Before starting this epic journey, I had a rough idea which route I was going to take. However it was difficult to plan more than a day or two in advance, as I never knew what accommodation was going to be available or what tips I might pick up along the way. But now my end to end walk has been complete… this is how I did it:
SCOTLAND – 405 miles covered in 27 days + 1 day off (average 15 miles a day)
Even before leaving home, I’d already decided to walk west from JoG and not back through Wick. Then once I had got started I changed my mind again, deciding to head back to the east coast above Helmsdale, as alternative routes west were proving too long and complicated. I also didn’t need to go via Inverness in the end, choosing to head a little west, and inadvertently picked up the Great Glen Way on leaving Fort Augustus. If I had known about this walking path sooner, I could have joined it at Drumnadrochit… but hey, I got there eventually.
Same with my route from Fort William to Glasgow, when I discovered on arrival in Fort William there was a direct “path” connecting the two and assuming this “path” would be easier and save me so much time. Haha little did I know this “path” would turn out to be the very challenging West Highland Way… but it was so beautiful and such an achievement, and thankfully not as hard as it could have been with the help my mum and sister transporting most my belongings and sorting accommodation for 4 of the 7 nights.
South of Glasgow I initially thought I would stay in East Kilbride, as I had couch surfing opportunities there, and then travel more south and west to avoid the motorway. But firstly East Kilbride was only 8 miles south of Glasgow, so not enough miles for one days walking. And then with so many hills and less valleys running through them, it was too hard to find a route running north-south which didn’t take me too far off course to the west (bearing in mind I wanted to leave Scotland via Gretna). And finally the biggest decision maker of them all – where to stay – as logistically there was a real lack of cheap places to stay in this part of the world and weather conditions were still not good enough to camp. These factors all helped decide my final route, which took me along the direct and much quieter B road, following the same valley as the motorway passing through Abington, Moffat, Lockerbie then down to Gretna, where I crossed the border.
ENGLAND – 675 miles covered in 41 days + 2 days off (average 16.50 miles a day)
Before setting off I knew I wanted to walk through Liverpool, I also thought it would be nice to step foot in Wales (even if for just one day) and I wanted to walk as much of the Devon and Cornish coastlines as possible. So leaving Scotland via Gretna, this automatically brought me into England at the start of the Lake District. Not realising how mountainous this area was going to be I thought it would be nice to detour through this part of northern England… I started walking south from Carlisle however arriving in Caldbeck I began to freak out about how many hills there were to climb. Somehow I did manage to find a beautiful route through Keswick and Ambleside, before leaving the Lake District at Kendal. Again accommodation dictated my next stop as I headed to the coast at Arnside and with my first proper English summers day, it was lovely to finally get back to the coast. Heading back inland to Lancaster I was then stumbled across the Lancaster Canal Path, which I followed most of the way down to Preston.
My onward path to Liverpool was fairly non-descript but I was rewarded with a few days spent with friends in the Pool and then crossing the Mersey I was back into the countryside as I headed south through the Wirral and out towards Wales. After just one night in Wales, I continued south through Shrewsbury where I dipped onto the Shropshire Way and down through the stunning (but often expensive) Malvern Hills and Cotswolds, which included a stint following the Severn Way south of Tewkesbury. After a soggy visit to Bath and some debate I avoided Bristol and headed straight west to Weston-Super-Mare on the coast. And from here I clung to the Somerset and Northern Devon coastline as much as possible, following the River Parrot Trail, climbing over the Quantock Hills and then a bleak crossing of Exmoor National Park I arrived in Lynton.
Finally heading south from Lynton I headed back towards the west coast, where I got my first taste of the South West Coast Path which runs parallel with the Tarka Trail into Bideford. After a long day heading cross country from there, I finally arrived on the Cornish coast at Bude and basically followed the coast and the South West Coast Path all the way south from there through Newquay, St Ives and finally to Lands End.