Over the years Scotland has been well served by iconic figures whose ability to communicate their love for our mountains has inspired generations to follow in their boot prints. W.H. Murray is an obvious example from the years either side of WW2. Tom Weir is another from rather more recent times. For several decades now, one figure has increasingly come to be more associated with hillwalking in Scotland than any other: Cameron McNeish. Cameron has been writing books about the subject since the late 1970s. He has served as editor of magazines like "Climber and Rambler" and later "TGO Magazine", and since 1994 he has featured regularly in or presented TV programs about Scottish mountains , including two series of "Wilderness Walks". He is also president of the Backpackers Club, vice-president of the Ramblers' Association in Scotland, chairman of the Nevis Partnership and a trustee of the Wilderness Foundation.
We've never met Cameron McNeish, but you get the sense from his appearances on TV that he's the sort of man you'd like to meet in a climbers' bar after a day on the hills. We almost said "like to meet while out hillwalking", but that's probably not true. We're a few years younger than Cameron, but know without a shadow of doubt that he's the sort of person who would put us to shame by setting out from the car park half an hour later than us and getting to the summit half an hour earlier.
"There's Always the Hills" by Cameron McNeish tends to confirm this impression. The author is a man who's lived the sort of life that many would envy. He's been able to do so thanks to a clarity of vision about what he wanted from life; thanks to the support of his wife and family; and thanks a preparedness to take risks that few would share. It's not really a surprise to read of the author's first trip to Arran as a 21-year-old, and his decision, on the ferry back to the mainland "that, somehow, I was going to spend the rest of my life amongst mountains. It was a decision I would never regret, but it was a few years before it became reality."
Cameron McNeish's autobiography is everything we hoped it would be, and a "must buy" for anyone who's ever felt the pull of Scotland's mountains. We read of a childhood spent playing in and exploring the urban environment in which he was brought up; of youthful promise that was never quite fulfilled as an international-standard long-jumper; and of a willingness to sell up the family home to move with his wife to take over management of a Youth Hostel - albeit a youth hostel in the heart of Aberdeen. A move to the more promising topography of Aviemore followed, with his time increasingly spent writing, then magazine editing, then working on radio and on TV. And all the while, not far in the background, are his frequent forays into the hills. The style is engaging, drawing you into Cameron's life, and the detail is fascinating. A highly readable book that deserves to succeed: and doubtless will.