Hebridean Way disappointment
Sir, – It was with much interest that I read a recent article in the Gazette on the launch of the new Hebridean Way walking route.
I walked this between April 17 and 27 and I am writing to give you my impressions of it.
Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with the route as it currently stands.
The signage is woefully inadequate, often missing completely and, sadly, frequently inaccurate.
One of my particular favourites as I walked was the signage at the southern end of the Coffin Road.
Apparently, those of us walking the Hebridean Way walk almost one kilometre less than those simply following the existing path! Two signs, one below the other, offer different distances to Seilebost.
These kinds of inconsistencies smack of a lack of care and attention to detail and are as laughable as they are exasperating.
I am a reasonably experienced walker and, if it is the dream of Outer Hebrides Tourism to emulate Scotland’s other long distance routes like the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way, for example, then there is still much to do.
For reasons that I am largely unconvinced about, the emphasis is only on walking this from south to north.
This means that if, like me, you choose to walk it from Lewis to Vatersay, all of the directions on the Visit Outer Hebrides website (www.visitouterhebrides.co.uk/see-and-do/activities/walking) need to be reversed.
Although I now live in London, I hail from Oban so I am well versed in the vagaries of the weather in the west of Scotland.
However, remembering to turn left instead of right, for example, when the hailstones are battering down and the wind is, quite literally, taking you out at the knees, is challenging to say the least.
Having appropriate signage in both directions, as I noted that there is for the Hebridean Way cycling route, would be a good start.
I am also disappointed that, again for reasons that I am unclear about, the walk starts/finishes in Stornoway, thus missing large sections of the west and north coast of Lewis which, ironically, are the very areas that tourists come to the island to visit.
Instead the first/last day of walking between Stornoway and Balallan takes the walker past a landfill site which is far from scenic.
And then, of course, there are the sections, euphemistically referred to as ‘geotextile’ on the aforementioned Visit Outer Hebrides website.
This is described thus:
‘Considerable sections of the path consist of a thin band of turf between two parallel ditches.
This is damp in places and tricky to walk on in high winds, but generally offers a drier alternative than the very wet, boggy ground on either side’.
This so-called ‘geotextile’ section is further described as ‘a relatively dry surface that ‘floats’ over the surrounding bog’.
Trust me on this one – it doesn’t!
The fear of breaking my ankle whilst walking along this, coupled to long sections being on ‘pathless moor’ apparently, but not very obviously, waymarked, meant that I had to revert to walking a lot of the Hebridean Way on the road.
The Great Glen Way offers two different routes for walkers – the high route and the low route.
Is this a possible model for the Hebridean Way? Perhaps a route that follows the one described in Peter Clarke’s excellent ‘The Outer Hebrides – The Timeless Way’ which utilises many existing paths that crisscross the islands?
Around 80,000 people walk the West Highland Way every year, either in its entirety or sections thereof.
This brings an enormous boost to the economies of the towns and villages en route.
If the people of the Outer Hebrides want to benefit from a similar boost – and I can only assume that you do – then can I suggest that the marvellous, overarching local knowledge and experience that I encountered en route is used to its full advantage?
The islands are awash with people who know and love
the land, who have worked and walked every square inch of it and who know how to get from A to B safely and scenically.
This kind of tacit knowledge is invaluable and, by using it more effectively, you could create, not just a Hebridean Way that is fit for purpose, but create the jewel in the crown of long distance routes.
As I travelled across the Outer Hebrides, I was overwhelmed by the compassion of those who stopped to offer me
lifts and those who helped to direct me when I was lost and the generosity of those with whom I stayed in bed and breakfast establishments and hotels.
In your beautiful corner of the world, your kindness is as
legendary as your hospitality.
But without well-placed input and investment, the Hebridean Way, in its current form, runs the risk of alienating those who attempt to walk it which will, in turn, do you all a great disservice.
And that is something that none of you deserve. – Yours, etc.,
Dr Eleanor D Kennedy (by email)
Rev Iain D
Sir, – What a sadness to read of Rev. Iain D’s last days.
To their shame, some of the mainland papers had a field day with the story.
Who knows what sorrows or regrets folk carry through life, trying their damnedest to subdue or overcome them, but in the end being overwhelmed.
I didn’t know Iain personally, but I imagine how often he would have spoken to folk about the Jesus who invited the burdened and heavy laden to come to him for rest, and I pray the reality of that rest is now his. – Yours, etc.,
Keith Fernie, Inverness
Sir, – A recent survey from the Pew Research Centre found that despite 30 years of efforts by activists, two thirds of Americans simply don’t believe alarmist climate predictions.
The problem is that there is a widening gap between what scientists have learnt about global warming and what advocates claim as they push for ever more severe climate legislation.
The UN’s IPCC report makes clear that while there has been a modest 0.85 C warming since 1880, much else that passes as accepted fact is really only a matter of probabilities.
It’s not a denial of the science to say that the computer models and simulations by which researchers attempt to peer into the climate future may be sophisticated, but they are also fallible.
Claiming total certainty traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt when yet another alarmist climate claim proves to be wrong.
Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating sceptics as imbeciles wins few converts while demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises
fair questions about ideological intentions. – Yours,
Rev. Dr John Cameron (address supplied)
It all adds up to
Sir, – From May 15-19, pupils and teachers in schools throughout Scotland will be marking National Digital Learning Week by celebrating the use of digital technology as an important classroom learning resource.
As part of this activity, Sumdog is organising Scotland’s first ever nationwide online maths contest using our game-based learning system which is already regularly used in half of Scottish schools.
The contest is free to enter and open to all schools and runs from May 12-18.
Pupils taking part work as a class to answer correctly as many maths questions as they can over that period.
The winning class will be announced at a special event in the Scottish Parliament on May 24.
We already have hundreds of classes across Scotland signed up but the contest will remain open to new entrants right up until it starts on May 12.
Taking part in this contest will be a great way for teachers and pupils to celebrate National Digital Learning Week, improving maths and numeracy skills while working together as a team and having fun.
More information about the Sumdog maths contest is available at www.sumdog.com/scotland. – Yours, etc.,
Andrew Hall CEO, Sumdog
Is Ms Sturgeon Upset?
Noo a’ ken that Nicola, canny help it,
Bit she’s lookin’ like she’s just been skelpit.
Oh whit is oor First Minister tae dae?
She’s bin usurped, by Theresa May.
She’s jist fund oot, there’s anither vote,
An’ it’s caused a bout o’ yon dry ‘boak’.
Because it’s na, the yin she wanted,
Is that how come she looks tormented?
Her US holiday, a’m sure was braw,
Bit oor problems here, hae nae gane awa’.
Schools fawin’ doon, an’ standards drappin’,
NHS failin’ ... the economy tankin’.
Wull she sort this oot, afore the election?
Na haudin’ ma breath, efter 10 years o’ askin.
Bit fur us, thare micht jist be an ‘up-side’,
Oan her next U.S. visit ... mibbe she’ll bide. – Yours, etc.,
Keith Davidson (by email)