Some days hill walking plans change.  It can be as simple as not being able to park the car; maybe a road being blocked or, as happens (a lot) in Scotland, the weather being not quite what was anticipated.  The upshot is that it is better to have a backup plan – just in case.  In this particular “tail” the “just in case” became the “hmm, what if…”.

For myself, Cap’n Jack and the Fatdog this hike would likely be the last of the year.  I had marked out a couple of possible hills that were a relatively short drive apart so that if the first didn’t suit then we could swap over to the other without a huge loss of time.  It is mid-November 2008 and we are heading back to a hill I’d climbed in snow two years before and which you may have read about in the recent post ‘A “tail” of Snow, Snakes and Something Special’.   We were headed back to Ben Vrackie – for what turned out to be merely a warm up to the main event.

The origins of “Where the Fatdog Walks” are stranger than it might seem at first. The Fatdog first appeared in emails to my Canadian cousins over the winter of 2005-06 and when we met up the following summer on the north shores of Lake Superior we were greeted with the banner you see in the photograph above. A slight reworking of its text saw the emergence of the tagline “…for this is where the Fatdog walks” appear in my early trip reports in the scottishhills.com hillwalking forum. A couple of years later “Where the Fatdog Walks” appeared as a full blown blog. All from a kids welcome banner in backwoods Ontario.

It’s when I opened my old word file with the original Ben Vrackie text I knew I had taken on a gargantuan task in reworking these old “tails”.  In fairness they were written for a specific hill walking audience whose primary interest was information – the details of the route taken, preferably with photographic evidence. (Ed. should there be subsequent legal proceedings if wee Jimmy fell off a crag not mentioned in the trip report)

This would be my first encounter of a hill + snow and, come to think of it, I’m not even sure I expected the snow to be there such was my level of inexperience at that time.  To this day it still remains one of my favourite hill walking days.  It had everything.  Well, it had snow for starters – it had people – it had dogs – it had amazing scenery – and for all that content it wasn’t a hard day out.  It also had…I’ll leave that as a wee surprise for now.

This piece comes with a warning! You might say it is a reflective tale, its focus (or lack of it) on where your brain might choose to wander when out for what you thought was a very ordinary stroll in the countryside. It has taken me 3 years of head scratching trying to figure out how to introduce this brief half day excursion in the way I wanted to portray it. Almost 9 weeks of “groundhog day” lockdown has proved to be the clincher…my brain has melted to the point where all has become become clear…although, in this case, “clear” might not be the appropriate term.

We’re now two and a half weeks into lockdown.

A wet and dismal winter’s end squelched its way into a blossoming Covid 19 spring and, as March rolled into April, the weather in Scotland began to improve. And we have a great view of that weather…we can see it from a whole variety of windows in the house. It seems to have been ages since I’ve been anywhere and it’s beginning to tell.

To briefly take my mind off my captivity I’m going to travel back to last July; a time when it wasn’t illegal to venture beyond the front of your driveway more than once a day; a time when great herds of canned tomatoes grazed peacefully on the vast expanses of supermarket shelves; a time when majestic columns of toilet rolls stretched infinitely upwards into…um…yes, methinks it’s definitely beginning to tell.

To brighten the mood I thought I might tell you about another of my ‘Ridiculous Hills of Britain’, one of those little bumps on the landscape that some kind person has taken the trouble to categorise. So let’s head back to July 2019 and see where we ended up…