Sunday, May 26, 2013

A theory of "relativity" on Shakespeare's Birnam Hill.

"Macbeth shall never vanquish’d be until 
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill 
Shall come against him."
Macbeth, Act 4 Scene 1 - Shakespeare

Leaving the car park, heading for the trail.
It's a Bank Holiday long weekend here in Scotland but a nearby and easy hike was in order to get aircraft-stiffened bodies moving again. Joan determined a good option was nearby Birnam Hill. It rises above the twin towns of Dunkeld and Birnam, about 15 miles from Perth along the A9 highway - which was incredibly busy. "Birnam" sound familiar? That's right, it's in Shakespeare's Macbeth. The trail promised to be well marked with great views and an elevation gain of just over 1200 feet to a craggy summit and its cairn. That would certainly get the heart pumping and the knees flexing again.

Once again, "blue sky" Scotland!
The six kilometre hike kept all its promises. The views are dramatic and include forest, heather-covered moorland, lakes, rolling hills, snow-capped mountains, and the winding River Tay down below.

The Tay Valley - forests, moorland, lakes, and the gentle curves of the A9. 
A small detour to the Stair Bridge...

Admiring the view from the Stair Bridge.
 ...offers a  glimpse of Rohallion Lodge - a castle / hunting lodge complete with turrets. It looked truly elegant amidst the trees.

Rohallion Lodge.
The summit cairn was huge, a lot of rocks there!

The summit cairn on Birnam Hill.
From the peak, and looking to the west, Schiehallion rises dramatically - just begging for attention.

A bank of windmills and the peak of Schiehallion (r).
We did a clockwise circuit. If we'd paid more attention to the contour lines on the topo map we would have done it the other way round in order to ascend the steepest parts rather than descend on them. (I'll do anything to protect my knees.)

All in all, a most enjoyable hike / hill walk for these early days in Perth.

So, what about this theory of "relativity"? Well, Einstein had a complex theory of relativity. I have a  much simpler one. Here's some background:

Joan and I had initially thought we would just wear running shoes on this hike. After all, six kilometres is not that far. Well maybe not - on a flat, smooth, running trail. The path up Birnam hill was rough and  steep in places and we were really glad that we'd worn our hiking boots. But, everything in life is relative. Here's a conversation we had on the way down:

The snow-capped mountains to the north and west, seen from the cairn.
Joan: I am SO glad that we didn't try to do this in running shoes.
Duncan: No kidding, it would have been nasty.
Joan: You really do need good ankle support on this kind of stuff. Thank goodness we wore the boots!
Duncan: Yep, good decision, for sure. No way you can do this stuff without proper footwear.

We patted ourselves on the back for our responsible planning and continued to carefully pick our route down the steep path. Suddenly we became aware of a "presence" on the hill behind us. It was a 30-ish woman, her long wavy hair flying behind her in the wind. She called out a greeting and smiled warmly as she quickly passed us and continued, unbelievably, to run down the trail. Running would be tough enough, but her footwear got our attention. She was running in light sandals! 

Duncan: That's incredible! How can she run on this stuff when we're poking our way down in "proper" footwear?!
Joan: Relax, it's all relative. She's 30 years younger and obviously does this all the time. We're doing fine too.
Duncan: I suppose so, but it would be nice to be able to...

Just goes to show that we're all different in this world. We have different abilities, different skills, different ways of handling challenges...and different strategies for negotiating life's steep and rocky "pathways". We may find support in different ways. Some may wear "sandals" and others, "hiking boots" - to traverse the very same paths. Some may also carry hiking poles to enhance balance and stability and increase confidence when the "terrain" is particularly precarious. What matters more than anything else though, is that we simply try to do the very best we can - and that we value one another's efforts. And when we fall short, we pick ourselves up...and give it another go.

It's not always helpful to compare accomplishments. Few of us really know what one another may be struggling with in any given moment in time. Life isn't a level "playing field". Everything is relative. That's my theory anyway.

Thanks for joining us on "Birnam Hill".



  1. Looks like another awesome day and hike in the hills. I agree...comparing one's accomplishments is not only not helpful it sometimes can be harmful. Doing our best is what really counts in life.
    Keep enjoying wonderful Scotland!

  2. Thanks for that, L. Today we lost the sunshine and it's been rain and overcast. It really doesn't matter though, it's still just as beautiful. :) D.

  3. Hi Duncan and Joan

    Just read your last two blogs and realised how much of Scotland I have not seen, ie the Sculpture trail and also I am sure you must be airbrushing the sky and scenery for your Canadian friends.

    Loved your theory in your latest blog and I totally agree with you.


  4. Thanks Mike but you know there's lots of blue sky here - you're just trying to keep it a best kept secret! :)) OK, we've been a bit lucky so far. Today, however, is indeed "dreich" - had to pull out the rain pants. Looking forward to seeing you Thursday. Duncan and Joan.

  5. that reconfiguration looks to be going quite well!

    Great pic's man.

  6. Ah, thanks Lee, for getting the exact term right. This is, indeed, simply a time of "reconfiguration". Retirement sounds so, um, "old". :) Duncan.