Ayr man who planned to walk across Europe raising Ataxia awareness gets set for final journey after fatal French fall

He’s strode across Europe raising money and awareness for a rare disease that struck him down in his prime.

But Ayr’s own Kilted Walker, Iain McGeachin, is getting ready for what he says will be his final walk after his health deteriorated.

Iain - who suffers from neurological condition ataxia - slipped and fell while walking in southwest France, severely damaging his knee ligaments.

And he was forced to drag himself for four kilometres to get back to the house he was staying in in southwest France.

Iain, 51, said: “No bones were broken, but the ligaments in my left knee were severely damaged. But I realised that I was lying on a deserted path as the sun was going down, and nobody was likely to pass until the morning.

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“So I dragged myself to my feet, found the direct road to where I was going and dragged my leg for the last four kilometres.

“It didn’t come as a huge surprise, it was expected to happen at some point.

“But the actual realisation that I couldn’t complete a task I was really looking forward to completing, and something that was within my capabilities when planned, still came as a bit of a disappointment.”

Iain was diagnosed with ataxia, which affect just 10,000 people throughout the UK, and hoped to keep on walking for as long as 20 years after his diagnosis.

He has raised more than £1000 on his own so far, while highlighting the condition to thousands more.

Iain aimed to walk around Europe to raise funds and awareness for Ataxia UK (Image: Euan McCall/Ayrshire Post)
But his plans have been cut short after his French fall forced him to realise that his body might not be up to the task.

He said: “I try not to regret not doing things, but there is one walk that I had planned which I now can’t make.

“I had intended to walk along another walking path to Lisbon. As this is the centenary of the Virgin Mary visions at Fatima, the Camino Portugues path promised to be even busier than usual - and as I would be walking ‘against the flow’, more people would see my ataxia t-shirt.

“So it now feels like an opportunity missed. But all is not lost, while I was researching it I came across the remarkable story of two guys, one in a wheelchair, who successfully made the journey along the Camino.”

With his walking days now coming to an end, Iain hopes to use what time he has left on his trans-Europe tour to highlight accessibility issues.

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The former Bank of England worker, who also ran a popular hotel review website in the early days of the internet, wants to continue to push his positive message.

He said: “I’m actually rather positive, even though I realise that this might be my final tour of Europe - well, using my legs anyway.

“Accessibility is a huge marketing advantage for attractions and hotels, so I have decided to capitalise on this by highlighting the real accessibility of the most popular attractions in Europe. This brings me in contact with more people so the ataxia message reaches even more ears and eyes.

“I’m also using this final walking tour of Europe for more personal reasons. I am revisiting the very kind people who helped me out in the past, and as some of them live in houses which are not really wheelchair-friendly, it feels important that I visit them now while I can.”