2013 in review

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As I reported at the tail end of last year, 2012 was a big year for travel – I visited eight foreign countries in total, the most since 2001.

My prediction that 2013 would be quieter on the travel front was correct, but only to an extent. Yes there was no overseas travel, but I more than made up for it with domestic adventures. It became a bit of a mission for Nicole and I, after a big (and expensive) European rail trip in 2012, to try to make the most of our weekends this year and see a bit more of Scotland.

Through a mixture of hillwalking, cycling and camping, we certainly managed to pack a lot in. Whether hyper-local (a beautiful circular walk of Inverness) or a little further out of town (some New Year walks blogged here), we kicked off the year by reminding ourselves of what a beautiful part of the world we live in. In the early months of the year we walked the Coulags circuit north of Achnashellach, the Gaelic pronounciation minefield that is Meall a’ Bhuachaille and Creagan Gorm in the Cairngorms, and a handful of other low-level routes.

Base camp

Things moved up a gear in April, when it became warm enough (or so we thought…) for camping. Over the Easter weekend we spent a weekend on the west coast (above), camping three nights in Clachtoll and Badrallach and undertaking some lovely walks including to the fascinating village of Scoraig.

The following month packed in a walk round Loch Oich that featured the old Invergarry railway line, a weekend munro-bagging in Kintail, the Shenavall circuit near Ullapool, and two days of hillwalking and wild camping at Loch Ericht (right).

There then followed some more sedate activities, including another (relatively gentle) camping trip out west to Clachtoll again (no blog post, but photos here), and a trip to the excellent Solas Festival near Perth.

Meanwhile, the furthest-travelled we managed this year was a week’s storm-dodging on the south coast of England, wrapped around a family wedding, which also presented an opportunity to try out and review the First Class service on East Coast’s direct Inverness to London train.

For various reasons there were no major walks in the summer or the second half of the year, with the exception of one of my favourite hikes of 2013. That was a three-peaked circuit in the Cairngorms taking in Beinn Mheadhoin and Loch Avon, done in mostly beautiful sunshine (below). It remains the only big effort on that front in the second half of the year, but given the expeditions from the first half of the year I feel no particular shame about that.

Light ahead

In any case, things have been hugely busy on other fronts, not least the work towards the publication of my second book, The Return of the Mullet Hunter, which came out on Kindle at the start of December. I may have mentioned this once or twice on my blog in recent weeks. I’ve been getting some nice feedback and reviews, and am continuing to promote it as best I can.

Not directly a writing activity but certainly related, was a presentation I did at a charity fundraising event called Night of Adventure. This was the second time I’ve done the event, in aid of Hope and Homes for Children, sharing a bill with an diverse collection of adventurers and explorers. You can see my presentation here.

Other things have continued to keep me busy in my spare time, not least my ongoing study of Esperanto. Opportunities for practice have been few and far between, though I did make it to the annual Scottish congress and have tried to practice writing in Esperanto once or twice – including a beginner’s guide to the Scottish independence referendum (1|2).

There were various other bizarre miscellanies that punctuated the year, including receiving an email from Alain de Botton, being invited to play football for Great Britain, and spending a week at the helm of both the @ScotVoices and Highlands and Islands Voices Twitter accounts.

Looking ahead to 2014, it’s going to be an exciting year on so many fronts (and not just because of the independence referendum in September). On the writing front, I’ll be releasing other ebook versions plus the paperback of The Return of the Mullet Hunter. I’ll also be publishing my third (and first non-mullet) book, The Next Stop, which is my account of a week-long, stop-by-stop rail journey from Inverness to Edinburgh.

While there will be much to do in terms of promoting the books next year, hopefully there’ll be time too for a bit more travel – possibly both at home and abroad. But time will tell.

In the meantime, dear reader, may I wish you a very merry Christmas and Happy New Year (or feliĉan kristnaskon kaj bonan novjaron, as they say in Esperanto).

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