"Bruce, Meg and Me" by Gregor Ewing is a wonderful book. It is a book that will be loved by anyone with an interest in Scotland and its history, and in particular by anyone with an interest in the early mixed fortunes and eventual triumph of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king who faced Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn and, in the words of The Corries, "sent him homeward, tae think again".
The basic idea for the book is straightforward enough. In 2012 Gregor Ewing published "Charlie, Meg and Me", an account of a 530 mile walk, with his dog Meg, in the footsteps of Bonnie Prince Charlie as he flitted around Scotland in the aftermath of the Jacobite defeat at the Battle of Culloden. "Bruce, Meg and Me" adapts the idea, but on a larger scale. This time Gregor and Meg walk around Scotland (and a small part of England), carrying their own provisions and tent, in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce from his return to Scotland in 1307 until his eventual triumph in 1314. Before beginning the walk, the author spent a year researching the life - and the travels - of Robert the Bruce in detail. The initial plan had been to walk 700 miles to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, but it soon became clear that doing the job properly required more, and in the end the author embarked on a walk of 1,000 miles "which my ego embraced before my legs could put in an appeal".
At the heart of the book's success is the seamless combination of the account of a long walk around modern Scotland with an account of Robert the Bruce's travels and campaigns. You cannot fail to emerge from this book without knowing a great deal more about one of the great figures of Scottish history: the immediacy of having events from seven centuries ago related so skillfully to the modern landscape brings them to life in a very impressive way. But at another level this is a lovely a book about the quest that Gregor and Meg embark upon. It is told in a very matter of fact way that illustrates beautifully both the joys and the pitfalls facing the modern adventurer as he makes his way round a landscape that will be familiar to many of his readers, but which at times seems very alien simply because of the constraints he places upon himself. We learn a lot about wild camping and bothies; about the perils of sharing a tent with a flatulent dog; and about the challenges of ensuring food stocks and mobile phone battery both remain adequately topped up. Mostly, though, the reader learns that with a little planning and a great deal of commitment, it remains possible to embark on epic journeys of discovery, even in an age when you might have thought there was nothing left to achieve that hadn't been achieved already.