FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.
Asiana

Explore the Best of Scotland with a Journey Along John Muir Way

by Richard Newton

Jul 21, 2020

© MILAN SURKALA – DREAMSTIME.COM

Destinations / Europe

THE START OF A JOURNEY. Apprehension mingles with excitement. What lies ahead? Standing on Scotland’s west coast, we know the bare bones of what we’re facing: 134 miles of hiking, a coast-to-coast traverse of the country. But what will we see along the way? Who will we meet? How wet will we get?

 

We’re in the seaside town of Helensburgh, northwest of Glasgow. A circular stone inlaid on a lawn beside the town pier marks the exact starting point of the John Muir Way.

 

The man — and the hiking route named after him — are synonymous with wilderness, yet for the first 30 minutes we tramp along pavements, passing shops and houses. It’s only when we leave town that a true sense of adventure kicks in, and we inhale the scent of pine and bracken.

 

Breaking from woodland into open ground, the countryside transforms into a typically Scottish patchwork of browns and greens, interspersed with purple clusters of thistles. The path wends steadily inland. Three hours after leaving the coast, we reach another body of water, Loch Lomond, and the bustling tourist town of Balloch. We’ve completed the first of the walk’s 10 official stages.

 

The second day briefly takes us along the leafy shore of Loch Lomond, skirting the picturesque Balloch Castle, before the little purple logos marking the route steer us inland again. Is it raining? Of course it is. Few people — if any — complete the entire route without having to put on their waterproof jackets and trousers. This is the typical native weather experienced in boyhood by John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who emigrated to the United States with his family in 1849 at age 11. He is credited as one of the founders of America’s system of national parks.

 

Scotland forged his love of the natural environment. The scenery unfolds gently, with easy hills and views across fields dotted with sheep. In America John Muir found vistas on an entirely different scale, as evidenced by another long-distance hiking route named in his honor, the John Muir Trail, which threads through 160 miles of California’s Sierra Nevada.

 

The Scottish route, certainly less spectacular and much tamer than its American equivalent, exudes old-world charm set in an ancient landscape shaped for millennia by man, beast and the forces of nature.

 

Over significant portions of the route, the influence of man predominates. Some stretches utilize a disused railway slicing straight and smooth through woodland; it’s easy walking but boring. Occasionally, sometimes abruptly, the little purple signs lead us out of the countryside into towns, and we must temporarily adjust to pavement and traffic.

 

© SUEBURTONPHOTOGRAPHY – DREAMSTIME.COM

The town of Falkirk offers two manmade highlights: The Falkirk Wheel, a futuristic elevator that lifts boats from one canal up into another, and The Kelpies, 90-foot-high steel sculptures of two horses’ heads which, since completion in 2013, evolved into a proud symbol of Scotland.

 

On Stage Six, water. We still anticipate significant distance to go to the end of the John Muir Way, but with our first sight of the Firth of Forth we’ve effectively reached the east coast. This broad estuary meets the North Sea, bringing the scent of saltwater and sights of ships, ferries and dolphins. Ahead of us looms another unmistakable landmark: The Forth Bridge, the world’s second-longest cantilever bridge and one of the wonders of Victorian engineering (not to be confused with the nearby Queensferry Crossing, a colossal new road bridge that opened in 2017, and the older road bridge between them).

 

Stage Seven takes us into the city of Edinburgh, where we incongruously tramp in full hiking gear among the locals and tourists. Some hikers choose to have a rest day here among the sights and pubs. It’s tempting to stay longer, but the remaining miles won’t walk themselves. And so, on another characteristically damp day, we find ourselves crossing a succession of busy roads back to the Firth of Forth.

 

Although much of the shore is given to towns and golf courses, this truly is John Muir country … his boyhood tramping ground. The penultimate day takes us to North Berwick, and now we face the sea. The last stage, 15 miles, usually completed in around five hours, takes us down the coast to Dunbar.

 

Why finish here? Well, we’ve seen his name and bearded face often enough on the route signs, and now, on the town’s High Street, two blocks back from the seafront, we locate a three-story white house from which fly the flags of the United States and Scotland. The sign beside the door tells us we have reached John Muir’s birthplace. Our journey ends where his began.

 

INFO TO GO
International flights arrive at Glasgow Airport, 23 miles southeast of the John Muir Way trailhead at Helensburgh. Bus and taxi services operate from the airport to the town. On completion of the trail, take the train from Dunbar to Edinburgh (25 minutes) and from there to Glasgow Airport (65 minutes).

#TrazeeTravel

Insta Feed
Trends / Top Trends
Jan 11, 2021

Stay at a Luxurious Resort Featured on the “Bachelor” Franchise

Imagine traveling the world and finding the love of your life at the same time. Does The Bachelor franchise come to mind? Due to the global pandemic, the show’s filming was put on hold and production had to get creative, filming at only one resort, instead of traveling the world, as in previous seasons. If you need your Bachelor nation fix, check out some resorts they’ve filmed in before, and book a stay for yourself.

The Greatest Show on Earth

Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.

Trends / Adventure
Jan 8, 2021

The Best States for Adrenaline Seekers

Outforia, an online resource for all things outdoors, recently conducted a study to determine the best states for adrenaline seekers. Outforia ranked each state on the number of available activities in 10 categories to put together the 2021 Adventure Index.

Trends / Top Trends
Jan 6, 2021

Ski Down, Snuggle Up at Eastwind Hotel

Whether trying to nail down Valentine’s Day weekend early or just looking for an excuse to escape to a cozy stay complete with a fireplace and ski slopes, Eastwind Hotel & Bar has you covered.

Discover Must-Visit Wellness Spots in South Korea

Travelers go on trips for various reasons: Some love to enjoy unique culinary experiences, while others want to explore new cultures and have authentic local experiences. Whatever the reason, vacations should have one thing in common — rest. In fact, healing and healthy ways to boost the immune system are trending topics now and Korean-style wellness is just what you need on future trips. At the 48 recommended wellness travel destinations in Korea, visitors can relax and recharge by enjoying different types of Korean therapy and participating in programs that seek healing in nature. Stay at home and visit Korea for a wellness vacation when it's safe to travel again.

Trends / Health & Wellness
Jan 5, 2021

Relax and Rejuvenate at a Salt Cave

Even though the hustle and bustle of the holidays is over, the stress may still linger; it’s time to start thinking of ways to kick back, relax and rejuvenate after the stressful season.