By: Blonde Two

I am an avid reader but am fairly fussy about what I read. By far my favourite books are novels, and I particularly love novels that teach me something. As a girl I often didn’t understand I was learning through my stories. Who knew when Bigwig met his end at the strange and deadly warren in Watership Down, he was experiencing a way of rabbit farming that’s been around for centuries and is evidenced by the pillow mounds on Dartmoor. I went on to learn how to yearn for adventure with the Famous Five, how to sail with the Swallows and the Amazons, and how to fight with a cudgel with Robin Hood. As I grew older I decided to occasionally stand in wardrobes, to send my children to boarding schools in Austria but not to marry kings called Henry.

Learning through stories

These days we have the internet and Google but in my younger years almost all of my history knowledge (well the bits I can remember) came from reading stories. It’s been the same since for nature, outdoor activities, exploration, new places, even philosophy (although some of that did come from a short and unexpected teaching stint). Stories for me remove the ‘work’ element of learning. The difference I suppose between dragging your feet up a hill, wishing you were still at the bottom, and dancing joyfully up, eager to reach the top. Learning through stories can start from a really early age and continue as long as you want it to. All you need to do is put yourself in the presence of a good storyteller.

Outdoor stories

Like everybody else during lockdown I’ve been indulging in a bit of virtual listening. I was doing just that when I came across John D. Burns on YouTube. Just a few minutes into John’s talk and it became clear I was in the online presence of a storyteller. Not only that, here was a storyteller who had a few things to teach me. John has walked and climbed all over the world and, if that wasn’t enough, immediately earned my respect when I found out he used to be a member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team. On top of all that he is a performance poet and has toured with his one-man plays.

Current outdoor issues

John is the bestselling author of The Last Hillwalker, Bothy Tales and Sky Dance. I now have Sky Dance in my possession. I was particularly interested to read this one as my trips to the Cairngorms with Mr B2 have left me wanting to understand more about Scottish land management. Of course an issue such as this creates polarised views but one has to start somewhere and what better way to do so than by reading a story. Besides which, any book that manages to get the protagonists into a bothy in the first few pages has to be a winner.

I’ll let you know how I get on but in the meantime you can find out for yourself because we have a copy of Sky Dance to give away. All you need to do is be the first to correctly answer the three questions below in the comments:

  1. When did the lynx disappear from Britain?
  2. Name three types of raptor that hunt in the Cairngorms National Park
  3. What does the bird name capercaillie mean?


I’ve just finished reading Sky Dance and thoroughly enjoyed it. I did learn a thing or two about the Scottish Highlands, and am now keen to investigate further. The main result of this book however is that is has made me want to return to Scotland as soon as safely and sensibly possible, especially the bothies.