John of the Mountains and Father of the National Parks, John Muir was a pioneer of conservation. He was born in Dunbar (Scotland) on the 21st April 1838 and today would have been his 182nd birthday. His favourite boyhood pass-times included fighting, and from scrapping in the playground he grew up to fight for the preservation of forests and wilderness.
A lot of his life was spent in the U.S. where he is a well known figure, but his legacy is still strong here in Scotland. The John Muir Trust now owns or looks after several Scotland’s beautiful wild spaces. Included under the care of the trust is the summit of Ben Nevis where they work tirelessly to manage the many visitors to this area every year.
On our treks we enter many of the areas looked after by the John Muir Trust. The first leg of our Cape Wrath Trail passes through one of the wildest places in Scotland, Knoydart. We look over to the John Muir Trust land of Ladhar Bheinn on the 3rd day of our trek, and camp at Barisdale, a stone’s throw from the regeneration project of Li and Coire Dhorrcail.
On the northern section of our Cape Wrath Trail we gain views the dramatic Quinag mountain range. Also Trust land, this is home to the most northern remnants of ancient oak woodland on the British Isles. All grounded on 3-billion-year-old Lewisian Gneiss, this is truly a place with a wild and ancient history worthy of protection. The trust’s management of the land and deer numbers here aims to “reconnect woodlands and other fragmented habitats which will allow missing species to return”.
Continuing north we find Sandwood Bay, near the end of our most challenging long-distance trek. A place which never fails to delight. With more visitors discovering this wonderfully wild Atlantic bay, the work of the John Muir Trust to maintain the path and monitor wildlife is as important as ever.
Each year we also visit the Isle of Skye for our Skye Trail. This is one of our most popular treks and the chance to walk under the dramatic Cuillin Ridge is a big draw. Walking through Glen Sligachan on Day 3, the Red Cuillin on your right hand-side is looked after by the John Muir Trust where, amongst other initiatives, they are working to restore the natural landscape and biodiversity by reducing grazing.
The care, restoration and preservation of these wild spaces increases our enjoyment and hopefully appreciation of them. We can’t visit these places at the moment and although that is frustrating it will hopefully give nature a chance to take an even stronger hold, and be a restorative time for Scotland’s wild places. When the current restrictions are lifted we will need a walk in the wilderness more than ever before.
Today, on John Muir Day 2020, we can’t head off to one of the places protected by his legacy, but we can appreciate their importance, and perhaps search for a little drop of wilderness closer to home.
Happy John Muir Day from all at Thistle Trekking.