After ten days self isolating then straight back into a hectic week at work, I was ready to get outdoors yesterday. The heavy rain had gone and the sun was trying to come out as I drove up and across the moor to the Sherrifmuir Inn (not an inn now, its a bit like the famous sign up north, you know the one – ‘Stromeferry: no ferry’). It will always be the Sherrifmuir Inn tho….

Just past the inn, I parked at a group of Caledonian pine trees. The shitzu immediately jumped onto my lap, staring out the window, trembling with excitement. “Calm doon” I say, before adding “ya wee dick”. Luckily she doesn’t understand and as I open the door, she shoots out.

We head off along a path through the trees. Theres one tree which has been struck by lightning, leaving a huge charred spike sticking up, reminding me of a song* – “Its a bang on landscape, with a burnout tree, where the lightning struck not once, not twice, more like repeatedly”. Some of the trees are leaning at a angle, years of constant wind taking their toll.

A picnic bench with small stone circles nearby tell me this is a spot for camping, maybe a young team sitting round the fire, clutching cans of lager, passing round the bottle. And the stories would begin, faces lit by the fire, the trees creaking around them with the wind. Ghost stories hopefully.

But today the suns coming out and we wander on past the woods and across the open moor, the Shitzu zooming ahead, startling a grouse. Not sure who got the bigger fright, Shitzu or the bird. I had seen a tiny figure on the hill earlier and here shes coming towards us, a runner, all spittle and snotters. I stand to one side, pulling my jacket up to act as a mask. We give each other a silent wave as she passes, a complicit tight lipped covid wave.

Am I paranoid? Ten days self isolating is enough and I don’t want another dreaded text fae NHS. Tho how they would trace me I dont know. I imagine The Woman Who Runs telling the NHS track and trace guy “oh and there was this guy up Sherrifmuir…and he had a Shitzu…a really ugly Shitzu”. The NHS guy nods thoughtfully, rubbing his chin before murmuring to himself “The Man Who Walks eh”. The Women Who Runs doesn’t hear this however, she shakes her head as if to dislodge an image. “So ugly” she whispers to herself.

Meanwhile, I spot a wee path following a burn downstream. We follow that to a beautiful tiny waterfall. This would be a cracking spot for a picnic next summer, I say to the Shitzu who is now frantically chasing my shadow.

We climb up the sodden path, feet squelching. My walking boots were maybe £39, I’m thinking, but they are definately waterproof. “Aye, but what about thae £59 trainers ye bought the same day, they’re made ae cardboard”. This too is true.

A mouse! A wee mouse shoots across the path in front of me. This happens several times on the walk. Once when we were in a wee cottage at Sligachan on Skye, we were sat drinking, blethering rubbish when this wee mouse shot across the room right past Kuros nose. We were like ‘did that just happen?’ Kuro just slept on, totally oblivious.

On the way down, we pass the Atlantic Wall. This is a long hideous concrete wall and was used to train soldiers in the second world war on how to attack a defended position, either by air or by foot. They also say it was in preparation for the Normandy landings but I dont see how a defensive wall on a Scottish moor can replicate a beach in France.

We reach the road at the junction for Greenloaning and walk back up it towards the car, meeting another guy with his spaniel. We stand talking and discover we have a mutual friend in Harris , proving again that its a wee world.

The Shitzu is shivering by now so we jog the last wee bit, jump in the car and head home past the inn. Good to get out, I tell the Shitzu as I turn up the heating. Shes asleep before we reach the fourways roundabout.

*”Walter de la Nightmare”- King Creosote

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