My favourite trail...
1. Isle of Harris
Along the southeastern coast of the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides runs one of the most beautiful paths I know: an old green track, only six miles or so long, that joins the town of Tarbert to the village of Rhenigidale. Two summers ago I spent a week walking across Lewis and North Harris, camping in shielings and fishing in lochs as I went, finally reaching Rhenigidale, where I slept in the little white-walled youth hostel.
The next morning, I followed the green track west to Tarbert, contouring first above steep-sided sea coves and then dropping into a glen called Trollamaraig in which a dwarf forest of willow, aspen, honeysuckle and foxglove flourishes. Then it was up, steeply up, zigzagging the east face of a hill called the Scriob until the path eased and led me between two peaks — Trolamal and Beinn Tharsuinn. On that clear day the landscape to my west was wonderfully visible, laid out like
a map: an intricate weave of moor, crag, scarp and shining lochans. A storm blew in and over, and I walked the final miles along shining tracks
and under rainbows.
And four more...
2. South Downs, England
South Downs from Winchester to Eastbourne: around 100 miles along the summits of the Downs, before making sea-fall at the Seven Sisters.
3. The Cairngorms, Scotland
Traverse the Cairngorms from
Blair Atholl to Aviemore: approximately 36 miles across Britain's greatest mountain massif. Take the low way (via Lairig Ghru valley) or the high way (over Cairn Toul and Braeriach).
4. Sierra de Guadarrama, Spain
Over the Sierra de Guadarrama
from Cercedilla to Segovia: a hike
of about 20 miles following part
of the Camino de Santiago route north of Madrid.
5. Soazza, Switzerland
A 14 mile walk from Soazza near the Italian border, up the river Sassa to the Alpine pastures, and north towards the San Bernardino pass.
Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways is out 7 June (£20, Hamish Hamilton).
READER OFFER We have ten
copies of The Old Ways to give away (UK residents only).