It is a question that is often asked of me, and to be honest, I don’t blame them. Why would someone want to throw a heavy musical instrument in his back, cart them up a mountain, just to play a tune on the summit? The question has entered my head on numerous occasions. Many times, when I have woken up early at home in Glasgow, with a day off ahead of me, I have considered just rolling over for another hours sleep. Maybe even more often, I have been half an hour into a solo walk, started feeling my legs, and thought my day could be better spent.
The answer can only be explained by: the sheer thrill I get from being in the outdoors, away from everything; hearing nothing but the flowing river; the musical sounds of the wind as it blows through the trees, the sight of the ever changing clouds around me; even the smell left by the animals that call the mountains home.
That explains why I get out in the hills, and spend my days off outside. I am not alone in this, there are thousands in Scotland that call hill walking, Munro bagging, climbing etc a hobby, and why not? The hills are there, they always will be, and really bring you back to one with nature. What it doesn’t explain, is why I bring my pipes with me.
As a child, growing up in the Highlands of Scotland, surrounded by the mountains at every turn, and also music, my passion for both grew and grew. I would often imagine what it would sound like, to hear the bagpipes echoing through the glens, not knowing where its source was.
At the age of 26, I was at a life cross roads. I was getting to the age where I felt I should be on a life path, and making an impact in my chosen field. I found myself in a bit of a no man’s land, and lacking a solid direction. I had been playing the bagpipes since a young age, but wasn’t quite at the standard to break into mainstream piping; I had all the professional qualifications to make an impact in the health and fitness industry, but discovered it was more of a who, rather than, what you know industry; so I found myself grafting away behind a bar. I was working long, anti social hours, for minimum wage, while all my skills, talents and qualifications, seemed to be wasting away.
I had hit a bit of a wall, and during a 3 week (unpaid) break from work, and a return to my home in the highlands, I managed to regain my focus. I spent time with a friend touring the local area of the West coast, and began to feel alive again, little did I know the irony that was about to follow. On one of our day trips, this time to the Isle of Raasay, off Skye, I decided, “I am going to climb all the Munros, AND play my pipes on each summit”. This, I felt, would provide motivation, a goal, and, hopefully, have a positive effect on others.
The irony of this rebirth of myself, was that the following day, I lost my dear Nana. Nana was a huge part of my life, as grandparents so often are, and a major reason behind learning the bagpipes. Her father was a piper, and she was so proud that I had followed in his footsteps. She would have LOVED the idea of me piping on Munro summits, and it was the final kick for me to begin my adventures.
The feeling I get when I play on each peak is beyond comparison. It is a special zone I drop into, where everything in life just fades into insignificance, and you are at one with everything. As my adventures have grown, and people have come along and followed my journey, I have been humbled by the positive effect it has on all of them. It gives me tremendous satisfaction to know I am touching people’s lives in a positive way, and that spurs me on.
Scotland has a tremendous history, a history that is littered with both pride and tragedy. As you look around the country from its mountain tops, it is such a fantastic, and also eerie feeling, to know, that so many of these historic events took place only a stone’s throw away, or even on the very spot you are standing on. You cast your imagination back in time, trying to picture what it was like 100, 200, 300 years ago.
Personally, I imagine the sound of the bagpipes in battle, coming through in the distance, and sometimes immerse myself in that moment when I play upon a summit.
Since embarking on this venture, it has changed my life, professionally things haven’t always run smoothly, but, what it has done is proven that with the correct attitude, and drive, you can achieve what you want to achieve. You are always in a position where you can make a change, and turn things around.
I hope, if you have read to the end of this, that you will continue to enjoy my journey around Scotland, and that it can have a positive impact on you too.