The best blog on walking the Scottish National Trail

Best You Tube video by a Scotsman of walking the Scottish National Trail an autobiographical walk by Innes Mitchell. In video 7 he describes the trail as a transformational walk. The person you were when you start the trail may no longer exist when you finish 

The Scottish National Trail is an amalgam of 6 different routes;

St Cuthberts Way

Southern Upland Way

Forth and Clyde Union Canals

West Highland Way

Rob Roy Way

Cape Wrath Trail

with added sections to comprise one trail running the length of Scotland from Kirk Yetholm (near the border of England) to the far North West of Scotland at Cape Wrath

 

 

Cape Wrath North West Scotland

 

Cafe at the end of the Universe- the Ozone cafe. worlds best cafe  at the most atmospheric lighthouse in the world (built by Robert Stevenson Grandfather of Robert Louis Stevenson-Treasure Island fame) at Cape Wrath. The Café (open 365 days a year 24 hours per day never closes)has a bunkhouse where you can stay overnight (£15) as I did. Take a sleeping bag, toilet bag, torch if you go outside, now order dinner from the cafe then lay in bed, drink some whisky and listen to the gale force winds, perhaps with a loved one in your arms and then step outside into the ink black night and see the flashing light of the lighthouse warning the Vikings that they are nearing Cape Wrath.

The cafe at Cape Wrath was opened by the Princess Royal (patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board which manages the lighthouse ) in 2009 and is run by John Ure and his family. They are very kind and wonderful people. The Cafe has its own postal mark ‘Ozone Cafe Cape Wrath’ which you can see on a postcard if you purchase one at the Cafe. The postmark is recognised by Royal Mail.

Cape Wrath geology is gneiss rock strata which is 2.700 million years old. The oldest rocks in Britain are found in Cape Wrath and the Western Isles of Scotland.  The area around Cape Wrath lighthouse is peat hags and bogs. ‘ Scotland’s peat bogs, which comprise more than 20% of the country’s land area, hold about 75% of the carbon locked away in all British soils.’ A visitor in 1595 drawing a map of the area around Cape Wrath noted ‘EXTREEM WILDERNESS many wolfs’   During the glacial melt in Britain herds of reindeer moved North to Cape Wrath to British extinction the last one dying near Cape Wrath in 7400 BC. The Reindeer and Wolves moved North to Scotland as they had became marooned on the island of Britain  as a result of the North Sea tides carving out what we now know as the ‘ Channel’ they were joined by 500 million mammals marooned on Britain including;

1 million Boar
Over 1 million Deer
10,000 Brown Bears
5000 Wolves
100,000 Beavers
80,000 Aurochs (wild cattle 6 feet in height, weighing 1 ton)

Sadly the last record of a wolf in Scotland is dated 1621.

For those who wish to lift their romantic imagination about Cape Wrath lighthouse there is a  fiction book about the lighthouse  suitably called ‘Lighthouse Keeping ‘ which apparently is for ‘storm tossed lovers everywhere ‘ Cape Wrath fits that description perfectly.

‘Motherless and anchorless, Silver is taken in by the timeless Mr. Pew, keeper of the Cape Wrath lighthouse. ‘ 

Two long distance walking trails finish at Cape Wrath the Scottish National Trail 470 miles and the Cape Wrath Trail 229 miles. 


Before you leave Cape Wrath look at the plaque in the Café 'Scottish National Trail'  that is how I arrived walking alone in 2018 to Cape Wrath while raising money for Children Hospices Across Scotland and will do so again in 2020. I will have the whisky ready for you in the bunkhouse at Cape Wrath 'haste ye back’.

Walking the Trail

 

Official Route


Kirk Yetholm - Harestanes 28km

Harestanes to Melrose 24km

Melrose to Traquair 29km

Traquair to Peebles 12km

Peebles to West Linton 21km

West Linton to Balerno 19.25km

Balerno to Slateford 8.5km

Slateford to Ratho 9.5km

Ratho to Linlithgow 21km

Linlithgow to Falkirk14.5km

Falkirk to Kilsyth 18k

Kilsyth to Milngavie 21.25km

Milngavie to Drymen19km

Drymen to Aberfoyle 17.5km

Aberfoyle to Callander 15.25km

Callander to Comrie 26.5km

Comrie to Loch Freuchie 30k

L. Freuchie to Aberfeldy 20km

Aberfeldy to Pitlochry 15km

Pitlochry to Blair Atholl 13.75km

Blair Atholl to Bynack 27km

Bynack to Glen Feshie 21.25km

Glen Feshie to Kingussie 23.5k

Kingussie to Laggan 23.25km

Laggan to Fort Augustus 39.5km

Fort Augustus - Mandally 18.75km

Mandally to Poulary 19.5km

Poulary to Cluanie 17.5km

Cluanie to Morvich 26km

Morvich to Maol-bhuidhe 22.5 km

Maol-bhuidhe to Craig 24.25 k

Craig to Kinlochewe 16.5 km

Kinlochewe to Shenaval l28.25 k

Shenavall to Inverlael 18.75 km

Inverlael to Oykel Bridge 34.5 km

Oykel Br. to Inchnadamph 31.5 km

Inchnadamph- Kylestrome 27.5km

Kylestrome - Rhiconich 29.75km

Rhiconich - Sandwood 19km

Sandwood - Cape Wrath 12.5km

Walking the trail would take an average fit walker 4-5 weeks. However this a highly dependent on prevailing weather conditions. In gale force wind and rain walking 4 kilometres on the latter sections can take 4 sometimes more hours especially if there are rivers to cross.

Do not underestimate the physical fitness required to walk the Trail in its entirity 

This is the sign you will see when you start the walk at Kirk Yetholm

This is the next sign you will see at Cape Wrath. There is no Scottish National Trail signage

Here are some notes on walking the Scottish National Trail. They are only based on my experience and do not claim to be definative