About two weeks ago we returned from visiting our daughter in the Scottish Borders, a big region comprising of a few dozen small towns and hamlets and lots of countryside between Edinburgh and England. It is possible there are more sheep than people there, as it is mostly made up of impressive hills and several rivers, the Tweed being the principal waterway. Just what you need in a pandemic.
Getting to Scotland under Covid restrictions was an expensive hassle — pre-purchasing two self-administered Covid tests each, staying in a cottage rental for ten days of mandatory quarantine, mailing in our Covid tests, filling out lots of paperwork, and of course taking the required Covid test before traveling. And that’s for fully vaccinated people. Unvaccinated, forget about it.
But that’s life now, so we got on with it. Once in Scotland, we ventured out for long walks, mostly uphill, and for a driving tour of villages, but little else. There was, and still is, a lot of the Delta variant among the population so it was best to avoid the general public. Sheep weren’t a problem, though.
One day, I hit a milestone of 18k+ steps, mostly uphill. Ah yes, one could become quite fit living among the shepherds and villagers of the Borders. That’s assuming you don’t develop a taste for the Border Tart, the Selkirk Bannock or the Bran Scone, like I did.
The Borders doesn’t have the dramatic, moody scenery of the Highlands, but it is a tranquil and green region, while being much warmer and sunnier. In fact, it got quite hot for a few days, up to 80F/26 C. That used to be unheard of, but now, of course, it’s common enough.
All day long the bleats of sheep make up the background noise, so much preferable to city sirens and horns. I honestly think the sound and proximity of sheep calms the heart. One big thrill for me was stopping my walk uphill to watch the Border Collies herding sheep in a pasture, then having a chat with the shepherd about his dogs (Scot and Jude). (For more on that, see this. Speaking of dogs, note the Border Terrier originated in these parts.) There are no shortage of walks, for as long as you’d like, all connected across all the entire region.
In Scottish summer, the days are very long. That permits walking in the evening when the the fading sun over the countryside is prettiest. It illuminates the stone fences, rocky paths and wild grasses in gold. The ripples of hills alternate being cast in light and shadow, and usually clouds diffuse the light. Night falls on contentment.