Highland Hiking with a Wee Bairn

Hubs and I love walking. We’re not mountaineers or anything, but we do love a little hike once in a while. Over the years we’ve done lots of walks in lots of different places; some leisurely, some a bit more taxing. Just a few of the most memorable among them have included:

Matlock

The rural walk we did in Matlock which saw us diverge from the route ending up lost in a field of intimidating cows. We had run out of phone signal at this point of course, so we had no way of finding our way back to the route but with sheer luck. We had printed instructions but they seemed to have gone completely off kilter somewhere down the line. (Either that or my terrible route reading skills had come into play!) I genuinely feared for a brief while that one cow in particular was getting ready to stampede us. Clearly we survived though – Hubs managed to get us back on track before those menacing moos could do any damage.

(I should point out these aren’t the actual cows from the field that day. I didn’t hang around long enough to take their picture!)

The Forest of Dean

Many years ago on one of our first breaks together we did a lovely walk in the Forest of Dean where we stumbled across this bear:

Quite simply the best use of hay bales ever. That bear alone made it worth every step!

Furore Fjord

Finally, my absolute favourite – the trek we undertook to get to a hidden beach in Italy that I had discovered on Pinterest. I spotted the picture of the beautiful Furore Fjord whilst doing research for our honeymoon to Positano on the Amalfi Coast. As soon as I saw it I set my heart on going there, it was just a short drive from where we were staying. From my research we knew that to get down to the beach itself we would have to park up in the village of Furore and walk down to the beach from there. What we did not know until we got there was that the walk would not be signposted at all (leading to moments where we genuinely didn’t know where the hell we were going) and that it would turn out to be an intense down (and then back up) hill climb on what turned out to be a scorching hot day. It was the most physically excruciating walk I’ve ever done in my life, but I’d do it all over again for those breathtaking views, for the quaint little beach not accessible by boat or road, and for the amazing teeny tiny seafood restaurant we found when we got down there. We had the most delicious pasta dish washed down with a bottle of beer when we reached the bottom, before swimming in the gorgeous blue sea. It was one of the best days of our honeymoon.

Although I might have told you otherwise if you’d caught me just as we made it back to the top and Hubs refused to unlock the car until I had reluctantly done some cool down stretches at the roadside. Typically, as we were doing these stretches some Italian locals walked past and saw us pale, sunburnt Brits out of breath, stretching up against our Fiat 500 rental car, sweating like a pair of sumo wrestlers in a sauna. So refined.

Anyway, back to more recent adventures. Given our penchant for exploring the outdoors, we planned to continue the tradition of doing some nice walks on our recent holiday to the Scottish Highlands. (Also – there’s not an awful lot else to do there, so we kind of had to make it work.) Now we have a baby in tow we didn’t plan to do anything too taxing, but we figured we could still do easy-ish walks. There would be a few extra things we’d have to factor into our plans, and a few tweaks we’d have to make, but it would be perfectly doable.

Obstacle 1 – Babies Need to be Carried

Before we even reached the Highlands we encountered our first obstacle. We realised we had forgotten to pack one unbelievably crucial item. The baby carrier. Ooops. We wouldn’t be able to walk anywhere with a 19 and half pound baby without some sort of device to strap him onto us. Cue an impromptu trip to Argos in Perth on the journey up where we bought a cheap one in lieu of the trusty one we had left back home.

Planning

That night in the cottage we did a bit of research about where we could go walking the next day. We found a trail we liked the look of. The guide said it was 7 miles (or 11km) and it advised that it would take up to 3 and half hours to complete. However it also said:

The Trail can either be walked as a whole or in sections as there are various paths linking the Trail to different start points in the village.

My initial thoughts were we won’t possibly be able to do the whole of it with the baby in tow, but we could probably do maybe a couple of hours of the route, cutting it off part way and heading back early. We decided to go for it.

Obstacle 2 – Baby Gear Doesn’t Always Come Cheap

So it turns out the substitute carrier we bought was dirt cheap for a reason. It was a big pile of parp and not nearly as comfortable as the one we had at home. Our original carrier has multiple settings and comfortable straps to secure it on. The cheap replacement could only be worn on the front and the fastenings were not comfortable. The minute Hubs tried it on before we even left the cottage we realised we were probably going to suffer not just from the exertion of the exercise but also the discomfort of carrying round a little beasty in this shoddy contraption the whole time. Still, we were not going to be defeated, so we continued with the day we had planned.

Obstacle 3 – Babies Need a Lot of Stuff

Packing our bag in the morning there seemed to be SO MUCH STUFF. I mean we’re used to this now we have a baby, but normally we go out and about in the car and with a pram so there is extra storage for bits and bobs as we need it. Also most of the time we’re never too far from a shop so if we forget something it’s not the end of the world. Most of all we’re not normally walking around having to carry the weight of every single thing we want with us so as we started packing the bag it became quite perturbing how much stuff we were going to have to carry around for the whole of this walk. It wouldn’t just be the person carrying the baby who felt the burn!

The Walk

We got to our starting point and we were off! Well, once we had put the carrier on Hubs, fastened the baba into it, put the heaving backpack on me, made sure we had the camera, water, lunch and everything else you’d normally take as well as all the baby stuff. THEN we were off! Talk about Speedy Gonzales!

Obstacle 2 – Babies Needs Feeding

Before long, baba’s feeding time was approaching. Luckily lunch time was also approaching for us two. I hoped we’d find a suitable idyllic lunch location with a big fallen tree trunk we could sit on to give the boy his milk and then eat our own lunch. We walked and walked. No idyllic fallen trees appeared. We eventually settled on a disused, half-broken wooden stile. Only one of us could fit on it at a time but it did the job. We took it in turns to see to baby and eat our lunch, before carrying on our way.

Obstacle 3 – Babies Needs Naps

Pretty soon baba was showing signs of being overtired. His nap was due and he was getting cranky because of it. How on Earth were we going to get him to sleep midway through the walk? We hoped if we turned him to face inward (head on Hubs’ chest in the carrier) he might nod off. We tried it, and lo and behold he did. Excellent! Another win for team parents!

Obstacle 4 – Babies Scare Away the Wildlife

On our walk we hoped to spot a number of animals native to the local area. We were particularly keen to see red squirrels and deer that are both renowned for being spotted locally. What we hadn’t considered though is that these kind of animals don’t like noise. The baby keeping us company on our jaunt likes making noise an awful lot. He loves blowing the loudest raspberries you have ever heard, letting out high-pitched squeaks, squeals and squawks, and randomly babbling things like, “MAMAMAMA… RARARARARARARA!” Turns out these noises don’t exactly encourage the elusive animals we we were hoping to see to make an appearance.

We did manage to spot a wild deer leaping through the woods at one point on this walk… strangely enough though, it was when Baba was fast asleep. Strange that, isn’t it?!

Obstacle 5 – Babies Needs Changing

This was by far the most awkward obstacle of them all. Changing a nappy is easy. Changing a nappy in a field full of sheep turd when you have absolutely no choice but to do it then and there because baba has suddenly and explosively soiled his way through his outfit is not so easy. This happened to us in what must be the most sheep-shit-sodden field in all of Scotland. It was a case of ‘dodge the poo pellets’. It was windy as we were at a hilly point of the walk, poor baba’s bits were getting blown in the wind. We had to try not to put anything down on the poo-strewn floor unless absolutely necessary. It was a challenge. (They should make this one of the tasks on the Crystal Maze. I might write to Channel 4 and suggest it…)

We survived though! We changed his nappy and clothes. We all lived to tell the tale. Let’s just hope we never have to relive that again.

The Accomplishment

I am proud to say that not only did we successfully (and for the most part enjoyably!) take on this walk, we actually did the WHOLE route. We didn’t end it early like I thought we would. I think we took about 4 hours in all, which is really very good when you factor in several stops for feeding and changing and general rest, AND accounting for the fact that poor Hubs had to carry round the weight of a whole extra small (yet chunky) person for the duration of the walk.

WELL DONE US!!

A friend later said to me this must make me Super Mum. I corrected her, ‘Mad Mum is definitely more appropriate‘.

In Summary

Hiking is still possible with a baby, but it is like no pre-baby hike you’ve ever done. Not only will your legs ache from walking, your back (or perhaps more likely your partner’s back) will ache from carrying round an infant on you the whole time.

You will have to factor in multiple stops for feeds and nappy changes. It is unlikely that the timing of these things will fall perfectly in a convenient spot by a bench or where there is shelter from the elements. You will just have to be very good at improvisation.

If you are forced to change a nappy in a field littered with sheep poo you will definitely find several of the blasted droppings in your little one’s clothing when you get them back home later. And somehow sheep poo is more offensive when you find yourself picking it up from the bathroom floor than it ever was out in the field!

Happy hiking parent pals!

xxx

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