Dog Walks Scotland Books - Back story
As a regular reviewer I have contributed to Dog Friendly magazine for many years. Last summer, James – Publishing Manager, called to query whether I knew of any dog walking guide books relating specifically to Scotland. Surely, there must be several… On checking – James was right, there appeared to be none.
Like many other freelance creatives, the events of March 2020 meant a loss of live work as lockdown dawned. Having travelled across Scotland and living in East Lothian alongside my best pal Bertie, a working cocker spaniel, together we have clocked-up, recorded and compiled many trips across mainland Scotland and many of the islands. Bertie though, covering far more ground than I! The result; a healthy back catalogue of notes, photography and local information.
Scotland is unique, with a wonderfully dog-friendly capital, and increasingly rugged, wild country the further north you venture. Legally, the situation to walking and camping is quite different to the rest of the UK too with the so called ‘right to roam’ act. There is so much history to discover including some of the rarest rocks in Europe. Waves of ancient civilisations have left their mark with many sites of rock-art dating from thousands of years ago. With a wealth of locations, choosing your next adventure can be daunting… vast forests, glens, lofty remote mountains and a theatre of wildlife. The perpetual shifting light along the 6,000 miles of coastline – 10,000 including the strings of islands. Plus more than 30,000 sea and freshwater lochs… Scotland is the perfect canine adventure too. The sunniest place is the South east and, of course, the West benefits from the Gulf Stream, meaning you’ll discover starfish and palm trees along the coasts.
Largely free of food miles, the rich and diverse landscape provides a lush habitat to nurture a natural larder too. From west-coast shellfish, Highland venison, Aberdeen Angus beef and haggis. All washed down after a long day outdoors with ales from a scattering of artisan breweries or a dram or two of whisky from the 150+ distilleries and the freshest mineral water.
With strict local travel restrictions in place and a surplus of time on my hands, I decided to set to work in earnest. I began compiling a list of potential routes and contents from my archives – without the need to travel of course. Designing a template, gathering photography, writing routes and illustrating the maps. Revisiting the stories from my desktop, Bertie and the many friends had shared in previous years’ – a joy in very restricted times. The books developed a personality, reflecting the landscape and the times spent with our best friends, including added editorial themes from my years of working in magazine publishing.
Alongside useful step-by-step routes and factfile panels, the two books took shape – Dog Walks South Scotland and Dog Walks North Scotland. Many routes are designed for stopping off on the popular main routes of the A1 and NC500, avoiding stiles or deer fences – many of which can be over eight feet high! We have provided alternative routes for any harder sections, meaning all routes are suitable whether your best pal is a Dachshund or a Deer Hound.
The project snow-balled, becoming a desk bound journey – literally reliving the 430+ miles of trails in the books. A positive use of the depths of winter, unable to travel, visit family or friends for Christmas. Recalling the times shared with our dogs – living in the moment, making walking memories and connecting with nature.
Following eight months of writing, reading and ‘Zooming’ alongside our sub-editor Helen – based in Cambridge. The books went to press on 16 April. The printers provided digital colour proofs just after Mayday. I specified sustainable paper as a ‘must’. The pocket sized books feature hard-wearing matt laminate covers with flaps – making them ideal for stowing in a rucksack.
The finished books landed both here and at the Dog Friendly offices in glorious 3D on 12 May and are now available from our sister site - Booksmith bookshop: book-smith.org/store/
The fast-paced digital times we live in, alongside tourism initiatives such as the NC500 have encouraged more people to discover Scotland and the Highlands, many attempting to complete the route at speed… However, I urge – take your time – follow nature’s rhythm – although this directive may not always apply to a spaniel! With increasing numbers of us alongside our best friends reconnecting with our landscape since last spring. Collectively we have discovered the joy and benefits of a slower pace of life. Connecting with nature makes us happier, healthier and creates memories that will last a lifetime.
As I write the opportunity to venture out once more – a visit to the Isle of Mull in the spring. Walking once again in the moment with our four-legged friends.
Stay safe, stay curious!
On sale now: book-smith.org/store/