Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 7

This is part of the travel journal I wrote while walking the Hebridean Way in 2022. If you want to see all the Hebridean Way posts, you can find them here.

Day 13 – Balallan to Stornoway and an Unexpected End

Photos of the Day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ndf7tr15vpUN8pAc8


Done, over, accomplished, the Hebridean Way is behind me. What? How? Today was supposed to be just the penultimate day, right? Well, a lucky combination of circumstances brought me to the end of the trail a day early: a small error in the hiking documents, good weather, and good company. But let’s start from the beginning.

I set off from Clearview B&B, consoled over the lost night at Kinloch House by an excellent breakfast. For the first hour, the route follows the road, but at least partly on paths parallel to it, not directly on the asphalt. I pass Kinloch House and reach Laxay, where the trail veers off for the last stretch over open moorland. 16km to Achmore (or Achadh Mòr), says my itinerary. Shortly after, I see something yellow-green emerging from the woods (yes, there are a few more of those here) onto the path ahead. Could that be Janna’s rain cover on her backpack? Indeed, she camped here and is just setting off. This is welcome company to stave off the end-of-hike blues, and together we trudge into the moor.

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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 6

This is part of the travel journal I wrote while walking the Hebridean Way in 2022. If you want to see all the Hebridean Way posts, you can find them here.

Day 11 Tarbert to Kinloch in Sun and Wind

Photos of the day: https://photos.app.goo.gl/RK1gLcHEZWadKR4w7

Today, I have a short day ahead of me, only 15 km to the Scaladale Center in Ardvourlie, and it’s supposed to be really sunny in the afternoon. That feels a bit silly, so I look at the route and think that the taxi can probably pick me up a bit further along the way since the path runs along the route to my next B&B. Let’s see how that works out.

I say goodbye to Hotel Hebrides and Tarbert – a very nice place. The dinner at the hotel wasn’t the best, nor was the beer, but the breakfast and the room were really good. It’s still cloudy, and the occasional shower threatens, but I don’t feel like hanging around Tarbert for another hour, so I set off at 10 am, heading east out of town towards North Harris. Lewis and Harris are a strange combination of islands. You’d think the narrow point at Tarbert would be the border between Lewis and Harris, but that’s not the case. The peninsula south of Tarbert is South Harris, the hills north of it are North Harris, and only beyond that does Lewis begin.

Heading into the hills from Tarbert.
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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 5

This is part of the travel journal I wrote while walking the Hebridean Way in 2022. If you want to see all the Hebridean Way posts, you can find them here.

Day 9 – Leverburgh to Horgabost or Back in the Rain

Photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/wgjoRpdggcsguJYVA

“I’m eager to get back on the trail” are my words as Jethro greets me at breakfast this morning. And that’s true, because after two days in Leverburgh, despite the great accommodation and good company, I am itching to get moving. Roger set off south yesterday, and Richard took the early ferry to Uig on Skye this morning. I’m taking it slower because today’s stage is only 17km, and I’ll be picked up by a taxi at the destination at 5 pm. Since there’s no cafe or pub at the pickup point, I don’t want to wait too long, especially as today certainly won’t be rain-free.

However, I also don’t want to start too late, because the period from 10 to 12 is supposed to be the driest of the day. So I say a heartfelt goodbye to Jethro and Barry (yesterday’s “Howard” was a mishearing), pack the plentiful and very tasty-looking lunch, and set off.

Looks dry, doesn’t it?
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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 4

Tag 6 – Lochmaddy to Leverburgh

Images of the day (Google photos)

The morning ferry arrives.

I’m on the trail again, hooray! After actually joining the Ceilidh at the Community Hall last night (impressions here), I have to admit that the dance music for the 70+ year-olds wasn’t quite my thing, and I quickly returned to the hotel. Today I woke up well-rested and early. So early that I was half an hour too early for breakfast. Hm, 8 o’clock? I had breakfast that early yesterday. No, today it starts at 8:30. Okay, I’m a bit confused. But it doesn’t matter; the ferry doesn’t depart until 4:30 PM, and I have plenty of time for the 17 kilometers to get there.

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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 3

Day 4 – Liniclate to Carinish

Images of the Day (Google photos)

Promising weather in the morning.

It’s 7 a.m. when I wake up, i.e. half an hour before my alarm, and check the weather forecast. Oh, this looks better than yesterday. No or hardly any rain until noon, and even after that, just “light” rain showers. It’s still windy, but without rain it’s only half as bad. So I get out of bed, grab my breakfast, and by 8 a.m. I’m ready to start the day.

The front of the Dark Island Hotel is sheltered from the winds, but as I turn the corner toward the coast I’m hit with the full force of the 45 mph near-storm strength winds. Okay, I’ve had worse in Denmark on the North Sea, but I’ve never hiked all day in such winds. Fortunately, it’s still coming from the south i.e. from behind. However, I have to brace myself for the first few meters towards the beach pushing southward. The loose sand acts like a sandblaster, much like in Denmark.

Low tide beach.
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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 2

A well-deserved drink.

Day 2 – Eriskay to Howmore Chapel

Images of the day (Google photos)

Phew, that was a long day. Almost 8 hours on the trail and 34 km walked, I haven’t done that much in a while. But I made it, and now I’m sitting in the bar of the Borrodale Hotel, enjoying a single malt while typing up the journal. It’s a 10-year-old Ledaig, which I hadn’t tried before. Very peaty, which means it’s not for Mert.

Partly because of this whisky, the report will probably be a bit shorter, as I’m super tired. But at least I don’t have to get up as early tomorrow. Today, I had to catch a ferry…

For the fourth and unfortunately last time, Dan drives me around Barra. He picks me up at 8:30 so I can comfortably catch the 9:25 ferry to Eriskay. This time, we take the west side of the island, and when we arrive at the ferry terminal, I feel like I’ve covered every paved road on Barra. I bid a warm farewell to Dan because it was really nice traveling with him – we had great conversations every time.

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Hiking the Hebridean Way – Part 1

On the Hebridean Way

As mentioned in the diary of my Black Forest hike (Schluchtensteig), I had planned to hike across the Outer Hebrides for a while, but the pandemic got in the way. Last year (2022) I was finally able to put my plan into action and trekked across the Scottish isles. As usual I kept a daily journal in the form of emails to friends and relatives, and I want to share that diary here along with some of the beautiful images I took on the hike. This time I want to share my experiences with my English-speaking friends as well, and will therefore translate my daily notes.

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Hiking the Schluchtensteig (German)

Schluchtensteig Tag 0 – Anreise Ludwigsburg nach Stühlingen

Fotoalbum des Anreisetages: https://photos.app.goo.gl/5rAigdubcRvUg3SS8

Bootsverleih bei Monrepos

Also, es geht endlich wieder los, auf eine mehrtägige Wanderung, auf die ich euch ein bisschen mitnehmen möchte. Dieses mal ist es der Schluchtensteig, eine 6-tägige Tour durch den Süden des Schwarzwalds. Eigentlich sollte ich ja auf dem Hebridean Way im äußersten Nordwesten der britischen Inseln unterwegs sein und mir den Atlantikwind um die Ohren wehen lassen, aber eine uns allen bekannte Pandemie hat das verhindert. Aber aufgeschoben ist nicht aufgehoben, und die Hebriden werde ich hoffentlich nächstes Jahr nachholen.

Statt mit dem Eurostar durch den Chunnel zu düsen, bin ich also mit Stef nach Ludwigsburg gefahren und statt meinen alten Ringkrieg-Mitspieler Andrew in York zu treffen, sehe ich endlich die Dänemark-Fahrer Frank, Frank und Heiko wieder. Nach einem gemeinsamen Abendessen beim Italiener, einem netten Abend mit viel Quatschen und einer erholsamen Nacht, soll es dann heute mit der Bahn nach Stühlingen gehen, dem Start der Wanderung. Der Zug von Ludwigsburg geht aber erst um 12:30 so dass Stef, Frank und ich nach dem Frühstück noch Schloss Monrepos anzuschauen, eines der kleineren Lustschlösser der Württemberger Herzöge. Wir wandern um den See und laufen ein Stück des Planetenweges, bevor es Zeit wird, mich zum Bahnhof zu bringen.

Schloss Monrepos in Ludwigsburg
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Walking out of Quarantine

This post is a look at the hobby side of Maps & More (the “More” part), specifically my love of hiking.

The Lahn river at Buchenau

I’m standing on a bridge across the river Lahn in unseasonably warm February sunshine. Ahead of me are the next two sections of the Lahn hiking trail (Lahnwanderweg), about 30km through the river valley and the hills around it. Normally that is not a big deal for me, but today is different, as so many things currently are.

14 days ago I suddenly lost my sense of smell, which turned the slight cold symptoms I had into something much more menacing. 11 days ago I received a call from my doctor that I was Covid-positive and that I was confined to my apartment for the next 10 days. 2 days ago the public health office called for a short interview and concluded that my quarantine could end as planned. Yesterday I did a short but brisk walk and felt fine.

But a lingering doubt remains. While I only had mild symptoms, they were spread out over the two weeks and my sense of smell has not fully returned. How will it affect my overall fitness? There are more than enough reports of lingering side effects.

Trail signage is good.

So today is a test. There are several points on the walk where I can quit, and make my way back to my car here in Buchenau, but the plan is to make it all the way to Marburg and take the train from there. We’ll see how it goes.

The morning mist that obscured most of the hour-long drive to my starting point has largely cleared, but it is still far from the 14°C we are supposed to get today. I’m wrapped into several layers of clothing, but it is warm enough I don’t have to bother about gloves or a hat. The red LW sign of the trail points me out of the village and up into the hills above the Lahn, getting my blood pumping properly.

Past B&Bs and holiday apartments I slip into the woods and on the crest above I get my first beautiful view over Buchenau below.

Parts of the path are still covered in snow and sometimes ice, but I make good time up unto the first hill of the day: Hohenfels. Here the remains of two small medieval castles are hidden among the trees. Only a few tumbling stones, rough embankments and some cellar holes are visible, but the site is well described through signs and explanations. I can easily imagine their strategic importance above the trade roads along the Lahn.

Being at such high spot means of course I have to go down again, sacrificing precious altitude I have gained already. I know I do have a bit more climbing ahead of me today, but I can be quite a miser if it comes to altitude.

The next hill is the Rimberg, the highest point of today’s walk, crowned by a tower with supposedly magnificent views. But before I can verify that, I have to get there. I do feel good, get a spring in my step, and prepare to fall into the rhythm of the walk … whoosh, suddenly my feet go flying on the wet and slippery grass. Miraculously I manage to catch myself with only one hand on the ground. Alright, take it slowly!

On the way from Hohenfels to the Rimberg.

In the shadow of the Roßberg and the Rimberg the ice and snow on the path gets heavier and I slow even further as I navigate the treacherous ground underfoot. The last incline towards the viewing tower atop the Rimberg is especially difficult and I’m wondering whether the full 30km will be feasible under these conditions.

But the wonderful views from the Rimberg distract me from these doubts and I have time to rest on the platform. Nobody else is around and the sky is as clear as it can be on such a warm winter’s day (meaning not very).

To the east I can clearly see Caldern, the next village on my itinerary, and the Lahn valley stretching away.

Caldern and the Lahn valley ahead

As I watch, two buzzards rise from the trees and begin circling, slowly making their way east into the valley. I take a deep breath, put away my flask of hot tea, shoulder my pack and follow them, just so much more awkwardly along the ground.

At first the trail is still difficult with ice and snow, but it gets better as I get lower into the valley and near Caldern. With the two buzzards still circling overhead I reach the small village with its prominent church tower welcoming me.

Here I can decide whether I want to continue or already catch a train back. What do my legs say? Well, they complain a bit about the awkward and slippery paths. What if it continues that way? But the next stretch is down here in the valley and the highest point for today is already behind me. So be quiet, you legs, onward we go.

I cross the Lahn behind Caldern and turn onto a tarmac bike path across the fields. On other days I might have complained about this stretch as “boring”, but today it is a welcome opportunity to straighten my wobbly legs after balancing across the ice.

I shift into “automatic” mode and a good hour later I reach Sterzhausen, the next opportunity for quitting for today. I realize I’m a bit tired now, after a little more than half the route, but not so much that I can’t imagine finishing it.

The choice is now between calling it a day and returning half-satisfied or going on and returning really knackered. Is that even a choice on a day hike? Of course I must go on!

Leaving Sterzhausen behind

So I climb up again, to cut across the hills and avoid the large loop that the Lahn does around Cölbe. Here near Marbug and its suburbs a few more people are on the paths, dog-walkers, cyclists, joggers and afternoon walkers, but its still less than I expected on such a sunny Saturday. As I crest the hill I get to see Cölbe and touch on the outskirts of Wehrda, but then divert into the forest again to approach Marburg from the wooded hills in the west.

Cölbe (left) and Wehrda (right)
Elisabethkirche in Marburg

While the height of these last hills is less than the Rimberg early this morning, the ups and downs are quite steep and I’m now feeling my legs. I curse myself a little bit for my ambitious hiking plans, but the feeling vanishes as quickly as it came when I spot the twin spires of the St. Elisabeth Church in the evening light ahead, and the castle silhouetted against the sky on the ridge to my right.

I manage to slowly trundle into the bustling university town of Marburg (one of the oldest in Germany) with the setting sun, pretty much on time for the train back Buchenau.

Putting on the mask after a day of breathing the fresh air is a bit annoying, but nothing I can’t handle for the half hour journey on public transport. I gladly sink into the train seat, feeling tired but accomplished after 30km and seven and a half hours walking.

I’m very happy and feeling lucky that I was able to do this so shortly after my Covid-19 illness, but I’m also acutely aware that not everyone out there is as lucky. My heart goes out to all those more strongly affected. I hope you all recover as well as I was able and you soon get to do your favorite activities again!

The route and height map from Buchenau to Marburg.

More images from the walk can be found here.