Not in Fochabers

Published 20 September 2020

A Speyside Way information sign in Aviemore which the author got to lean on in 2015.

Today I was due to wake up in the village of Fochabers, in the north of Scotland.  With some friends, we’d breakfast then head out to walk our second day on the Speyside Way.

We planned and booked the whole thing at the beginning of the year.  A chance for us all to meet up, spend some time together, drink whisky, and do some walking.  Sleeper trains and hotels were booked.  Everything was looking good.  It looked like I might even get some new and exciting content for this website after – frankly – spending most of the year trying to make stuff out of my archives.

Then this thing called Covid-19 came along.  For months we ummed and erred about the whole thing.  Would it be better to cancel?  In the end we decided to wait and see.  And as the country began to open up, things began to look promising.  There would be some challenges and disappointments – the lounge car on the Caledonian Sleeper being closed being a major one.  But it was looking like it would at least happen.  We decided have to treat ourselves as a bubble for the duration of the trip, but it felt okay.

Then Covid-19 cases began to rise.  And rise.  And rise.  As I type Greater Manchester – where I live – has some of the worst rates in the country.

In England new rules were announced.  You’d be able to meet a maximum of six people at any one time in any situation.

The next day Scotland followed with a similar but subtly different rules.  Six people from a maximum of two households in any situation – indoors or outdoors.

I am not sure if the conundrum of a group of friends meeting up and spending the week together was in the front of the Scottish Government’s minds when they sat down to discuss these things.  Perhaps it was, but somehow I doubt it.  It’s hardly a big scenario they need to consider.  Indeed I’ve not seen a single bit of guidance or coverage about group travel at all during Covid-19.  From anyone. 

Now you could make argue that a group of people treating themselves as a bubble, it would be okay.  That people create these rules and there’s specific things – like group travel – that fall through the gaps in the guidance.  I know someone who is in a leader in a walking group who do a lot of weekends away, and had been battling with this problem even before the six rule came about. 

But that’s where we are.  I’m not in Scotland.  I’m not walking the Speyside Way right now.  It remains the case that the closest I’ve got to it is standing next to the Speyside Way sign in Aviemore after completing the East Highland Way.  And you, dear reader, will just have to accept that there won’t be any major tales of Scotland coming your way soon. However I will hopefully be spending some time in the Lake District instead.

2020 has not been the best year so far.  We can only hope 2021 has some better stuff waiting for us all.

And at least we still have whisky.



24 September 2020 at 9:01 am

Feeling your pain!!!

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