As you can probably imagine, I met some interesting characters on my tour and I thought I’d take this opportunity to share some more information with you about those who I count as my five favourites (and a couple I wasn’t quite as keen on). I will attempt to list them in order of when I met them rather than by preference (how could I possible choose favourites?!).
Also, many people felt that I was brave to travel as a lone female with one of the concerns being the threat of men trying to “woo” me (nicely put, I think). Therefore, with each man I list I will be reporting on any mention they made of their wife/girlfriend/fiancee/partner (which means you’re safe) or asking about your boyfriend (which means you should run). You will notice a clear divide below.
1. So, I will begin with Martyn who was the only other resident at the B&B in Withernsea. I mentioned him in one of my early posts, but allow me to re-explain. Martyn lives in Devon and is married with children. A couple of years ago he decided to walk around the coast of the UK taking odd long weekends and weeks here and there throughout the year. He expects the whole journey to take him roughly 8 years in total (two of which he has already done), but as he said, he is in no rush (a great attitude and a rare one in this day and age). There have, of course, been times that he has considered walking for longer. He once suggested to his wife that he could go for a three-month period, which down go down particularly well. He isn’t travelling for any other reason than because it’s something he wants to do and I think that’s great. Most importantly of all though, he happened to have a picture of a lighthouse as his background image on his phone. That gets a big thumbs up from me! Martyn mentioned his wife a few times over breakfast, so he gets the “safe man” approval thrown in for good measure!
2. When I phoned ahead to see if there was a single room available at a B&B close to the beach in South Shields, I was greeted with a somewhat hesitant ‘well, I have, but will you be wanting a full breakfast in the morning?’. I had only recently had a cooked breakfast or two (this was the area where there were very few campsites on the go) and my stomach sometimes struggles with so much food of a morning, so my response was ‘No, not necessarily’ to which the lady on the other end of the line began informing me about her bad back, which was preventing her from moving more than was absolutely necessary. When I arrived she was very welcoming and gave me a choice of room (one on the first floor with a view over the road and one on the second floor with a roof window and a better view of the beach and the red groyne that counted as a lighthouse in my book – I don’t suppose I need to tell you which I chose). She then gave me directions to the important places (well, Morrisons, which turned out the be exactly where I was meeting a friend later in the day). My favourite part of this encounter though was the following morning when she told me more about her imjured back (which was feeling a little better for those who are interested), her family history, how she came to live in the area, and numerous other subjects. After breakfast had become a distant memory and we had talked for more than an hour, I announced that I should be heading off to which she replied ‘Already?’. I think I found a friend there and a very lovely lady she was!
3. The next of my favourite encounters was brief, so brief in fact that I didn’t even catch his name. On the journey back along the bumpy road through the military firing range from Cape Wrath a guy stopped our minibus and asked for a lift back to the boat. He had just appeared out of nowhere and I hadn’t seen him on the earlier journey out to the lighthouse. Once we had completely our trip and were back on dry land, I found out that he’d taken the boat and the bus to Cape Wrath the day before and walked to a nearby beach to camp for the night. He had then rushed to the road on the Sunday afternoon in an attempt to catch the bus back the final stretch. This guy’s job is ski rescue and he lives just down the road (a long road) from Strathy Point lighthouse on the north coast of Scotland. My favourite part, though, was that he had seen the weather was nice on the Saturday that weekend and decided to go to Cape Wrath for the weekend as a spur of the moment activity. Now seriously, am I the only person who thinks that being able to do that (and actually doing it) is one of the most brilliant lifestyles ever?! So, when I’m next in the area I’m going to hunt him down and steal his life. He referred to my trip as “collecting lighthouses”, was a little bit cute and beeped and waved at me as he drove away. Enjoyed that brief encounter! This guy did not mention a partner etc. and neither did he asked about my boyfriend, but he was definitely “safe man” material!
4. Next was Chris who I met at Ardnamurchan. I’ve mentioned Chris a couple of times before, I believe. After being employed as a social worker he was diagnosed with a mental health problem and had to leave his job as a result. He’d had rather a traumatic childhood, which he speaks quite openly about. He is also very honest about his experience of having a mental health problem, but noticed that many others (men in particular) aren’t and felt that a heightened level of awareness was needed (there’s my “charity” language coming out – no normal person would say ‘heightened level of awareness’). He wanted to do his bit to help raise awareness and so embarked upon a walking tour, titled ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’, around the coast of Scotland. He took no money with him and, while travelling, relies on the kindness of others who provide accommodation, food or a drink every now and then. He’s met some fantastic people along the way and has some brilliant stories to tell. He’s a great inspiration, hence why he has made it into my top 5. Chris mentioned his partner a couple of times during our time together, so I was safe there!
5. My final favourite, or should I say favourites, were the couple who own Greenore Campsite in Tremain, near Cardigan in Wales. The campsite was my last “tented” night and there are numerous reasons I liked them. Firstly, when I knocked on the door and asked if they had room for a small tent, the guy said ‘Right, I’d better put down my yo yo’ (he had actually just been playing with a yo yo in the kitchen). A little random, but a nice little welcoming touch. They then both gave me a very comprehensive tour of the campsite and suggested what definitely turned out to be the most suitable and sheltered patch for the tent. They then said that they would make me a cup of tea while I pitched my tent (I craved tea most of the time I was away and there was a distinct lack of kettles on the majority of the campsites). So, they brought the tea over along with two slices of lemon drizzle cake and two slices of flapjack. Amazing, I know! They then said that I was welcome to join them in the Camper’s Cabin for the evening where they would be having a chat and listening to music with some family who were leaving the following day. So I did. There was a lot of chatting and a lot of laughing and I got a free glass of rose too (my only alcoholic beverage while I was away). They also offered a complimentary cooked breakfast the following morning as they charged me £12 for the night and felt that they had overcharged me for the size of my tent. So, they just got better and better really and the breakfast was amazing! Hence why they made it into the top 5. Due to the presence of his wife and their great relationship, the male owner of the campsite doesn’t even come close to being an “unsafe man”. Brilliant couple!
Now, I can’t tell you about the good people without mentioning a couple of the bad (it is the main reason I included the section about safe and unsafe men after all). So, here they are in the order I met them.
1. There was an old chap (probably early 70s) staying at the campsite in Peterhead. Firstly, he only lived 8 miles away, which I just think is a bit weird. Anyway, he clocked me pretty quickly after I arrived and came over and told me that if I wanted a cup of tea I was welcome to go to the caravan he was sharing with another old man (who had a really really bad smoker’s cough). I very politely declined and he went away. A short time later he returned and tried striking up conversation again. I don’t remember what it was about. I think he spoke about the fishing industry in Peterhead among other things, but my main memory of him was his almost constant attempts to lure me into his caravan. He then asked me if I wanted to watch TV as he had one in his caravan and I declined (not quite as politely as the first time). A little while later it had just begun to get cold and so I put my coat on. He then reappeared and said that if I was cold I could go to his caravan and get warm. This time I’m pretty sure my ‘no thank you, I’m fine’ had taken a big swerve away from polite and I think he caught the hint of annoyance in my voice. The following morning he continued, asking me if I had enough water for the car (I must have sounded a bit rude that time as he said ‘ok, I’ll stop interfering’). I felt a bit bad then and so spoke to him for long enough for him to think that I wasn’t one of those evil city types who wants nothing to do with anyone who shared their surrounding environment with nature and trees. He told me he’d be over again to say goodbye before I left. He wasn’t about when I left so I just drove off and felt very relieved. The worst part though was when he asked where my boyfriend was. That makes him a completely harmless, but definitely “unsafe man”.
2. My other least favourite encounter was at the campsite in Wick where the only other person camping in a tent was a middle-aged guy who had taken a couple of weeks off of work and decided to drive around Scotland on his motorbike. He was fine to start with, but then he started talking about whether he should go for a drink in town or drive to Sainsbury’s to get a bottle of wine. I knew he wanted me to say ‘oh, I’ll go into town with you’ or ‘yes, I’ll share a bottle of wine’. I said neither and remained very distant about it, just saying things like ‘it’s a tough decision’ and other “skirting around the issue” comments. He then decided he would buy a bottle of wine and asked me if I had a cup to which I said ‘yes, but I’m not drinking’. He tried convincing me that I should by saying ‘but it’s Friday night’, but I was having none of it. So, off he went returning short time later with a bottle of wine for himself and two small bottles for me. Again, I declined and, when I finally decided to make a break for it and go to the tent, left the bottles with him. We chatted about a few things like his previous career as a butcher and how he temporarily gave that up for a job at the Post Office where he still works a number of years later. He is useless with technology, he once had a flooded tent that took two days to dry, he steals meat from his parent’s freezer…I could go on, but I won’t as I’m sure you’re about as interested as I was. After he had asked where I worked he asked where my boyfriend worked. Enough said really! Not my favourite encounter by any stretch of the imagination. As with the old guy he was harmless, although I did feel it was necessary to escape to the confines of my tent before he got drunk as you just don’t know what kind of a drunk he might be. The following morning we exchanged a brief hello and he left while I was in the bathroom. Phew!
So, that is a summary of the best and worst of my meetings over the month. There, of course, is always a lot more to write about the bad people than the good, but I hope it’s provided you with some light entertainment (it certainly did for me at the time)! 🙂