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The Scots Week-End

Here's to budgets, bags and wallets!
Here's to all the wandering train!



IN Scotland the term walkers includes cyclists and motorists, as even these, if they wish to see Scotland, have often to get off or out and use their legs and their wits. When preparing to journey in Scotland by any other path than railway lines, the three grand things to keep in mind are the weather, the ground and the customs of the Scotch. In other words, prepare for cold, rain and mist, for rocks, bogs and innless roads, and for the fact that our natives, especially our Highlanders, while they are the soul of hospitality, are apt to take for granted the virtue of total abstinence in travellers. That is to say, your clothes, your carried refreshments, and your precautions against being caught out by fatigue or fog in remote spots, are all more important than if you were walking in England.

Take clothes first. No matter what month it may be, you cannot count on the kindness of the weather. This is especially true if you are climbing. In the Grampians even in July there are days when the south wind speedily masses rain-clouds along the range you have chosen. As often as not early morning sunshine is a bad sign for a day's outing, and east wind is no guarantee that it will not rain. You may be lucky and strike a fine spell in the North when all England is under rain. June and September are both likely months for this. But do not rely on it. Be prepared for the worst. For men there is no dress equal to the kilt for Scottish out-of-doors, especially for cross-country or path-walking in the high places. It guarantees warmth to the vital parts of the body when sitting or standing, is difficult to wet through, and leaves the limbs free. Heather was not made for trousers. The sporran also is convenient as an extra pocket. If you have no tartan of your own there is nothing against your wearing a tweed kilt, and you can have it waterproofed if you like. Women should wear a thickly pleated skirt - that is, pleated in the same generous fashion as a kilt. With the kilt goes a sweater or cardigan over a shirt for both sexes, and a jacket over the sweater, the extras to be discarded and carried in the pack when not required. If, at the same time, you can acquire, and learn how to wear without impeding yourself, a thin plaid, you are secure against the worst that Scotland can do. This also can be waterproofed while remaining soft and thin, and so will serve as a rug or a wrap as necessity dictates. Practise folding and draping it over one shoulder and across the breast, drawing one end through your waistbelt. It is a graceful garment and will not be in your way. The black-and-white "shepherd's plaid" of fine wool is recommended, but colours are a matter of taste. Remember that if you are storm-stayed in the hills, a few folds of the plaid over your head will do more to keep you warm than a heavy overcoat. This reminder is necessary for the many who now walk hatless. Shoes, of course, should be pliant and soft as to the uppers, thick in the sole and thoroughly water-tight. But even the best shoes do not help you if you land in a bog.

When collecting your food and drink, remind yourself that "hunger-bunk" is a common affliction not only in making the Pass of Glencoe, and that if it is upon Glencoe your heart is set there are some fifty miles without a shop or a house available for refreshment between Crianlarich and Fort William. Remind yourself also that beers are few and far between, especially in the Highlands, and that at the end of a long day's walk, if you are not returning to your starting-point, you may easily find nothing but a cup of tea and some cold potted-head. Impromptu or professional hosts will be found ready for all emergencies, so that a recent walker writes with enthusiasm of the courteous reception given in a Highland cottage to a party of walkers who arrived stark naked, having lost their clothes when fording a river. But your inner man may not receive the same attention as that which is forthcoming for your outer. The easiest and safest extra foods to carry with you are slabs of chocolate (these can now be had of unprecedented strength and stimulating properties), coarse oatmeal and raisins. For regular picnic use the best sandwich in the world, and the most filling, is made by slitting baps, buttering both inside pieces and closing them over a thick slice of spiced bacon, which is a Scottish speciality of which we are justly proud. A copious flask of whisky (Talisker, if you can get it) should be accompanied, says an expert, by another, or even two smaller flasks of different whisky, both to keep strictly for emergencies and because that in your leading flask may turn out to be bad. On no account let yourself encroach upon any of the flasks early in the day, and be firm in preserving inviolate those which are intended for accidents, until an accident happens. Even the copious flask is intended to come into play only towards the end of your day, when that last, unlooked-for forced march presents itself and a fillip is much needed.


Take with you a compass, a whistle, an electric torch, vaseline, sticking-plaster and, if you are climbing, an aneroid and an inch map with contours 100 yards apart.

The compass habit is a needful one to all who climb, and even if many days pass without your having to use it never discard it because of that. Even edges of mist or the faintest "haar", combined with the difference between your right and left leg and your all-too-human convictions about directions, can play you tricks in the mountains that are as queer as any of Maskelyne and Devant's, but far more dangerous. Besides, if there are several of you, the compass decides arguments. When the air is clear, of course, you take your direction in using the compass by a feature of the landscape. When there is a mist, you send one of the party on ahead just as far as you can see him wave a handkerchief, when he serves as the feature. In either case the needle tells no lies however peculiar its pointing finger may seem to you. The whistle will turn out useful in a dozen ways, and it may save lives when the hold-up is serious and prolonged. You can go on taking turns at blowing a whistle long after voices would have given out. The uses of the aneroid will be obvious to all who are capable of profiting by them. Vaseline is only a little less useful than a whistle and will be pounced upon for many purposes unforeseen at starting. One often forgotten use of sticking-plaster is the prevention of an incipient blister. It will not cure the blister, but if applied in time it will keep it from developing or bursting. If you are aware before starting of a weak place on your heel or a faulty place in your shoe, some plaster between the two, smoothly stuck on to your skin when you are dressing, will obviate the painful reaction which is otherwise sure to take place after a few miles of trudging. And until you come to steep descents, which are far harder on the feet than ascents, you do not fully know what the weak points are. Also nails have a way of springing into active being when you have been through a bog or two. The inch map is in absolute necessity for the mildest mountaineering, and half-inch maps with contours 250 yards apart are perilous in the extreme. The electric torch is chiefly comforting, but may be actively useful as an adjunct to the whistle, particularly in cases of accident to a walker not surrounded by mist. It can be lashed to the end of a stick and waved.

Before setting out on an expedition from one point to another, always try to inform somebody at the starting-point as to your route and destination, and promise this same person (who should be possessed of some gumption) that you will send back word of your safe arrival within a reasonable interval. This will go some way towards safeguarding you against serious accidents, and serious accidents can happen in Scotland.

Naismith's Formula is a convenient means of calculating beforehand how long you must allow for covering any given distance. For refinements there is another formula furnished by Monkhouse in his On Foot in North Wales, but Naismith was a Scot and his formula is hard to beat for practical purposes. It is based on the factors of distance and height. The normal speed of walkers does not greatly vary, and the weight carried makes little difference, except, be it noted, during steep descents, when it adds considerably to the task of endurance and accordingly adds to the after-state of fatigue if you have much further to go on the level. For your calculation you allow an hour for every three miles and an extra half-hour for every 1000 feet you mean to climb. Take also into account storms, bogs, rests, sleeps, losing your way or going back on your tracks for something left behind. If you propose to cover twenty-two miles and to climb in the course of the day 6000 feet, you may reckon on spending 7½ hours plus 3 hours = 10½ hours exclusive of your extras, i.e. on your feet. This enables you to send a message beforehand to your destination as well as leaving the information behind you.

Always remember that, while water in Scotland, for drinking or bathing, is mercifully plentiful and exquisitely fresh, the springs are often too cold for safety in drinking, and that icy water when you are hot and tired has the effect of spoiling your wind, while it may also upset your stomach. Therefore warm it in the sun or in your cupped hands before you drink. If you want a drink that will sustain as well as refresh you, put a little oatmeal in your horn tumbler and fill up with water, stirring well before you drink, and letting the oatmeal settle first. You can then eat the oatmeal as well if you like. It is nice stuff to chew and promotes saliva. Further, oatmeal with chocolate serves well as a meal if you are storm-stayed. If you have salt, water and a fire you can make it into porridge, or you can soak it in cold water and eat it afterwards, or you can fry trout rubbed in it on a stone, first cleaning and slitting the fish.

But this brings us to


about which you probably know a lot already if you are thinking of doing it. Perhaps, however, a few specially Scottish precautions and advices may be useful to you. Here are some.

A piece of wire-netting encircling the fire three-quarters of the way round, fixed upright like a little fence, is a help to camp cooking. You can fix sticks in it with various foods impaled on their ends. This keeps you from burning your hands and saves carrying many metal vessels. If you do burn yourself it is better to treat burns with very strong tea or with bicarbonate of soda than with oil. The wire-netting serves also for actual grilling when laid over a hot fire.

Always carry spare washers and a spanner if you use a Primus.

The lid of a saucepan reversed and put on the pot while something is cooking, or water being boiled, serves as an additional vessel for cooking such things as tomatoes or for warming up other foods. A good grill can be done on a clean spade or plate of iron, but there is now on the market a sort of corrugated iron pan which grills admirably on oil or a fire and can be used also as a frying-pan.

Midges, gnats and clegs, the first and last mentioned being particularly troublesome in Scotland, will not attack you readily if you have washed your face and hands and legs in water in which some Epsom salts have been dissolved. See that you do not wipe all traces of the salts off with the towel. Wearing fronds of bracken or pieces of bog-myrtle round the back of the hat and hanging down over the neck and shoulders helps to keep off both flies and strong sun. The sun can shine fiercely in Scotland at times.

When a thorn or deep splinter has run into the hand or foot and is extracted, do not use iodine, but rather apply first for a time a wet compress of bread and water or of hot water or milk. This helps to draw out any dirt or poison there may be far under the skin, while iodine affects only the top and trouble sometimes results. Iodine should always be carried, but it should, in the above-mentioned cases, be applied after the poultice. Iodine is good for most insect bites, but bicarbonate of soda is even more effective, being strongly antacid. A small packet takes up little room and will come in useful in many ways, including treatment for sunburn.

Those who suffer from cramp should always carry a needle somewhere. In the severest attacks a quick prick with the point of the needle will give sufficient shock to the adjoining nerves to allay the onslaught. Swimmers frequently carry a needle concealed in the cap where it is protected from the water.

To catch a crab on the shore without letting it bite you, seize it by the shell of its back using your thumb and third finger, arching the forefinger, the third finger and the little finger as high up in the air as possible. There is then no possibility of your getting hurt if you do not lose your head, and in this way you may convey your catch from pool to pot and eat him fresh.

Celestial Tea - a fountain that can cure
The ills of passion, and can free the fair
From frowns and sighs from disappointment earned.
To her, ye fair, in adoration bow!

So wrote Robert Fergusson when tea was something of a novelty in Scotland. The Scotch are now, if anything, more perfervid tea-drinkers than the English. But it is not everybody that knows how to make what is the best cup of this best of hot drinks in a hostel or on a camp-fire, using only a single vessel to do it. The method, patronised by Scottish navvies, is simplicity itself and has the additional virtue of economising with the tea, as only half the amount is required to obtain the same strength as you get by using a teapot and kettle. In a pot, saucepan or tin put as much cold water as you will want for your drink and scatter over the surface half the amount of tea you would measure out in the usual way. Bring the water to the boil but do not let it boil for even an instant when it does come to the boil. Take it off the fire and stir it once. The tea will go to the bottom and you can pour the clear golden liquid straight into the cups. It should not taste in the slightest degree stewed. The same procedure makes admirable coffee.


In some parts of Scotland, as in Orkney, where there is practically no wood and coal is out of the question by reason of its expense, peat is the only fuel, and a fire of peat once started is not allowed to go out over-night. True stories are told of married couples who, Wing lighted their peat fire on the cottage hearth e day of their marriage, have never let it go out throughout a long married life. In the ordinary way, however, peat may be used either as an adjunct to a coal fire, or with wood, or simply to keep a fire that has been started with wood and coal going all night in a smothered fashion so that it needs only stirring, blowing up and additional fuel first thing in the morning. For this last purpose damp peats are the best, but for starting a peat fire the turves must be absolutely dry. The ideal hearth for a peat fire is a plain flat stone, and the kindling is done with paper and chips or dry heather roots and small dry shavings of peat until all has caught, when larger pieces of peat are added. Once the fire is going it is kept in by the process known as "smooring" (Gaelic, smalhadh), which is a symbolic ceremony. The embers are spread out evenly on the hearth and formed into a circle, which is divided into three equal sections leaving a small boss in the middle. A peat is then laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms the common centre. The first peat is laid down in the name of the God of Life, the second in the name of the God of Peace, the third in the name of the God of Grace. The whole is then covered with ashes so that every particle of fire is hidden and subdued without actually being put out, this being done in the name of the Three of Light. The central heap, which remains slightly higher than the rest, is called "Tualla an Tri" or the Hearth of the Three. When all is accomplished the smoorer closes his or her eyes, stretches out the right hand, and speaks aloud a smooring prayer similar to the kindling prayer found in our Lucky Numbers which is appropriate to blowing up the fire in the morning. The southern habit of throwing stray peats on a coal fire is no doubt cheerful, but it is a shameful waste of good peat.


If you should happen to be near a really good bog in May or June, when the bog-myrtle is in bud, you can make bog-myrtle candles. Like all such under-takings, it is an undertaking, but it may amuse you to try it. The candles are guaranteed to burn (with what the books of words call "a soft light") and, whilst doing so, they smell of the plant from which they are derived. Can one smell fairer than this?

Pick a bucketful of the buds, choosing those that are red and tight, and keeping them as free from grass and moss as you can. Pour over them two bucketfuls of boiling, well-salted water, bruise and stir well for ten minutes, strain the liquid through butter-muslin, and leave it to cool. When cold it will be covered by a layer of wax. Take this and use, either alone or mixed with an equal quantity of white paraffin wax, for your candle-making. Home-made candles, as you probably know, are made by melting the wax or tallow and repeatedly dipping into it the cotton wicks, letting each coating cool before the next is added, until your candle seems to you to be thick enough, when you stop. There will be no mistaking your bog-myrtle candle for the commercial kind, even when it is finished. For one thing, there's the scent.

An ordinary bucketful of buds should produce enough bog-wax to make two candles. With paraffin wax added they should produce four. But if it is birthday candles you want, you might be able to deck an almost adult birthday cake from the same amount. And, of course, for the modest, there are tapers.


From Beltane (May 1st, O.S.) to Samhuinn or Hallowe'en (October 31st, O.S.) the Highland herds, accompanying their cattle to their summer pastures on the hills, used to sleep in sheilings or rough huts. They took trouble in making their heather bed on which they lay all the nights of these six months, and campers and others may like to know precisely how they made them. Heather is a better substance than bracken for a mattress, although, where bracken is more plentiful than heather, it is not bad. Bracken is best stuffed into a strong mattress-case and shaken up now and again. Heather needs considerably more manipulation, but when properly used makes a far springier and more enduring couch. Strictly speaking it requires a framework of logs, or a partial framework composed of two logs lashed to an angle at one end and having the other ends braced against a wall in the corner of a shed or room. Inside this frame the heather-stalks - all about 9 inches long and chosen from the springiest you can find - should be packed as thick and close as it will stand, as if growing out of the floor, but slanting slightly toward the head of the bed. If a permanent bed of heather is wanted in a cottage or country house, a good plan is to rip the old spring out of a wooden bed-frame. The heather can then be renewed every six months or so. When cutting the heather see that it has as little root as possible, and dry it thoroughly in the sun before making your bed. The heather bed is yielding as well as springy. It retains a pleasant fragrance for a long time. And it has the reputation for giving refreshing slumbers, soothing the nerves and restoring the vigour to aching limbs.


Those who make or intend to make use of the Scottish Youth Hostels are here reminded that the Hostel is a new institution which is of most ancient origin. Its uses commend themselves to all travellers who walk or cycle through the country with slender purses, but such travellers ought not to forget that more delicate manners and a greater exercise of courtesy are demanded of hostel dwellers than of those who attend house parties in rich houses. Cadgers and borrowers can spoil a week-end for other holidaymakers, who, perhaps, have been saving and scraping through many months of toil for their single outing of the year. Turns have to be taken in washing and cooking. Outfits should be complete. Solitary foot-passengers should be careful not to attach themselves, without the most pressing invitation, to carefully selected parties. Already a body of legend is growing up of high-heeled and improvident walkers who throw themselves unmercifully on the mercies of others who have taken more trouble to think things out beforehand. If you have nothing but weaknesses to offer to the general store, don't offer them. But if you can sing or cook, throw your shyness to the winds and go ahead. You may make the friends of a lifetime. A thorough examination knowledge of this book should go a long way towards making you popular. And here are three small items by which you may begin to show your worth:

Cold Porridge. - Never throw it away. Carry with you a penny packet of mixed herbs and of dried, chopped parsley (if you cannot get fresh, which is better). Stiffen the cold porridge with bread crumbs and season it with salt, pepper and herbs. Spread it thickly on thin rashers of bacon for yourself or anybody upon whom your fancy is fixed. Roll up the bacon and tie it with a thread. Fry the rolled bacon and serve either with fried eggs or on toast or bread fried in bacon fat. See that you serve it very hot. You will be made welcome after this and may be asked to sing of an evening.

Green Dumplings. - If you cannot sing, you can add to the evening stew a few Green Dumplings - that is, if your trip takes place at the time of the year when things are covered with their first budding greenness. The dumplings are made in the ordinary way with suet and flour seasoned with pepper and salt, but they are green with some of everything that grows in spring freshness, which you gather unobtrusively during the day. Pick the green buds of hawthorn, the succulent tips of nettles, grass, and other green things, remembering that in this condition nothing is poisonous, include dandelion leaves, daisy stems, shoots of young corn and turnip-tops or anything that tastes sweet and harmless. Wash them and chop them fine. Work them into your dough till it is green through and through. For soups make small dumplings not more than an inch across: for stews and meats make them larger so that they can be cut up. They go with anything, are delicious and play the part of a salad in wholesomeness.

Sausages. - Without them the hostel could not exist, and the Scotch sausage is the best in the world. Never suffer them to be pricked with a fork before you fry them. Instead dredge them lightly with flour and then rub them smooth. Always put a small piece of butter or dripping in a clean pan before you put the sausages on the fire. Fry them slowly, shaking every now and then and turning till equally done all round. The green dumplings eat well with them and serve instead of potatoes.

THE HOSTEL PILLOW. - Users of hostels are supposed to carry with them their own plate, mug, knife, fork and spoon. Also their own sheet sewed together to form a bag into which they insinuate their persons for sleeping. Blankets and other bedding is provided. But the pillows are hard and, being stuffed with straw, sometimes prickly. A bathing-dress of the regulation swimming-suit kind is not only useful for bathing in, but, when drawn over the hostel pillow, makes a comforting extra pillow-case. If you do not believe this, or if you are too fastidious to resort to it, you will be well advised to carry a pillow-case in your rucksack. You will further do well to carry your own towels, together with a couple of dish-cloths and some soap-flakes with which to wash both. If you are one of those who cannot walk more than twelve miles in a day without suffering, do not be persuaded into joining walkers who propose a twenty-mile walk. Even the green dumplings will not then save you from general execration.

But perhaps you know more about camping and about hostels than we do, in which event you can defiantly chant the following song by A. S. Wallace to any tune you like—if you can get it to fit.


Yes, I used the extra overcoat you sent,
And for blankets I’d enough to make me smother,
But I didn’t need the oilskin in the tent—
no, mother!

Yes, it’s true I had no change of underwear,
But I borrowed some from Jimmy Thomson’s brother,
He was staying in a cottage quite near there—
yes, mother!

No, we really never worried at the storm;
In the evenings? Well—er—we read to one another,
Or conversed on—University reform—
yes, mother!

Yes, we’ve all enjoyed the camping very well;
It’s a finer life, I think, than any other.
What? It’s cheaper to put up at an hotel?
Oh, no, mother!

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