Martin Hockey's End to End Walk: Land's End to John O'Groats


Planning your route

My route


Maps and guidebooks

What I took



My route

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).

  • Byrness 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 here.

For up to date suggestions on route planning, using guidebooks published since 2004, click here.

Route 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 a warning.

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.

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Updated October 2007. Copyright © Martin Hockey 2007.