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WalkingSolo by Carolyn McKerracher

The walk that never was

I began this article on a ferry in the middle of the Irish Sea. Slumped in my seat, I stared vacantly out of the window, as the pale, undulating silhouette of the Isle of Man faded into a place where the blue of the sky meets its image in the sea. We were heading west and into the sunrise, a glorious glitter path picking out the crest of the waves in the distance. Somewhat different from my journey over. 

It wasn’t a holiday. I’d gone, in a storm, to be with friends, following a family tragedy. Their grief came in waves, sometimes like the gentle rocking motion of my journey home, sometimes overwhelming, like the storm that continued for most of the week. 

We walked. Not hikes, but gentle strolls with their dog. Around the village, beach, woods and cliffs. One foot. In front. Of the other.

The day after I returned, it was cold, crisp and sunny. Perfect for a stroll by the sea. I drove down the East Lothian coast, intending to walk the familiar route from Gullane to North Berwick. But an intention was all that it turned out to be. 

As soon as I got there, I changed my mind. I didn’t want to walk by the sea - or by anywhere else for that matter. I wanted to go home and nest. To tidy my flat, do my washing and curl up warm, in a place that was mine. For a while I tried to convince myself that the crashing of the waves and the smell of the sea, would lift and inspire me. But my body said otherwise. I gave in. I headed home. I nested.


Sometimes grief walks alongside us. Sometimes it overwhelms. Sometimes it just sits there. Waiting for the right moment. It’s different at different times and in different places and for different people. There is no right. No wrong.


The winter months can be difficult. Short days, bad weather, no money, the cold and flu. Usually, for me, a walk heals all. But sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes I stop. And that’s OK.

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27 Isle of Man.jpg
A favourite walk further afield, Beach cusps at Laxey, Isle of Man

Leither tips: If readers wish to try this walk, it is vital you check the tides (low to mid tide is ideal.) At the walk’s start there are various paths through dunes and trees but if you continue east and follow the coast you can’t go wrong. You’ll pass Yellowcraig Beach and Fidra Island; said to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It’s an easy walk on to North Berwick for the Gullane bus

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