Waypoints: My Scottish Journey, Sam Heughan, 2022, Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., London, UK, 270 pages
I was drawn to this book by the cover shot of the author – a tall, lanky, handsome man seated by a campfire, notebook in hand. A map at his feet. Perfect hair. A glass of whisky held casually. Spotless hiking boots. Then I thought: Spotless boots? A glass of whisky? Isn’t this book about the author’s journey along the challenging West Highland Way in cold, rainy Scotland? On second glance, the photo made me feel as though the author was posing for the camera, trying to act the part.
It was some time later that a friend pointed out that Waypoints was written by Jamie Fraser –well not really Jamie Fraser, but by Sam Heughan, the actor who played Jamie Fraser in the hit series Outlander. And that the book was a memoir that included Heughan’s experience hiking Scotland’s best-known footpath.
With a week to kill between filming the seventh season of Outlander and a movie about mountain climbing, Fraser, I mean Heughan, gives in to a whim and decides to spend five days on the trail. It bent my mind a bit when Heughan expressed his last-minute doubts about his expedition since Fraser was fearless in the face of torture, buggery and the English at the Battle of Culloden. On the eve of his walk, Heughan writes, “Tucked up in my warm bed that night, my eyes starting to close, I find my excitement tinged with a note of self-doubt and uncertainty. Since I decided that the West Highland Way was a walk that couldn’t wait, this is the first time I have stopped rushing around to get ready. The dreaded doubt begins to creep in. Now that I have a moment to dwell on it, I ask myself what I’m thinking. Is this really wise?”
The book alternates between his experience on this 155-kilometre journey, which he undertakes over five days in cold rainy November; stories of growing up in Scotland; and his long, rejection-ridden effort to become a professional actor. Heughan was no overnight success. He worked impressively hard to finally get a starring role we learn – and then learn again and again. The hike, which turns out to be a lot more difficult than he’d expected, changes his life in all the cliché ways one might expect. After completing it Heughan writes that he’s learned to live in the moment, will stick with a relationship, be a better actor, brother, son, friend, overall person and will likely eat better too. Excuse my attempt at humour but the life-changing outcome of his journey strikes me the same way as Heughan’s photo on the front cover: it feels posed.
Nonetheless, the book is a quick entertaining read that sheds light onto the life of an actor who sounds as though he’s a really good guy who becomes fascinated by mushrooms. I recommend picking up a copy, as long as you are okay with judging this book by its cover.