Hike through Britain with Daryl May
Excerpts
A taste of what's here

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Tales from my British past -
a youth in the Kingdom.
Day N2, N5, N6, N17, N22, N29, N32, N35, N48


Best pictures.
 Day N7, N8, N13, N17, N18, N19, N20, N23, N28, N29, N31, N32, N38, N41,
N
43, N44, N45, N48, N50, N53, N54, N55, S1, S6, S12, S14, S16, S18, S21,
 
S23, S28, S34, S43, S44, S46, S47, S49, S51, S58, S64
...and my Benches of Britain series
Day S25, S41, S62, Rest day 17

My imaginary characters -
light relief on the trail.
Day N13, N26, N35, N52, N56

Life in the consumer jungle -
getting the royal treatment

Day N7, N16, N17N19, N23, N25, N28, N30, N35, N44, N49, N51,
Rest days 8-15, S43, S49, S50, S60

Map w route lines loresPig's headDN31 Shap passDN28 Lancaster canalWhat others say mirrorDN4 map exampleDN11 SwanDN1 777DN34 CarlisleDN44 Cattle scratchingDN50 Cromarty Firth bridgeDN53 Bridge Hotel HelmsdaleGetting better blisterDS3 Mansion and treesDS3 Northeast coastDS6 The mound 2DS6 Dornoch FirthDS1 Start finish lineDS31 Border collieDS14 DrynachanDS33 Sheep
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Notable quotes

Click on a link and see where it takes you

I stood alone with my backpack and hiking stick, in one of the most desolate spots on the British mainland, over four thousand miles from home.  It was barely dawn, it was freezing, and it was about to hail. And
I had only myself to blame. Day N1

Why does a retired American make this arduous, very long walk?
Hopefully the answers will emerge, even for me, as I write this journal. Certainly the word "American" needs interpretation in terms of my British origins. But much of the answer is expressed in a few humble and plaintiff words: to prove I still canDay N1


In this position, the face-up owner continued for a second to draw on his cigarette for just long enough for it to glow red at its end before the larger dog backed into his face and sat on it. This additional stimulus (known medically as volcanic anus) . . . Day N7

“You look knackered,” said the landlady, and then told me the price,
which I sensed might also have been adjusted to reflect my fatigue and hiker’s attire. Day N9


[A carvery server] needs to show his boss that he can slice meat as thin
as paper, and smile while urging the customer on to the vegetables and gravy. Day N10

As a perplexed look crosses the faces of my audience, I slip in the punch line: “No self-respecting  dog will go into an English restaurant”. Day N11

The floor was soft enough for me to wonder if the entire shower might not descend . . . down to the band stand on the floor below . . . I could see myself stepping out of the shower on to the stage in the nude and grab-
bing the microphone. Day N17

In the morning, the breakfast cook explained proudly that there'd been a brawl in the pub last  night, as if the pub had once again demonstrated superior virtue. Day N17

Mrs. Slade, a Scottish woman with a gap in her teeth and in her mentality, was braw at the brogue (had the gift of the gab) and somehow kept all of these [22] tenants, though she had only four bedrooms . . . Day N17

I may or may not have entered the sewage plant itself, but my path
certainly lay on some sort of sewage drain-field, as the grass grew pro- fusely, my boots squelched, and vertical pipes emerged from the
ground at intervals, suggestive of an underground world that even Cerberus would have shunned. Day N24

"No worries," she replied, pulling at the [draft beer] lever. But the barrel
was as empty as the hotel. Day N25

I told people that when I heard [that my mother-in-law] had hemorrhoids, I knew there really was a God. Day N27

The inn had a terminal case of water hammer, the pipes juddering when-
ever anyone operated the plumbing. There was no central heating in my room, and the electric fan heater had lost its legs on one side and was positioned under a wood desk, a nice prescription for a fire. Day N32

"No my friend, you have to find the pubs with Irish laborers more subtly.  Just go around until you find a pub that's so full of cigarette smoke that
you can't see. Then listen - and if you can't hear anything sensible being
spoken . . . that's most likely an Irish laborers' pub."  Day N35


Of course, the clincher was the manager's mention that I would share my room with two young Spanish ladies . . . and he was quite accurate. He
just neglected to mention the six Spanish males. Day N40

As with my knees and calves, heart and kidneys, shoulders and back,
feet with blisters, and once-broken ankle, my hernia was kind to me. Indeed, I was fortunate. Day N44

The other customers looked on my bedraggled appearance and reckoned
I might be a highland stoat . . .  I hung myself to dry over the only evident heater, a contortion made more difficult by my compulsion to look at the serving ladies' bare midriffs. Day N46


I wish I could tell you that the Scottish Hell’s Angels wear kilts. Day N52

Oscar Wilde said: “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” But I think: “Hiking is too much fun to be taken lightly.” Day N55

Chatting to a mailman he said it would be a shame to get run over so
close to the finish. He reckoned that earlier would have been OK, and probably desirable, but not now. Day N55

I did not weep. But if I had, it would have been out of sadness that it was over. Day N56

. . . a few of Hobson's Laws of Hiking, as follows: If you hear a dog
barking, he's barking at you;
 If it's impossible for a pebble to get into
your boots, it will.
Day S2

Hobson the Hiker nearly became a human toboggan, hurtling down the bank, ready to snatch the glove and hold it above his head in triumph and pretend that his own ass-first arrival in the water was part of a bigger plan. Day S2

"But you don’t understand," said the chef. "We adjusted the boiler, and
the thing blew up. That was a month ago. We're still trying to get parts."
Day S5


. . . a poached egg resembled my blister in size and even in color and texture. Rest days 1-7


And the boots hadn't been delivered by nightfall, when the meadow, the
firth and the sky merged into blackness, and the wind howled.
Rest days 8-15


But McDonald's went on to feed the world, while Wimpy went on to feed Dingwall. Day S12


I've been wondering whether the Scots pour whisky into the water supply. But that's not like the Scots whom I know. Day S13

I was thoroughly wet a few miles further on when I passed Corriegour
Lodge Hotel
, but I still kept hoofing. But when I reached the Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel and entered looking for a pub with a fire, instead I found an expensive room with a bath.
Day S14

. . . the crisp clop-clop of high-heeled receptionists told him he was
entering an establishment not usually frequented by hikers. Day S24

The "Wandering Minstrel". Makes no plans. Destination unclear. Kit is casual. Pack weight and contents unknown. Money needs undefined,
runs short. Diverts according to whim. When he gets "there", has to be
told. Documents nothing. Day S26


Irn-Bru seems to have a corner on the Scottish market. It tastes like root beer, but probably owes its popularity to its reputation for relieving hangovers. Hangovers are a common affliction in Scotland. Day S29

I never use a shower cap, because my hair is sparse enough to dry in five minutes flat without one, the flatness referring to both the drying time and the hairstyle. But it's nice to know there's a shower cap, and I've occasionally found one useful when working under the car. Day S42

When I returned to my room, the key didn't work because the lock was
old, but they quickly lent me the master keys to all the rooms as if this
was standard procedure. Day S43

Another man with an eyepatch had to turn his head an extra thirty
degrees for his good eye to bear in the direction of the newcomer, and another ten degrees to see around his long 1970's hair. Day S44


Soon the cook appeared with the plate, and we exchanged a mutually-admiring "molte grazie" and "prego", along with big smiles and mental bows - co-conspirators in a plan to replace the incumbent
English breakfast with an upstart Italian one.
Day S46

I've taken lots of pack-on rests like this now. It works wonderfully. Just
don't sit on nettles, dead animals, or manure. Molehills are OK . . .
Day S47

The luxury of choosing from among Andrea's six gourmet cheeses, or her smoked salmon, and then having both! Rest day 16

Thus the miracle of capitalism can be explained by the parable of the
toilet paper. Day S50

And the dead rat will slowly dry out, the diners will forget, and normalcy
will return to the gracious manor on the hill. Day S54

Why take an afternoon nap? Because I could. Rest day 17

You have to be a street-person to know what the streets are all about.
Day S57


To smell an end-to-ender while still on the trail is nirvana to any self-respecting dog. Day S58

"You must see the Magna Carta," I've been told. "You Americans don't know that we've had democracy here since 1266. Day S62

But taking a shortcut when leaving the hotel, I climbed a stone wall and arrived rather early on the other side. It was a needed reminder not to
mess up with just three days to go. Day S63


The Lyndhurst Guest House was of minimal standard. It was low on comfort, and high on paper-thin walls with an unequaled snore-penetration factor. Day S64

I could visualize it all like a rainbow of  blazing impressions, and I felt specially privileged for having done the hike twice. Day S65
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Daryl May 2007 and 2008