31 VIII 1773
7 IX 2013


A journey can never achieve everything. Our itinerary exchanged Boleskine and the Falls of Foyers, with its steep winding path, for a walk on the other (west) side of the loch, from Balchraggan to Drumnadrochit.





Here was a day for picking out detail in different views. A day for modelling thought to the landscape, following Johnson’s Dictionary, which gives ‘Flexánimous. adj.’ as, “the power to change the disposition of the mind”.





Our party followed the Great Glen Way. Morning rain clearing to sun, warm enough to allow us to appreciate the pinewoods’ coolness. Emerging, the loch lay to our left, the hills beyond still silvered with clouds; below, on a spit of land jutting into the water, was Urquhart Castle, “the cash cow of the Highlands”, as one of our number described it.

In the evening we read at the library in town, and were offered tea beforehand, along with fairy-cakes baked by the hospitality class. There we met Fiona who, when not working in the library, makes programmes for the BBC World Service, most recently about Papua New Guinea. The poet John Glenday walked with us in the afternoon, and we talked about his trip to Iraq earlier this year, when he worked with four Iraqi poets. If Johnson and Boswell were surprised by finding books in such a ‘remote’ place, perhaps we were equally surprised to find such well-travelled individuals here; and with as little reason as our predecessors.

We had an easier time of it than Moray MacLaren, another follower of the Tour, who in 1952 followed (as had Boswell and Johnson) the route of Wade’s old military road from Fort Augustus to Glenmoriston – on horseback. “Having been unused for over a century”, wrote McLaren, “[it] has for all practical purposes utterly disappeared.” He and a friend hope to retrace it through a combination of reading old maps and making a recce in a light plane, before attempting it on the ground. The weather was foul, a gale, driving rain, visibility much restricted, but their hill ponies kept them right with “their footwork, so delicately feeling the way between swamps and rocks”, as if they could sense the traces of old hoof-prints, long lost to the human eye.

A day to consider the oddness of the writer's life.

after Jenny Diski

walk & think
ambula et cogitationes


talk & walk
loquere et ambula


talk & think
loquere et cogitationes



Diski, Jenny; On Trying to Keep Still (2007)
MacLaren, Moray; The Highland Jaunt (1953)