I planned the route using the Long
Distance Path Chart, OS 1:50,000 maps, and the internet.
I did not plan any rest days, except for 4 days at my Oxford home. I expected
to do longer days the more I walked. But in fact I was fittest between 3 and 6
weeks into the walk. After that, the stress on my muscles and joints began to
tell, and I had to rest for 2 days, and take it easy for several more, because
of shin splints.
I used Andrew McCloy's book,
which was the only end-to-end guidebook in print when I did the walk. It has some
good ideas, but I did not follow it slavishly.
My main variations from
McCloy's book were:
- Land's End to Barnstaple: I used the South West
Coast Path as far as Barnstaple - McCloy mentions this as an alternative to his
main inland route, but I thought it one of the highlights of the whole trip.
- Barnstaple to Oxford: I followed the Macmillan Way West (more or
less) from Barnstaple almost to Castle Cary, then by various field paths to Westbury,
then parts of the Wessex Ridgeway and the Ridgeway to Uffington Castle and by
field paths and the Thames Path to Oxford.
- Oxford to Cannock
Chase: mostly the Oxfordshire Way at first, then the Heart of England Way from
just north of Stow (one of McCloy's alternatives).
to Jedburgh: McCloy follows the Pennine Way for 250 miles, then gives up on the
last 15 miles, which I thought eccentric. I took an extra day to complete the
whole Pennine Way, and pick up St Cuthbert's Way at Kirk Yetholm.
Edinburgh to Inverness: I mostly followed McCloy's alternative route through the
Cairngorms, shorter and less crowded than the West Highland Way. But I took a
more direct route from Kinross to Perth, and also from Tomatin to Inverness -
my routes were scenic and involved less road walking than McCloy's.
Lybster to John O'Groats: I kept to the coast through Wick for the last two days,
rather than follow McCloy's inland route, which seemed dull. My route included
some spectacular coast walking on both days.
For a map of my route,
click here. For my day-by-day log, click
For up to date suggestions on route planning, using guidebooks
published since 2004, click here.
finding in England was mostly easy. Waymarking on the National Trails is very
good (with the occasional exception). Elsewhere, most county councils do a good
job of signposting paths and keeping them open. The county where I found most
problems was Somerset, where paths disappeared without waymarks, and were often
obstructed by growing crops. In several places (in Somerset, Staffordshire and
Derbyshire) I found bulls in fields crossed by public footpaths, often without
Scotland was a different story. The St Cuthbert's Way and Southern
Upland Way were well signed and maintained. The paths in recognised walking areas
(the Pentland Hills and the Cairngorms) were good. Elsewhere, paths marked on
the map disappeared on the ground, and paths signposted as rights of way often
required negotiating barbed wire fences. Hopefully the new Scottish law, requiring
local councils to establish "core
paths", will change this.