All Done … And Thanks

I have finished!

map of uk with walking trail marked
the mapmaster’s final map

I walked into John o’ Groats this morning and completed my walk.
First I would like to thank Kerriann for all her help in this adventure especially driving all the way up to the North of Scotland in the motorhome to support me on the last leg.

Also all of you who have left messages of support on the blog or sent emails during the walk – on a cold damp evening in a tent in the middle of nowhere these messages make a huge difference.

Thanks to the great people of the mountain bothies association who give their time, efforts and money to provide free accommodation for nutters like me in the most remote and beautiful locations.

Thanks to Malcolm the map master for all of his hard work providing you and me with maps, statistics and forecasts throughout the walk.

Thanks, too, to the people who kindly put me up for the night, gave me breakfast and generally looked after me.

Thanks to The National Trust and all of the organisations that look after our wonderful countryside, especially those responsible for preserving our incredible network of footpaths. Thanks to the walkers, postmen, beach combers, dog walkers, dustmen, council workers, tourists, cyclists, lock keepers, drivers and everybody that took the time to lean on a gate and pass the time of day with me – it is you that made my journey very, very special.

If my walk has inspired anyone to set out on a similar adventure I am delighted.

If I can offer an advice or share any lessons learned on my journey just ask.

Lessons learnt or relearnt? 

Have absolute faith that the universe will provide what you need to survive when you need it.   

People are lovely.

Most hills are not as high or as difficult as they look.

We are capable of doing a lot more than we think.

We live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

Now I shall rest …

Dornoch Appealing

Another longish walk today partly in the rain.The first half of the walk was on minor roads and the afternoon was mainly forest tracks.

local wildlife

I deviated from my planned route a little so that I could finish at the campsite that Kerriann has taken the motorhome to. We had hoped that we could park up at the Glenmorangie Distillery but when Kerriann popped in to purchase a bottle for me they were very nice but couldn’t let motorhomes stay overnight. Never mind – the campsite is fine but it did mean a slight diversion.

The paths through the forest were not where they should have been – Many of the tracks marked on the OS maps were no longer there and others that did exists were not marked at all.

In the end I decided to simply take a bearing and go for it – walk in the right direction for about two miles through thick woodland – this was great fun but very slow. I ended up within where I intended to end but an hour later than I expected too. The forest up here are seriously big, I cant think of a southern woodland that you could walk for miles in without crossing a track.

Walking in the woods filled every crevice, pocket and fold in my clothing with needles but it was a great change from road walking and I now smell like lavatory cleaner.

Going to have a shorter walk tomorrow and a look around Dornoch.

Leaving the Black Isle

Today’s walk, as expected, was mainly on minor roads and tracks with the odd encounter with a main road. In planning, I tried to pick a route that was completely off road but that is impossible for this final section so I am following the John o’Groats Trail. This is a relatively new long distance path which is still a ‘work in progress’ but the team that has put it together have saved me (and I dare say a lot of others) an awful lot of work. They have filled in the missing link for LeJoG walkers and come up with a route from Inverness to the top of Scotland.

sign for cromarty bridge
very shipping forecast

Whilst this sort of road walking is not my favourite, today’s trek was quite pleasant and I managed 19.7 miles across the Black Island to the camp site in Evanton where I met up with Kerriann and Hugo.

It was interesting to note how few dwellings there are in this part of Scotland – there is a lot of space. The buildings that are around are either large farm houses with Range Rovers in the driveways or 1970s style bungalows. Just occasionally you will see an old cottage still occupied but most are derelict. I notice that the Glenmorangie distillery is close to tomorrow’s route. Will I get distracted by it?

ribbons tied on tree branches
glad to see old magical traditions alive and well

Watch this space to find out …

One Thousand Miles

Yes I have walked 1000 miles and more. I was hoping that the 1000 mile point would be somewhere special and as my gps was reading 999.8 a deer ran across the path in front of me.
I walked to that point and the gps declared that I had walked 1000 miles. As I was on my own I marked the point with a 1000 in sticks and ‘miles’ in little gravel stones so that I had something to photograph.I was then passed by a group of fellow walkers that I had seen yesterday; they were suitably impressed with my milestone.

Just reached Drumnadrochit and met the group again so have put my slightly damp tent up in the corner of the tourist carpark. There is a nice flat grass verge next to a field with a cow in it and I hope that the carpark will be quiet at night. Not my usual middle of nowhere type pitch but it might be good to go out for a meal tonight and celebrate.

st Columba’s Well
note washing facilities in background
my tent mate
no sign of Nessie
ooops should be on the green path
getting pine needles out of my socks

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is a lovely walk but for me not a patch on the West Highland Way.Maybe my view will change tomorrow but today’s walking was a lot of forestry tracks, old railway lines and yet more old military roads all of which tend to be wide and straightish. There were some lovely glimpses of Loch Ness but not as many as I had hoped for – still not seen the monster.  Maybe my slightly less upbeat review is due to my feet still aching because of the new boots or maybe because of the rain. I have had lovely sunshine all day and made good progress to Fort Augustus where I had a lovely meal. After lunch I climbed the hill in scorching heat and took a nap resting on my rucksack. I was awoken by a lovely couple of German walkers who were much amused by my snoozing and much impressed by the distance I have covered.

loch ness
first glimpse of loch ness
caledonian canal
caledonian canal

I carried on till about 5.30 when the sky was clouding over – as I started pitching my tent the rain started – I got the tent up and got in it in record time and that is where I am writing this – it is still raining outside but I am nice and snug. I just hope it all dries up for tomorrow’s walk.I am amazed to see that I have covered nearly 25 miles today.

view from my tent
tonight’s pitch

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Waxing Lyrical

Yesterday’s walk was shorter than usual partly due to the hangover forced on me by fellow walkers. Today’s walk was also a mere 12 miles into Fort William where I am stocking up with supplies and sorting out my kit. Top priority was boots.

new boots
look at me… new boots

Fort William has more outdoor shops than any town could possibly need – every second shop is catering for the massive West Highland Way market.  Having finish the WHW my memories of it are wonderful. The views are awesome – they almost moved me to tears. To wake up in a Scottish Glen surrounded by mountains with snow in gullies and clouds forming around their peaks, with the sun creeping over the horizon sending beams onto a distant loch, and realise that you are the only human to witness this show is very special indeed. Every day, every hour, the show is different. The interaction of sun and shadow on this landscape is fantastic but I think It might be a somewhat different experience in a winter blizzard. Strangely, I also enjoyed the interaction with people. I tend to be a bit of a loner when walking but I really enjoyed the comradery and the banter between the walkers on the WHW – it was rather like the Santiago de Compostela.  

ben nevis mountain in clouds
Ben Nevis in the clouds

sign  showing wnd of west highland way
the end of one more road

Having said that, I’m looking forward to walking my next leg – The Great Glen across to Inverness. I think I will enjoy the Caledonian canal and also Nessie watching on the banks of Loch Ness and lots of solitude.I called in to Cotswold Clothing and told them I had purchased my boots from their Truro branch a few months ago and showed them their condition – within 10 minutes they had issued me with new pair. Once again I congratulate Cotswold Outdoor for their excellent service. I had a chat with the manager and he pointed out the difficulty in recommending a boot for the type of walk I was doing i.e. Fell walking, mountain/ hill scrambling, grass/ gravel canal tow paths, paved and unpaved forest tracks. Most modern boots are designed to suit one of these categories not all of them.

fort william cotswold
fort william cotswold
old boots with hole on sole
not looking great

I would also point out that, touch wood, I haven’t had any blisters yet unlike most of the walkers I have met on the WHW. 

Staying in a B&B tonight to catch up with my washing.Congratulation to all my new friends who are completing the West Highland Way and commiserations to those who have had to drop out through injury. Those who have finished and those who haven’t have undergone a remarkable life enriching challenge and I look forward to meeting you again on another hillside path…

whisky
a treat for the end of the way
inchgower whisky
favorite of my seven tasters

The Mapmaster Chronicles

I’ve done a couple more maps based on Graham’s data showing where and how he spent each night. I think the icons are pretty obvious: tent – camping, house = hotel, YHA or friends, motorhome = motorhome!

The stats up to 10th April are:

Camping ‪11/21 = 52.4%

Hotels, hostels, friends ‪7/21 = 33.33333333333333333333%

Motorhome 3/21 = 14.3%

Malcolm the Map Master

map of Cornwall showing Graham's route
First leg

 

map of Devon showinwg Graham's route
Second leg