EXTREME WILDERNESS MANY WOLFS

Photograph : Shenavail Bothy with Fisherfield Six in the background known as the Great Wilderness contains some of the remotest mountains of Scotland

Stage 4 of the Scottish National Trail is in fact the Cape Wrath Trail running from Fort William  or Fort Augustus to Cape Wrath. The Scottish National trail uses the Cape Wrath Trail to ensure a dramatic climax for the last stage of the Scottish National Trail. In his book The Cape Wrath Trail Ian Harper writes The Trail has an intriguing capacity to draw people into some of the most wild and remote places in Scotland. Cape Wrath the far North West Headland of Scotland operates as a magnate drawing you closer to the spectacular finale of the walk between Sandwood Bay and Cape Wrath.

On this Stage 4 (running from Fort Augustus to Cape Wrath) you need to be able to answer a simple question; if you are walking alone and you were injured how would you contact emergency services or notify someone if you were injured? The phone (cell) signal from Fort Augustus to Cape Wrath varies from good, intermittent, non existent for the later stages operate under the intermittent to non existent basis. So back to the question, you have no phone signal, your alone, injured, lets say badly sprained ankle, now what?

The history of this section really started in the 16th Century when the Scottish Cartographer Timothy Pont started to map Scotland. After studying at St Andrews University from 1580 to 1583, Pont appears to have spent time between 1580 and the 1590s travelling throughout Scotland, mapping the country.. His work can be considered seminal and thorough in its treatment and depiction of Scotland's landscape. 'Pont's maps are important both because they are the first detailed maps of Scotland and because they form the basis of the first atlas of Scotland' National Library of Scotland. 

 

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland  https://maps.nls.uk/index.html

Scotland’s peat bogs, which comprise more than 20% of Scotland's land area, hold about 75% of the carbon locked away in all British soils

What is remarkable about Pont is that during the 1600's Scotland's population stood about one million this was an increase from when Scotland's population was reduced by the Black Death (Black Death was a plague epidemic that swept across Europe between 1348 and 1353, killing nearly 25 to 60% of the entire population of Europe. The increase in population in Scotland meant the previously remote areas of Scotland were no longer an ' Extreme Wilderness' while Pont was drawing his maps between 1583-1595 Scotland's geographical change was taking place as noted by Nicholas Crane in his book  The making of the British Landscape. 'Pont caught Britain on the cusp. The Scotland he recorded with his pictograms, sketch maps and notes was the last part of mainland Britain to retain a memory of the wildwood and its wildest predator the wolf.  Pont's is one of final glimpses we have of wolves in Britain as the last wolf was hunted with a bounty on its head of £6. 13s paid in Sutherland.' England and Wales had wiped out their wolves in the 15th century.  The peninsula of Cape Wrath was the last staging post of reindeer that had wondered on to the island of Britain when the North Sea tides cut a Channel to separate Britain from mainland Europe.

Pont Manuscript Maps

Ponts Extreme Wilderness still exists in parts of Scotland especially where the Scottish National trail heads towards the areas from Morvich and onwards.. Population surges in Scotland have diminished the extent of the Extreme Wilderness that Pont experienced with 'many wolfs.'  Ponts interest in the landscape was twofold; human settlement and determining the productivity of rivers, lochs and hunting places.