Well, I’ve been back now for just over four weeks and I figure that I’d better get started on this so that I’ll have something to talk about at my next Procrastinators Anonymous meeting, if they don’t postpone it again 😉 Here is what I learned:
More and more information about walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats is becoming available all the time, both in print and on the internet. I recommend starting with Mark Maxon’s website. He provides resource information, a collection of tips, and links to other walker’s journeys and experiences. I thought it was also a good idea to know something about the history of Britain, so I purchased the DVD collection of Simon Schama: A History of Britain (Special Edition); the BBC edition, not the A&E version.
Time of Year
Walking mid-May to mid-August meant running into summer holiday travelers and some difficulty finding accommodations on the weekends towards the end. If I had it to do again, I would start about 2 to 4 weeks earlier.
Not being familiar with Great Britain and being pressed for time, I selected the route laid-out in Andy Robinson’s book, “The End to End Trail” using the alternative three-month schedule with its shorter days. Although I sometimes gave Andy a rough time in my blog, I have to admit that it was a pretty good route. He does a good job of avoiding the pointless ups & downs (PUDS), such as in the southern Pennines, but occasionally makes long scenic diversions that add needless miles, such as the Cheddar Gorge. I particularly enjoyed walking on the national trails and the established long distance paths.
The problems arose when it came time to set-off on footpaths across country and through fields. Occasionally the illustrations and descriptions in the book just didn’t match what I was seeing in the field, or the path had been re-routed, or it had become overgrown and impassable. My recommendation would be to follow Andy’s basic corridor, but find alternatives to much of the field-walking and hedge-hopping by using minor roads and other long distance paths.
The A9 is a necessary evil if you choose not to follow Andy’s route into the Northern Highlands and take the eastern coastal route instead. Steve Clifford has done a good job of finding minor roads wherever possible and I found an alternative route between “The Mound,” south of Golspie, and Helmsdale (see Day 71 Wayfinding Notes).
Where’s The Path was an invaluable online tool in laying-out my GPS tracks and I strongly recommend it. It is available through the grace of generous donations, so don’t be afraid to toss a few bucks or quid their way. You can download either my day’s tracks or Steve’s tracks from EveryTrail via our blog sites.
The Ordnance Survey Maps were also a great resource, albeit a bit pricey. I never rely on the guidebooks alone; I always take maps too.
My pack finally weighed-in at 24 lbs (11 kg) before food and water. I had one set of walking clothes, one set of town clothes, an old tee shirt and swim suit to sleep in, and a pair of Crocs so that I wouldn’t have to wear my wet and smelly hiking shoes around town. I used the computer and GPS every day and every other piece of gear at least once, with the exception of the toilet paper and the Light Load towels. I ended-up sending back the following:
- Pocket Survival Pack: plenty of civilization everywhere
- Water Treatment, Aquamira: plenty of potable water sources
- Reading Book: no time
- Wet Wipes: not needed
The Osprey was the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever worn, but I did have trouble with wear on webbing on the frame. My Moab Ventilators were OK until it started getting wet. The soles remained intact, but the sides started to split-out and the inside lining at the heel wore through. I was plagued by blisters from Loch Lomond on. My iPhone cum iPod came-in handy for listening to audio books and music on those long stretches of disused railway, forest road, and canal path (never on roads though).
B&B vs. Camping
I do not regret my decision to travel light and stay in B&Bs and hotels. If I had it to do again, I would try to use more youth hostels just for the companionship. The biggest headache was finding accommodations and making reservations. I strongly recommend paying a booking service like Easyways to do make as many reservations for you as possible. The trip was much nicer when I didn’t have to spend all my rest day time on the computer trying to find a room up the line. I do not recommend using the “kit transfer” service; pack light, carry it yourself and save the money.
My total cost for this expedition was $13,313.25. That includes airfare, meals, lodging, maps, clothing, bank charges and miscellaneous; but does not include the sightseeing at the end. The average daily cost for 82 days on the trail was $125 or £78
I had originally hoped to keep my budget at around £50 per day for food and lodging, but the cost of everything has gone-up since 2010. I settled on range of £35-50 for lodging tried to keep food at around £15-18 per day.
In order to keep my pack weight down, I used a bounce box that I mailed ahead of my route which contained my maps and guidebooks as well as travel sized toiletries and daily medications. I’d mail home the old maps, keep what I needed for the upcoming section, and send the rest on. To keep the volume down, my brother sent a second box from the States toHebdenBridge near the half-way point. It worked fine except for the time that I sent the box to aPO in the wrong village, 12 miles away.
Everything else I was able to get from local shops with the exception of mole skin. The Boots Pharmacy chain only carried the thick foam pads that don’t work as well and I had to make do with the Compeed blister plasters.
I’m glad that I decided to publish an online journal for this trip. It was great to share the adventure with others and “meet” fellow long distance hikers. Even though it took a lot of time each night writing down and posting my thoughts to the blog site, along with GPS tracks and pictures, I now have a detailed account of my adventure which I can read in years to come.
I hope you enjoyed following my adventure as much as I enjoyed presenting it to you.