Text: James Forrest
So often it feels like I’m just one of a thousand backpackers following the same routes in the same Lonely Planet book. “I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing”, to quote Richard, the protagonist in Alex Garland’s The Beach, as he bemoans the modern travellers’ struggles to experience anything unique and authentic in the modern world.
But this feels genuinely exclusive and special. I’m hiking in a remote, wild, seldom-visited part of western Scotland with Mammut Mountain School. We’re off the beaten track and far from the tourist trail. There are no paths on this mountainside; no lines of hikers queuing for the summit; no busy roads to break the silence; and no signs of previous visitors to spoil the sense of discovery. The way we got here – aboard Zuza, a beautiful sailing boat skippered by Venture Sail Holidays – felt intrepid and exciting too.
Led by Dougie, our Mammut guide – a bearded Scotsman with an infectious passion for mountains, maps and all things flora and fauna - a group of six of us are climbing towards the summit of Creach Beinn, a 698m hill on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. We tramp over slopes of heather and tussocky grass; scramble up a steep gully of stones and scree; squelch through bogs and tiptoe around quaint tarns; and, finally, triumphantly, emerge at the rock-strewn summit.
I sit and take in the scenery, feeling utterly relaxed and content. To my right, a solitary stag stands atop a grassy ridge, majestically silhouetted against the rugged skyline; to my left a cascading burn flows into a forested glen, like a lost world untouched by human interference; and below me Loch Spelve is perfectly still, its surface glazed like a sheet of glass, reflecting clouds, coast and mountains, while Zuza gently sails across the pristine waters. This is the intimate, personal and raw experience I always wanted to have in the wild lands of Scotland.
James Forrest experienced the Trek and Sail holiday to the Inner Hebrides in Scotland, a partnership between Mammut Mountain School and Venture Sail Holidays