Adventures in the Wilderness

Well, I’m back from Scotland, and have started my new job.  What better time to reminisce over the holidays?  As a result without any further ado, I’ll talk about my Scottish adventure.

AW and I planned a few months ago to visit the most remote pub on the island of Great Britain.  It’s in a small town called Inverie, and is accessible only by boat, or a 30 odd mile hike.  Obviously we decided to hike in, and then get the boat out (stopping overnight to enjoy the pub itself of course).

After getting the overnight train from Euston to Glasgow, then another train from Glasgow to Glenfinnan (with the viaduct of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fame), we started our walk around 1pm.

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The famous Glenfinnan viaduct

The scenery was wonderful, but the weather was cloudy with light drizzle. The route was fairly simple, and essentially took us up a glen, over a pass, then back down the other side.  Unfortunately for us, the weather turned at the summit of the pass, and once we’d crossed over the other side, we were completely drenched, owing to the heavy rain and strong winds.  At around 7pm, we finally got down the second glen, when we were faced with having to ford a very deep and fast flowing river.  It took us quite a while to decide where to cross, and it was about knee deep (resulting in a total drenching)!  The challenge that immediately followed was to cross an area of land described by a sign as “dangerous bog”, which was rather reassuring. It was certainly a bog (I personally can vouch for this as I ended up thigh deep in it on several occasions)!  Anyway, we eventually got to where we were going to camp, but the weather was still horrendous, so instead we elected to push on through a forest to a bothy.

A'Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

A’Chuil bothy and the surrounding countryside

Upon reaching the bothy, we were ecstatic, and we quickly made ourselves at home and had some tea (after collecting water from the river outside).  There was one other occupant inside, a man called Dave who had done the walk many times, amongst lots of others in the area.  We chatted until 11pm or so, after which we went to sleep (after leaving some chocolate buttons out for the resident mice).

The next day dawned, and we packed and left.  The destination for this day was another bothy, around 7 miles away, and over another pass.  Luckily the weather was much better, with sunny spells instead. The first part of the route involved crossing yet another bog (and once more I fell in it rather deeply), but after that, there weren’t too many troubles.  Descending down from the pass at around 4ish was amazing, and the view was breathtaking (with the sun shining down over Loch Nevis – the sea loch where the bothy was on the shore of).

Loch Nevis

Loch Nevis

We reached the bothy at around half 6 or so, and therefore enjoyed a rather relaxing evening (with Dave who had arrived a few hours earlier) sitting outside in the sunshine, in the middle of nowhere, at peace with nature.  It was delightful.

Sourlies Bothy

Sourlies Bothy

The route the following day was subject to the tides (as the path went over the beach), and as a result, we had to leave at 6am. However, I’d been up since around half 3 owing to the mice who sounded like they were having an enormous party under the sleeping platform. We left just as the sun broke over the mountains, giving yet another beautiful view.

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

Sunrise over the Scottish Mountains

AW and I stopped at around half 7 to grab a quick breakfast on the road, as immediately after, there was a 600m ascent.  After breakfast, and what seemed like the longest climb in history, we made it to the top, and looked down the next and final valley.

The view towards Inverie

The view towards Inverie

We could see the village of Inverie (which is also on the edge of Loch Nevis), but it was a good 6 miles away still.  Having made it to the top, we rewarded ourselves with a long rest, and had some delicious (and ice cold) water from the mountain spring we were sitting beside.

That's what spring water actually looks like

That’s what spring water actually looks like

Then we hastened on, down the long valley to go to the village. Around 3 hours later, we finally arrived in Inverie absolutely knackered.

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

Not a walk for the fainthearted!

We dumped our stuff at the bunkhouse where we were staying, had a rather good shower, and headed out into the town.  First on the agenda (for it was only 1pm at this stage), was some lunch.  The pub wasn’t open until 3, so we elected to snack at the tearoom where we had an enormous pot of tea and a large sandwich (I chose cheese and haggis).

Cheese and haggis baguette.  Ideal!

Cheese and haggis baguette. Ideal!

After that, we moved to the pub, and enjoyed a few pints outside (until the midgies got too bad – they’d been plaguing us the whole trip to be honest, but that’s to be expected).

The most remote pub in Britain!

The most remote pub in Britain!

Supper time soon rolled around, and I decided to eat scallops (collected from Loch Nevis, so it couldn’t get more local).

Scallops from the Loch!

Scallops from the Loch!

After that, and a few more pints of course, it was bed time, which was great (as we actually had proper beds this time)!  We woke early the next morning, and caught the ferry to Mallaig, from which we got the train all the way home.

The ferry back to civilisation.

The ferry back to civilisation.

It was a great holiday, very challenging, but exceptionally rewarding (especially with respect to the scenery).  All in all though, let’s be honest, it was just a pub walk!

 

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Busy As Ever

Been back from Cyprus for a couple of days, and chaos has been raging around.  I’m off again to Scotland today, so again, no updates for a while.  I’ll get round to writing it all up at some point later!

Special Edition: Graduation Day

Well it’s done now, my educational career has come to an end, and I am no longer in statu pupillari.  On Saturday I graduated.  It was a poignant day, and the realisation that I was leaving the calm and sheltered harbour of Cambridge behind for the tempestuous high seas of the real world that will undoubtedly be fraught with various (presumably metaphorical rather than literal) Maelströms, Krakens, and other such delights.

The day started with a service in the College chapel, with a couple of classic hymns (such as Jerusalem and Tell Out, My Soul), readings, and an address by the Director of Studies for Medicine.  After that, the photo in Front Court, followed by a dress check by the Head Porter and Praelector.  We then all processed formally to the Senate House where our degrees get conferred.

The Senate House

The Senate House

It was at this moment, as we were waiting outside that it decided to pour with rain.  We entered the Senate House all soaking wet, and there we waited for the graduation to take place.  Owing to the large number of Colleges that comprise the University (31 in total), there is a strict order.  King’s, Trinity, and St. John’s Colleges go first due to ancient tradition, then the rest follow in order of foundation date, with Peterhouse (est. 1284) first, all the way through until Homerton College (which only gained full College status – by getting its Royal Charter – in 2010) last of all.

The Cambridge graduation ceremony dates back in part to the foundation of the university in 1209, and so is quite unlike most universities’ ceremonies.  Instead of walking across a stage, shaking some dignitary’s hand, getting your certificate and going off, it’s rather different.

People are arranged in rows of four, alphabetically, and in the order of precedence for degrees.  While you wait, the Head of your College enters, accompanied by some university officials carrying two mediæval maces.  Once the entry formalities have concluded, the graduation starts.

Your group proceeds forward to your College’s Praelector who presents his right hand.  Each person holds (with their right hand) one of his fingers.  He then says to the head of your College (in Latin), that he’s presenting these people for whichever degree(s) they’re getting, as they have proven themselves in both studies and in character.  After that, individually, you kneel in front of the head of your College and put your hands together as if you were praying.  The head of your College then puts his hands around yours, and (again in Latin) formally admits you to your degree(s).  Then you rise, take a step back, bow to him, and walk out the side door of the Senate House where you collect your certificate and shake the hand of your College’s Senior Tutor.

Anyway, once all that had been concluded, we headed back to College for a reception and to say some final farewells.  Afterwards, my family and I went punting on the Cam, and visited the Geology Department one last time prior to returning to College to finish packing and heading home.

It was a great day, and a truly memorable one.  I have no doubts that I shall miss the University, my College, and perhaps most of all, my Department.  On the upside, there are extremely strong alumni relations at Cambridge (presumably owing to the shared trauma of completing the Tripos), and there’s a University-wide alumni festival every year in September (which I fully intend to attend this year). There’re also things run by both College and the Department too, so rather than being a goodbye, it’s more of an à bientôt.