About John Muir
Everything I’ve written lately seems very serious, so I wanted to take a step back and write something a little more fun. As it’s John Muir Day today (and the conservationist’s 180th birthday) I thought I’d do a little post about his home nation of Scotland and our recent visit there.
John Muir “the father of the National Parks”, along with Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson and Sir David Attenborough, is one of my all time heroes (that’s the dream dinner party right there!). John Muir was born in Dunbar in Scotland before emigrating to America, where he became an explorer, mountaineer, conservationist, botanist, amateur geologist and writer, he was vital in our understanding of the value of wilderness and instrumental in creating the worlds first National Park system. He influenced many, but in particular US President Theodore Roosevelt who went on to double the number of National Parks and became known as “the conservation president”. John Muir founded the Sierra Club, now Americas largest environmental organisation, in 1892.
Although he left Scotland whilst still a child (he did travel the country later in life), John Muir is widely celebrated here in the UK, where the John Muir Trust is based. There is also a 134 mile walking and cycling route called the John Muir Way across central Scotland. The John Muir Trust is a UK charity, with philosophies based on Muir’s ideals, the trust seeks to conserve and protect wild places with their indigenous animals, plants and soils for the benefit of present and future generations.
Our Recent Visit to Scotland
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”
– John Muir
I love where I live. Repeat visitors to my Instagram will no doubt be tired of hearing this, but I really do. We are not exactly over-civilised here, but we do participate in the rat race and spend far too much time looking at screens!
One of the many benefits of living in the North of England, aside from our own natural beauty and heritage, is our proximity to Scotland. I don’t know if it’s the scenery, the people, or something deep-rooted in my genetics, but I always feel very comfortable and at home there.
In the last few years, we have discovered a little corner of Perthshire that particularly appeals, it’s rugged and wild, visitor-friendly without being too “touristy” and the locals are wonderful. That little corner is the area around Loch Tay, we stay close to Kenmore, but Aberfeldy and Killin are also nearby. This Easter weekend we headed back to our favourite spot.
Wildlife and Scenery
The whole Loch Tay area is magical, there are so many trees, which I think is part of why I really like it. The area is home to Tay Forest Park a patchwork of woodland across highland Perthshire.
“Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.”
– John Muir
On one of our many adventures we visited Carie Forest where there are walks through woodland and remnants of Caledonian Forest.
It was great to see that we weren’t the only ones stopping and flailing our binoculars at the sight of a golden eagle, or the only ones admiring deer or Highland Coos.
Our opportunities for wildlife watching this time round were a little limited due to the weather (winter decided to cling on a little longer than usual this year!) but we did see quite a few birds (and deer).
And… on the really good day we got, we sat outside the Falls of Dochart Inn in Killin, where they had a particularly good IPA on draught (and I may of accidentally drunk a few too many pints of it!).
We also ventured a little further afield, to Glencoe, Fort William and Glen Nevis. The wild weather allowed for a unique view of the landscape.
Our walk up to Steall Falls was rather damp and chilly but good fun nonetheless.
Somewhat typically, on our way back we were blessed with amazing weather. So instead of heading straight home we made the most of it. First we headed to Stirling for coffee and then to see the Kelpies (accessed easily from sections 4 and 5 of the John Muir way) at Falkirk.
I’d wanted to visit the kelpies for a long time now, my granddad hailed from the area and I was very pleased to see the whole Helix Park area looking amazing. The Kelpies (all 30 metres of them!) are a spectacle, but the parkland around and the canal walks are too. I do wonder what my granddad would of made of it.
We then headed down the east coast, past Dunbar (the birth place of John Muir), and then stopped at one of my favourite places, Saint Abb’s head, where you can walk along the cliffs and see all manner of coastal life.
The trip was then topped off with fish and chips and ice cream at Seahouses in Northumberland – yum!
Always worth a visit
Scotland is a beautiful, varied and unique place. There is so much to do, and the highlands are so much quieter than other rural parts of the UK. We managed to go on a walk all morning and not see another soul (something virtually impossible somewhere like the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District on a Bank Holiday weekend).
In our quest for warmer climes we haven’t made the most of what’s on out doorstep until the last couple of years and in summer we are going to further explore.
Did you know you can snorkel with basking sharks, see puffins, seals, otters, whales, dolphins, mountain hares, red squirrels, beavers, golden eagles, sea eagles, grouse, capercaillie, and all manner of bird life? Even (if you are super lucky) a Scottish wildcat! Just this morning there was a sighting of a pod of Killer Whales in the River Clyde. And future rewilding projects could bring us even more species to behold.
Get your sense of adventure and your eco-tourism on – visit Scotland!
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
– John Muir