Hitch hopping across Scottish islands in aid of the RNLI

Brian Ferguson, left, with Jim Campbell on the RNLI Dunbar lifeboat with coxswain Gary Fairbairn.
Brian Ferguson, left, with Jim Campbell on the RNLI Dunbar lifeboat with coxswain Gary Fairbairn.

“HOW many islands can you set foot on in the space of two weeks?”

That’s the question Jim Campbell and Brian Ferguson have set themselves for HitchHop – a hitch-hiking island-hopping challenge they are embarking on in the west coast of Scotland this July, in aid of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Inspired by a love of Scotland’s islands, the pair of fundraisers, both from Edinburgh, plan to see how many of them they can get to within 14 days next month.

Jim, 39, says: “After coming up with the idea for the challenge we were keen to raise money for an organisation that would mean something to every island community.

“The RNLI just seemed the perfect choice because of the huge role it plays in protecting islanders and visitors to the islands, and we’re looking forward to visiting as many stations as we can during the challenge.

“There’s loads of islands we’d like to visit during HitchHop, but a lot will come down to where our lifts take us, either on dry land or on water. Whatever happens, we’re going to need a bit of luck along the way.”

The travel challenge will begin at a yet-to-be-announced ferry port on July 1 and will finish at the lighthouse at the Butt of Lewis, before Jim and Brian take in the Hebridean Celtic Festival in Stornoway.

HitchHop will have five key rules: 1) Both Jim and Brian have to set foot on an island for it to count; 2) All islands will count whether or not they are inhabited – and even if they are connected to another island or the mainland by bridge of causeway; 3) Although Jim and Brian will be using ferries, they will be mainly relying on the goodwill of others to get around during the challenge; 4) They will accept an offer of a lit, either on dry land or across water, on any form of transport; and 5) Although they may make some travel plans in advance, they will not accept any lifts until the day they are travelling.

As well as raising funds for the lifesaving organisation, and awareness of the work of the RNLI, Jim, who works in the mental health sector, and Brian, a journalist, are also planning to promote the magic of Scotland’s west coast and the experiences to be found there via updates on social networking sites.

Brian, 38, adds: “We haven’t set an official target but we’d like to think we could visit at least 30 islands if we get half-decent weather, although we’ll be giving it our best shot whatever the conditions.

“Although Jim and I are both regular visitors to the Hebrides, this is a real step into the unknown for both of us, as we have no idea where we’ll end up or when, and we’re particularly excited about setting foot on islands that we’ve never been to before.

“We hope to inspire people who have never visited the islands to give them a try and discover the amazing scenery and fascinating history round almost every corner.”

If you want to support Jim and Brian on their HitchHop challenge and help raise funds for the RNLI, please visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/hitchhop. You can also keep up to date with how the boys are getting on with Hitchhop on Facebook and Twitter.