from home. So this imposed routine wasn’t exactly a shock to the system. Until I realised how often I pop here, or pop there. Nip out for coffee with and friend or drive to the loch for a swim. All of this stopped.
Then we dusted off the OS map we’d bought not long after moving. It’s not been utilised as well as it should have been. Until now.
Walks from our doorstep
We are extremely fortunate to live in a rural location but yet still have access to the local shop within walking distance (probably a 5k round trip). We’ve combined our little walks from home with a trip to the shop a few times, armed with a backpack and fuelled by water. It’s been quite satisfying.
The day before lockdown was imposed we decided to venture up the hills (directly behind us and part of the estate we live on) to find a cup marked stone. Setting off armed with suncream, plenty of water, scoobs (snacks), a pair of binoculars and our map. We didn’t see another soul and it was a couple of hours well spent. The stone itself was not too easy to find but the undergrowth was not too tall at this time of year (March) which helped.
Dating back to late Neolithic-Bronze age, the stone is decorated with circular cup marked depressions. I read somewhere that they would have been used to mark routes or boundaries. Whatever their meaning we enjoyed the walk, the view and a new discovery on our doorstep.
Looking at the map we have also discovered there are old forts, a cairn, waterfalls and a Medieval road used by Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles I and Oliver Cromwell.
We decided one day to explore the Medieval road on foot. Directly from our doorstep, the first part was familiar territory and re-traced our steps to the cup marked stone. We’ve been missing our big walks so a short sharp pull uphill to get the blood pumping feels good. These are only wee hills and stand not much taller than 220 metres but the views have been amazing.
There is something quite magical about following this old road. Being in the footsteps of Royalty and seeing the landscape pretty much as it would have been back then. With the exception of the wind farm maybe! Even that added it’s own charm to the landscape. Although there was very little breeze during our walk, I’m guessing it’s a good spot to have these turbines.
One thing we did notice during this walk was how loud the skylark song was. I’ve never seen or heard so many, absolutely incredible. It seemed to be the perfect environment for nesting and we were super careful where we put our feet as they are ground nesting birds.
On this walk we also discovered the ruins of an old farm too.
Blessed with another day of blue skies the summit gave us clear views down the Tay estuary toward Dundee (even the bridges were visible). To the south east of us were the Lomond Hills in Fife, glowing in the afternoon sunshine. Looking north of Perth there are still a few peaks with snow on the top too. Amazed that little walks from home during lockdown can allow us to feel much further away.
As a wedding photographer I have an eye for detail and notice the little things. I’ve mentioned before that our walks always take longer than they should because I stop to look at ladybirds, new pine cones emerging on a branch and listen to the birds. During lockdown these things have become even more important to many of us.
Walking the same route daily we have noticed the recently ploughed fields are now getting greener. Much of the blossom has come and gone. For a while the air was filled with the smell of wild garlic. I’ve seen more bumble bees than ever before – have there actually been more or am I just noticing them?
Of course, nature knows nothing of what we are experiencing and is continuing it’s cycle. The snowdrops, wild garlic, the daffodils, baby rabbits and hares, rhododendrons in flower, bluebells.
These wee things have brought a moment of joy during these overwhelming and stressful times. I’ve tried my best to share with those of you that follow me Instagram our walks and the natural treasures we’ve found.
Life after lockdown
I’m hoping life after lockdown will mean we all want to discover our neighbourhood. I’m hoping that we continue to get to know our neighbours. I’m hoping that we continue to be kind to strangers.
I would like to think that Dude and I shall continue to savor what is on our doorstep and discover more walks. I think it would be a shame to lose that connection again. Our little walks from home during lockdown have provided us with solace during this time of disruption and unease.
We have learnt about our local area, it’s history and got to know more about the wildlife too. Imagine if we all planned our holidays to Scotland (and everywhere else) like this. Buying a map of the local area and really discovering it. Our experiences would change the way we see things. Slowing things down and taking away something special. Something that many others will fail to capture. Yearning to find your Scotland rather than a generic, stereotype. I promise the rewards shall be greater than anything before.
Let’s all revert back to our 10 year old selves, and really get to know a place.
In the meantime, until it’s safe to travel – stay home and save lives.