Research examines experiences of women hillwalkers

03 June 2016

Research examines experiences of women hillwalkers

A Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) researcher is conducting a pilot study into the experiences of women hillwalking in Scotland in the past and today.

Dr Emmanuelle Tulle, Reader in Sociology, is conducting a series of interviews with women who are keen hillwalkers to document their interest in the activity, and how their personal experiences of hillwalking and mountaineering compare and contrast.

Dr Tulle has analysed writings by women hillwalkers, including Nan Shepherd, who wrote novels set in small, fictional, communities in North Scotland as well as a non-fiction book on walking in the Cairngorms. The Scottish landscape and weather played a major role in her books.

Dr Tulle said: “Nan takes an emotional approach to hillwalking and mountains, in contrast to the masculine perspective of speed or pursuit of the summit. I want to find out from these women what they seek from walking in mountains and how they perceive being in wild places.”

The idea of undertaking a walk through the countryside for pleasure developed in the 18th-century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature. In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy.

The Scottish Mountaineering Club was founded in 1889 by a number of experienced Alpinists living in Scotland. One of the founding members of the club was Hugh Munro, later Sir Hugh. He compiled the list of mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet. Despite the growing popularity of hillwalking, however, there are still fewer than 10 female members of the Club of over 400.

Dr Tulle’s six-month research project is supported with funding from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, the charitable arm of the Scottish Mountaineering Club.

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