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Author John D Burns finds Covid lockdown put a stop to visiting wild places that inspired his latest book, Wild Winter

By John Davidson

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Author and hill walker John Burns.
Author and hill walker John Burns.

Highland author John D Burns was stopped in his tracks by the start of lockdown last year.

His bestselling books, The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales, are all about spending time in wild places and in the high mountains and have become classic reads with outdoors lovers.

But the challenge of writing his next book became all the more extreme when the Covid pandemic struck these shores and he wasn't able to visit the hills and glens that inspire him so much.

Burns said: "When I set out to write Wild Winter it seemed such a simple idea.

"I wanted to write a diary of my journey through winter exploring the remote parts of the Highlands in search of iconic wildlife such as the pine marten and the white-tailed eagle.

"The plan was to follow the natural winter of the high places which starts in October and lasts until May. That worked well, until we all ran into the Covid-19 pandemic and I could no longer visit the hills and wild places that are at the heart of the book.

"All my life the tranquil hills and glens of the Highlands have been where I went to escape the stress of everyday life."

He said the book had been a journey of discovery and that he had found amazing things during this time spent exploring the hills.

"Wild Winter is very much a sequel to my first two books and charts a deeper understanding of the landscape and the part it plays in all our lives," Burns said.

"I hope that soon Covid-19 will cease to imprison us all in our homes and we’ll once again be able to enjoy the wonders of the wild corners of the Highlands.

"Writing Wild Winter made me realise just how special the wild Highlands are."

In Wild Winter, Burns traverses the country from the mouth of the River Ness to the Isle of Mull, from remote Sutherland to the Cairngorms, in search of rutting red deer, pupping seals, minke whales, beavers, pine martens, mountain hares and otters, revealing their habitat to be in plight.

But as Covid takes hold of the nation, he discovers signs of regeneration, innovative rewilding projects, humour and a deep sense of connection with this wild land. The book is a reminder of the wonder of nature and the importance of caring for our environment.

Wild Winter by John D Burns.
Wild Winter by John D Burns.
  • Wild Winter is published by Vertebrate Publishing.

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