My favourite Long Distance Walks (I have walked part if not all of them)with some personal thoughts on the challenges of walking a Long Distance Footpath towards the foot of the page.
Some Initial Thoughts on Long Distance walking
I have completed 5 Long Distance walks (including the Southern Upland Way and Coast to Coast ) and it has become an addiction. There are many things which make them so enjoyable
- Lots of planning with maps out!
- Discovering new and interesting places
- Covering vast areas of the country
- Becoming immersed in the walk day after day
- Meeting like minded people doing the same thing
- Satisfaction of completing something that is a genuine achievement
The logistics can be challenging. Even the shorter long distance walks will take a week which creates an organizational challenge. Having said that people are always looking for excuses not to do things and Long Distance walking is no exception, the logistics of finding places to stay can be daunting and if catered accommodation is chosen all the way this can become expensive. I have tended to do some wild camping mixed with some cheap B & B options and it works well with me. I have also walked on my own but this is not for everyone and most seem to walk in small groups or as couples. It really does not matter!
I think that many are put off by the fear factor. After all walking across the country or over vast tracks of land day after day is daunting, at least until you have done it. I remember sitting having a beer in Portpatrick at the start of the Southern Upland Way thinking what the hell am I doing here and more than a little apprehensive (so much so that I drank too much and started the following day with a hangover….not a clever move). However having started the walk the fear goes and the adrenalin kicks in. Having completed your first long distance walk you will be desperate to move on to another!
The perceived wisdom is that one should start off with a smaller one such as the Dales Way or the West Highland Way but I would simply start off with one that interests you – within reason. The Cape Wrath trail for someone who has not walked in the Scottish highlands is clearly not sensible. I wanted to do the Southern Upland Way because I knew next to nothing about the area. That alone drove my choice and an excellent choice it was!
There is plenty of good personal stories around and it is worth reading some of them (my Southern Upland Way and Coast to Coast personal recollections are here) but actually the main decisions to be made (once you have chosen the route/trail) come down to the following:
- Should I stay in accommodation or take a tent? Most choose the former but I mix it up.
- Should I pre-book accommodation? The answer to this is almost always yes as apart from anything else there is no point in worrying about whether you will have anywhere to stay all day. I tend to have a list of accommodation before I start and ring them a few days prior but many will correctly book them earlier than this.
- What should I take? Many people use the baggage movement service offered by some companies (including us on our holiday booking service) and carrying a heavy pack day after day can be debilitating. The alternative is to take as little as possible and accept you may be unwelcome company!
- What should I wear on my feet? This is critical and blisters are part and parcel of a long distance walk (mine anyway). I tend to wear softer trainers with good souls but passing over hills (such as Nine Standards Rigg on the Coast to Coast) meant I has a choice of footwear. Whatever you do do not start a long distance walk with shoes you have not previously tested. It is the single most common reason for not completing a long distance walk.
…and that’s it, do not complicate things and if you heed the advice above you should complete the walk and most importantly you will enjoy it. Clearly the weather in this country is an influence but there is little that you can do about it so ignore any sages who say you should go in April or October or whatever. If in Scotland though and camping the midge are best avoided!