Marhofn 196.11 - May 2009

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Island records

Tove Illing

As I emerge into the Corridor of Obscurity from my cellar dweller status, I have some novel claims:

My first ever present from my (now) husband was The Relative Hills of Britain, so from the very start I knew there would be 'three in this relationship'. The first 'date' involved bagging obscure Marilyns in Wales. Unfortunately it was very wet. I truly learned why all Brits have a plastic bin liner inside their rucksacks, as I came home with all wet gear, including a soggy wallet (which had to be replaced) and I had to dry my pound notes on the clothes line.

So what attracts me to Marilyn bagging? Yes, you get to see places in Britain you had never thought about going to; you meet other baggers (and it keeps amazing me how they can talk forever about access, where to park, organising boat trips etc), and I can have a picnic lunch with a view (when it is not too wet or cloudy). It can also be combined with some of my other hobbies, like needlework, knitting and sewing (AD: I think I see the pattern). You may wonder how, but there is a big tradition of knitting in Shetland, and on Fair Isle in particular. Islay has woollen mills manufacturing tartans for Hollywood films like Rob Roy, and Harris has tweed fabrics providing material for expensive Nike trainers (popular in Japan). If you need a retreat from wet hills on Skye, Shilasdair shows you the process of natural yarn dying, and the most remote pub in Britain, The Old Forge in Knoydart, sells traditional blackwork embroideries, which has resulted in an embroidered map of the Shipping Forecast on our bedroom wall.

Marilyn bagging can also be combined with more cultural interests, like visiting the oldest and best-preserved broch in the world, on Mousa in Shetland, the fabulous Kinloch Castle on Rum (book the Oak Room next time instead of the hostel), Tynwald on the Isle of Man, standing stones at Calanais, and the Archipol beach on Lewis where the Norse have been before me, playing chess. The culinary delights of cream teas in Sennen Cove, lava cakes in Lampeter and deep-fried haggis in Ullapool may not classify as cultural interest, but surely is all part of touring Britain while bagging Marilyns.

Map reading is not particularly one of my strengths, and this can result in arriving in weird places. Ever tried to bag the southern Marilyns and ended up in the Channel Tunnel? You will be pleased to learn that Eurotunnel has an escape route and a special ticket for lost Marilyn baggers, who don't look like other tourists, which helps when you are arguing that you really do not want to go to France! But Marilyn bagging also has its down sides: why bag rubbish tips in the Liverpool area like Billinge Hill, slag heaps like Hensbarrow Beacon in Cornwall, and forestry nightmares like Bainloch Hill?

But then there is the more exciting part of it, like driving past increasingly strident MOD signs on Saxa Vord, running past the security guards and heading for the summit in the mist before they have a chance to stop you. While city breaks now seem to be far away and further between (maybe I should encourage Graham to start bagging flush brackets), I am looking forward to this year's trips; firstly to the Orkney Islands, where new Marilyns are waiting to be bagged and where I will follow in other Viking footsteps; and secondly meeting up with more Marilyn baggers on the Outer Hebrides trip that Graham has organised for this year.

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