The Scottish National Trail is an unofficial route, devised by Cameron McNeish. It starts from Kirk Yetholm at the end of the Pennine Way and finishes 540-miles later at Cape Wrath. This is a serious, extended backpacking route that passes through national parks, rolling hills and the rugged wilderness of the North West Highlands.
The starting point for planning the route is the excellent Walk Highlands website, which can be found at www.walkhighlands.co.uk/scottish-national-trail.shtml
I am planning to walk this route in May/June 2021, having now completed the Wales Coast Path (870-miles). This trail will take a healthy 5-weeks or more to complete, with the early sections used to build fitness levels before tackling the extended wilderness further north. I am not going to be able to sustain 20-mile days, with the exception of the early stages, and I will take 1 or 2-days rest, when the weather is diabolical or the opportunity arises.
This challenge will entail multi-day routes, greater navigation skills and heavier loads for food and clothing. Accommodation will primarily be wild-camping, making use of bothies and hostels where possible. I may need to send forward packages, but resupply of specialist food can be countered by devising good recipes using ingredients found in most shops.
The route is makes use of a number of established trails:
- St. Cuthbert’s Way (perhaps walk from Lindisfarne)
- Southern Upland Way
- Forth & Clyde and Union Canals
- John Muir Way, as a short cut to…
- West Highland Way
- Rob Roy Way
- Great Glen Way
- Cape Wrath Trail
The latter is a major undertaking in it own right. I am now planning resupply routes and options for trains and buses into major towns. The sections to Fort Augustus should be straightforward, with the real challenge coming further north. This means I need to up my game for:
- River crossings
- Food and cooking
- Good clothing and footwear
- Larger backpack
- Navigation without a smartphone
- Water purification
- Midges and ticks
There is no doubt I will use my faithful Meindl Bhutan boots and I need a new backpack (Atom Packs Mo 50-litre) and walking poles (Leki Carbon MVC Strong) to replace broken Leki Carbon Ultralites. I am going to supplement my tent with a bivi-bag, which will help in bothies too, but it might be time to upgrade to a more durable shelter.
I will expect the best, but plan for the worst.