#2 if you speak English, they speak the same language. Sort of.
#3 place names – like the Waters of Luce – that sound like they come from The Princess Bride
#4 ‘tatties and ‘neeps
#5 miles and miles of coastal paths
#6 no need to fight for space on the trail or in albergues
#7 haggis is less disgusting than pulpo
#8 a saint who may have known the real King Arthur and St Patrick
#9 currags, castles, cairns, and caves (and neolithic standing stones)
#10 real Scottish ales
And lots more: kissing-gates on the edges of cliffs, Norse-Scots stone crosses, a destination where on a clear day you can see Ireland, England, and the Isle of Man, Arts & Crafts art and architecture, scones with jam, the moors, you’re more likely to be soaked in cold rain than baked by unending heat,
Robbie Burns, and…I didn’t even mention A.D. Rattray’s Whiskey Experience in Kirkoswald!
“From Canada, are ye?” said the nice woman at the coffee shop. “Canada’s beautiful. I’ve been to Ottawa. We’re from here.” She shrugged, smiled: “It’s nice enough.” Seemed like a typically-Scottish understatement to me – this is the view they enjoy just outside the coffee shop. We were exhausted after a day of walking along the Whithorn Way along the ocean, rock-hopping just above the receding tide-line and scrambling over sea-algae. I’m here on a Concordia University Part-Time Faculty Association grant to see about the Scottish “Right of Responsible Access.” The key, said our Scottish host John Henderson, is that word: responsible.
It didn’t take long to see that the Scots, like Canadians, have some trouble with the “responsible” part of their relationship with the natural world. The legislation establishing The Right of Access in Scotland is recent – nine years old and part of the devolution of power to Scotland. As would be the case if we were fortunate enough in Canada to adopt similar legislation, the educational curve is still ahead. We saw lots of garbage on our shoreline scramble, even though the views were magnificent otherwise.
Maybe Scots, like Canadians, haven’t yet learned how beautiful, fragile, and important the natural world around them is. Finns, for instance, are taught to respect nature from kindergarten. Learning to enjoy berries, mushrooms, and views, and not disturb others, especially landowners, seems to be in Finnish DNA. In Scotland we passed what appeared to be an “Open Access” camp on the beach (see below, in the distance) and while the folks were practicing their rights, their garbage seemed to be a problem.
Still, one can hope. Local organizations had both cleaned up the last part of today’s walk, and had also set up trail markers. We hadn’t seen any markers on the first leg and had had to backtrack several times as a result. This is probably how Responsible Access is best lived-out: by community groups that operate locally to remind citizens to both get out on the land, and to leave no trace except their paths.