Thursday, 4 August 2011

John O'Groats to Land's End: The Route

Next on my agenda is a hike through Great Britain, 2.000 km from John O'Groats in Northeast Scotland down to Land's End in Cornwall. Although this is the most popular hike across the UK, it is not a defined trail. Every hiker chooses their own route, but most link together existing long-distance pathes - and so will I. Most hikers walk from South to North (LEJoG), but I start rather late in the season and will therefore head the opposite direction (JoGLE). I would rather be in populated Southern England when the weather turns bad and the daylight hours dwindle than in Scotland - but that means that I will have to read all the guidebooks backwards! This is the route I have planned and it can be downloaded here in wikiloc:

These are the sections and long-distance pathes used:

  • Northern Scotland: John O'Groats to Fort William: This will be the technically most difficult stretch of the whole hike - right at the start. There are no existing long-distance trails and most of it will be cross-country. And to make matters worse there is only one little shop on day 8 of this stretch of 11 days. I will have to carry a lot of food!
  • Southern Scotland: Fort William to Jedburgh: At Fort William I will encounter the first established long-distance path of this trip, the West Highland Way. I have already hiked it, but that was in December 2003 - and hiking it in winter with only 7 hours of daylight had not been the smartest idea. I did not like it very much back then, but there aren't any good alternatives and so I will hope the WHW is better in summer. At the end of the WHW near Glasgow I come close to the most populated and industrialized are of whole Scotland - the corridor between Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is no really good way of covering this stretch so I opted for the Central Scottish Way that mostly follows canals on tow pathes - at least promising fast hiking on this rather unattractive stretch. Short stints on the Southern Upland and St Cuthberth's Way then take me to Jedburgh.
  • Pennines and Cheviots: Pennine Way: I am very much looking forward to this section as it is almost completely on the Pennine Way - one of my most favourite trails that I have already hiked in 2006. The Pennine Way seems incredible remote despite the fact that it is so close to the industrial heart of Britain.
  • From the Pennine Way to Wales: This has been the most difficult section for chosing a route. You have to circumnavigate a lot of very industrialized and populated areas and I chose a route that combines a lot of little-known but waymarked trails: Gritstone Trail, South Chesire Way and Maelor Way. 
  • Wales and Bristol Channel: I will next connect with Offa's Dyke Path which follows the Welsh border. Again, I have hiked parts of Offa's Dyke before, but this almost 10 years ago before I even knew that there is such a thing as ultralight long-distance hiking! Things get nasty after the end of Offa's Dyke: I have to cross the River Severn on a huge motorway bridge and then manouver around the urban sprawl of Bristol until finally meeting the South West Coast Path.
  • Cornwall: South West Coast Path: This last stretch takes me through Rosamunde Pilcher country - and hopefully some nice coastal walking. I have hiked parts of the SWCP before - end of November! Only God knows why I had chosen that miserable month. By the time I arrive in Cornwall it will be early to mid October and I do hope that the weather will be nicer than last time in November. Although the UK hike officially finishes at the appropriately named Land's End I will continue on past Penzance to see the famous St Michaels Mount which I think is a more spectacular ending than Land's End. 
Garmin Mapsource with which I planned this route tells me that my hike will be exactly 1.989 km long - and I expect to take a bit over 2 months. I am planning on doing a lot of sightseeing along the way and I have already purchased a National Trust Pass, allowing me to vist a lot of castles and monuments for free - and I am planning on taking advantage of it.

But you might wonder why I chose Great Britain? There are various reasons and one is a financial one: I always try "to hike with the exchange rate" and right now one currency that is even more desolate than the Euro is the British Pound. Great Britain has always been a very expensive country, but the exchange rate and couchsurfing will hopefully help me to save some money.

The other reason is that I always like to hike in countries that offer something unique - like the kangoroos and outback in Australia. Great Britain's nature is very unique: The Brits have already chopped down most of their forest back in the Stone Ages creating a very unique landscape with moors and exposed mountains. You either hate this sort of landscape and call it bleak or you love it and call it unique - I belong to the latter category of hikers. And of course there are all those castles, forts, gardens and mansions along the trail that are just waiting to be visited by me for free with my National Trust Pass.

And last but not least I love the British and their rather eccentric mentality. Nowhere else you find so much moulding carpets in bathrooms, so many complicated contraptions for just switching on a shower and such a love of purple plush sofa cushions. I love the old ladies that run B&B (not that I will be able and willing to afford many of them), the dry British humour that no German will probably find funny and the huge fully cooked breakfasts.


eArThworm said...

Hi there! Sorry about some of the Alaska stuff, but happy to see you planning a new hike. By the way, did you realize when you wrote, "my hike will be exactly 1.989 km long" that to English-speakers (Americans, at least) that translates as "one and 989/hundredths" kilometers instead of "one thousand nine hundred and eighty nine" kilometers? We use the comma where you use the period/point. The 1.989 really confused me until I remembered the comma/point thing. Well, anyway, one OR a thousand, I hope you have a great hike and I look forward to reading about it.

Anonymous said...

This sounds really good and I also like those eccentric B&B's.