Little did I know that when I signed up to run the Cape Wrath Ultra that it would lead to many more adventures and personal challenges. I met some wonderful people, made lasting friendships with some and gave me a new outlook on my ability. One thing that came out of it was a challenge to run the length of Scotland and join up the far North of Scotland to the border with England. Cape Wrath is a huge part of Scotland, and also the wildest. It runs from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most North Westerly point in Scotland.
Inspired by other people’s journeys, like the lady who ran around the whole coastline of Britain, Sean Conway’s Triathlon of Britain and the 401 challenge and many many more! I thought I needed my own challenge.
I got focussed mid August ‘18 after a few months of rehab post Cape Wrath. The Dream Team’s adventures through Cairngorms gave me the confidence to get back to running long. I was ready for the next section of the journey.
I started to plan running the West Highland Way and if I had any chance of completing this journey across Scotland within a year, I needed to do the WHW before the end of that year. I chose November and ran it over 3.5 days from South to North, linking Milgavne to Fort William and thus joining onto the Cape Wrath trail.
That was the easy part. The next section, Glasgow to England would have me pouring over maps which as it happens gives me almost as much joy as running these sections. I dreamt up a route to England that had me running on trails I’d not done before. The easier option (part of Cameron Mcneishs Scotland’s National Trail) would have been to take in the John Muir Way but alas I’d already done that one. I chose to take a different route, the urban section of Clyde Walkway to Lanark. This is where the national trails seem to be unlinked. I had to make my own route to get to the next long distance path, the John Buchan Way.
I joined up trails between Lanark and Biggar using google / OS/ Open Street Map and over Tinto Hill to join me up to the John Buchan Way to Peebles. From here I took the Cross Border Drove route South East to join me up to the Southern Upland Way to Melrose.
This is where I finished on Saturday past (12th April).
My last section will be this weekend where I’ll take the Borders Abbey Way to Kelso and then South from there using the core path network to Kirk Yetholm. I could have chosen the St Cuthbert’s way but I’d already done that too so I chose the way I’d not run before. The last section will be to run to the border with England from Kirk Yetholm.
One thing that I’ve noticed on this journey is that maps only tell one story. I love maps. I like how they’re the comfort of knowing an area before getting there. Harvey Maps did a great job of charting the Cape Wrath Ultra along with their course creator they had us covering trackless ground, linking paths together, mostly not signposted, over bealachs, across bog and heather and rough ground. Comfort was there that the route was waymarked even if you couldn’t see a defined route in real life.
Some paths I travelled aren’t paths marked on the OS map, but using satellite views I can see marks on the ground, perhaps only used by animals. Never trust a gap in a plantation to offer a safe passage, but choose it anyway and expect a slower journey.
Sometimes you just have to trust that humans will have travelled this way before and if not then deer will have made a track. Animals are canny in finding the path of least resistance. The easier way to cover ground. However they’re helped by their 4 legs and hoofs. That sometimes doesn’t translate to our two legged feet version. But usually these routes are more fun as it’s off the track and it’s an adventure.
One thing that I’ve got out of this adventure, even before it’s finished, is the urge to return and explore off my route.
I missed great swathes of Scotland by choosing a linear route, passing through without return to explore the nooks and crannies that were just off my route would be a great shame.
Also, my route just cannily joins up with the Pennine Way. One of England’s most famed long distance paths. It would be rude not to explore further South too, no?