After having spent a week walking on the Isle of Skye one gets a rather unique appreciation for the shape of places and f you add to this the drawing and illustrating of maps for Bombus I have a vivid image of the silhouette of the island. Skye, for example has a very pleasing wiggly splosh shape, and has a nice lot of contours which are always fun to draw. Largely for this reason I dragged my small family along on the two day drive from Kent to Skye.

I am not what you would call 'the outdoorsy type'. I don't own any waterproof shoes, or indeed a coat that does up. Let's say I do not have a sportif physique; being somewhere on the scale between Rubenesque and spherical. On top of this I have the weight of an unwilling 10 year old to haul about. By some awful quirk of fate my partner is a keen hiker and fitness enthusiast, so even after the long drive he was pretty thrilled to be on a remote corner of an island where scenery and walks are the the main tourist attraction.

It's impossible for me to do justice to the beauty of Skye in this article, but truly it may be the most beautiful landscape I have visited, in or outside the UK. It is a wonderful mixture of wild and comforting, dramatic and sublime. In short, it was enough make me want to go on a serious walk. Negotiating walking styles with someone is unable to walk more than 10 meters without getting palpitations and a daughter who wistfully compares the rugged Scottish landscape to Minecraft worlds can be tricky. I have discovered some rather excellent  coping strategies that I'd like to share with you:


  • I can't tell you how often confectionery saved the day by providing both bribery power and calorific motivation.
  • Taking in the view. Slowly.
  • Taking opportune moments to stop and survey the view is a particularly good idea on a steep (or modest) incline, even when the view is a bus stop and some sheep poo.
  • I've extended this fabulous technique into full-on diary log sketches for maximum length rest breaks.

Talk to people

  • We stopped and talked to everyone; me because I wanted a break, Matt because he's a nice person.  We met some lush people and even got an impromptu needle-felting lesson on our way.
  • You can be over keen.
  • If you think that marshland is safe just because sheep are standing on it, you're probably wrong. Once you're ankle deep in mud next to a smug sheep don't encourage your family to run fast to get out of it. Once you're thigh deep in mud, don't struggle. Ease, flop and roll is my top tip.

Feigning interest in birds of prey

  • Indulging your partner's fetish for falconry can buy you minutes of cardio recovery time.

Force yourself even if you're not up for it

Over our few days of walking I discovered wonderful things by denying my inner sloth. I headed down the most terrifyingly steep steps to get to the most westerly point in Skye and it was actually just about worth the walk back up again. I got mud soaked  through to my underwear  before finding the most wonderful coral beech with turquoise waters and incredible shells. Most importantly, the warmth of virtuous smugness more than makes up for the muscle ache and a certain degree of chaffing.

Author: Esther Miles