In 1934 the legendary author, poet and translator Edwin Muir set off on his Scottish Journey, travelling from Edinburgh to his childhood home of Orkney. More than 80 years later, I’ll be setting out in pursuit of a long-held ambition: to follow in Muir’s tyre tracks while also adding a few of my own.
My story will begin and end on the steps of the Scottish parliament, traversing Kirkcudbright, Glasgow, Oban, Plockton, Ullapool, Orkney, Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, the new Queensferry Crossing – – and all the vast, complicated, conflicted country in-between.
Instead of Muir’s 1921 Standard car I will be relying upon an ailing, 15 year old motorbike called Vicky. Rather than hotels or B&Bs, I’ll be staying with ordinary Scots who are kind enough to welcome me into their homes, and whom I hope will tell me about their lives and share their hopes for the future.
This project is not, nor could it ever be, an attempt to tell the definitive story of this nation, its people and its landscapes. It will be a snapshot depiction of this “confusing conglomeration” as I experience it over ten days on two wheels in the spring of 2018, from the tachycardic heartbeat of the central belt to the sunset over Skara Brae, from sprawling rural estates to neglected industrial towns.
In the words of Muir himself: “… this is not a survey but a bundle of impressions: not the Scottish journey, but a Scottish Journey.” I’m going to set out to experience a country which is the only home I’ve known, gathering my own bundle of impressions and then stitching them imperfectly together into my first ever book.
This will be my own subjective, flawed, deeply personal account of modern Scotland — my Scottish journey.
I hope you’ll join me.