Once again Scottish hilltops resounded to the noisy cries of champagne-drinking Radical Ramblers. We toasted the former leader of the Labour party, the late John Smith, at the top of Beinn Talaidh (Isle of Mull) on Saturday 24 May. This was our annual walk up a Scottish hill to mark the death of the great man and dear friend, father and grandfather.
I wrote last year about our visit to Beinn Bhan on the Applecross peninusula, when we climbed a Corbett (a Scottish peak between 2,300 and 3,000 feet). This year, as it was the 20th anniversary of John’s tragically-early death, we stayed on Iona, the island off the west coast of Scotland where he is buried.
As Iona doesn’t have any sizeable hills (the highest point is Dun I at 325 feet) we ventured across the Sound of Iona to Mull for our champagne walk.
Beinn Talaidh isn’t quite a Corbett. It used to be one of the lowest Corbetts, then it was resurveyed and was found to be a few feet short (ie 2,473 feet not 2,500) so it is now one of the highest Grahams (between 2,000 and 2,499 feet).
We did not take the guidebook route from the north, with a long walk along Glen Forsa, because we were constrained by the ferries: the last one left Mull for Iona at 6.15 pm. We tackled the hill from the south and walked straight up the very steep slope of Meall nam Fiadh.
We took our time and enjoyed the views.
Once on the top we had an impressive panorama of Rum, Skye, Jura and the Outer Hebrides.
As we uncorked the fiss we discovered we didn’t have the glasses, and so we improvised by cutting plastic water-bottles in half and supplementing with thermos tops.
It was especially good to have some of John’s family with us: his daughters Jane and Catherine, and Jane’s husband Malcolm Robertson and son James.
James is only seven, but he led the way to the top with huge energy and enthusiasm, following in his hill-walking grandfather’s footsteps.
It was a great day, and a great way to remember our lost leader, John Smith.