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Finding Hildasay: How one man walked the UK's coastline and found hope and happiness

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He has, he says, learned so much when it comes to talking about mental health and how “the more I opened up, and the more honest I was, then actually, the more that would help people”. The weather stops and it becomes beautiful, and I’m sharing a roast dinner with a family in the most idyllic place in the world,” remembers Lewis.

Whatever the exact figure, it is an enormous endeavour and one which is the subject of Lewis’s exhilarating book, Finding Hildasay, which he wrote on an A4 pad while walking, and is named after the uninhabited Scottish island where he lived alone for three months during the first Covid-19 lockdown.Little did he know at the time just how long it would take to cross the finish line – and the encounters lying ahead would turn his life around. The Lewis I speak to today is a man totally transformed from the 37-year-old who first set out to walk the entire coastline of the UK back in August 2017. Because I knew that whether it’d be changing jobs, changing house, moving to another place, my problems would follow me,” he explains. He got better at talking to people, telling them of his charity walk; in turn, they offered help, with food and sometimes a place to stay. With a foreword from longtime supporter Ben Fogle, Finding HIldasay is his inspiring true story of reconnecting with nature and finding hope along the way.

Instead, he focused on staying fit and “working hard for the basic amenities, some heat, some food and making sure that Jet was warm, and I was warm, too. Then while surfing – his sole respite – he cast his eyes along the coastline and realized it was the only place he really wanted to be. For the first time in my life, to be able to look back, reflect and tell my story has helped me to understand and learn so much about myself.My foraging skills were something I was getting much better at, and if I had wi-fi, I’d always be jotting down tips in my journal and then putting them into practice. Bag-free, good meals as well as being picked up and dropped off each day gave me a chance to get plenty of miles in. One estimate puts the coast of England, Wales and Scotland – plus their islands, which Lewis has included in his expedition – at 11,023 miles. It was an emotional goodbye for us all; they had all been so kind and I really felt like I’d made some friends for life.

The synopsis reads: "In August 2017, suffering with severe depression, Chris Lewis made an impulsive decision to set himself a challenge – walk the entire coastline of the UK. In his darkest depression, one idea brought Christian Lewis out of the depths - and into a new life. Now, I had some really decent gear to continue my journey north and had no doubt that it would all be tested very soon. His “absolute highlight”, though, was the three months he spent on Hildasay, off the west coast of Shetland, during that first lockdown. Scott Goudie has been elected to the Lerwick Up-Helly-A’ committee following the first mass meeting of guizers on Tuesday night.Not long after leaving Hildasay, in August 2020, Lewis was camping by the Whaligoe Steps, on the northeast coast of Scotland, when he met Kate, who was on an adventure of her own, the North Coast 500. A self-described “all-or-nothing kind of guy”, Lewis has added even more to his adventure, completing the Three Peaks challenge – climbing the mountains of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis – along the way.

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