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Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath


Postby Alba Bhoy » Thu Jun 05, 2014 8:39 pm

Date walked: 30/05/2014

Distance: 156 km

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Chairman Mao is alleged to have uttered the famous words, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Well, I haven't journeyed a thousand miles but I have completed my version of the Scottish National Trail from Kirk Yetholm to Cape Wrath, all 831 Km of it.
I satrted this on the 2nd March 2013, walking the first 30km from Kirk Yetholm to Harestanes on a cold but beautiful early Spring day. I had no itinerary or timetable to follow; I didn't even know if I would ever complete it, but walking on weekends here and holidays there enabled me to reach Ullapool on the 15th October 2013. I restarted at the end of March 2014 and on the 30th May 2014, I arrived at Cape Wrath.
When I took my first step, I could never have imagined getting so far North in 2013. I guess as 2013 progressed so did my progress through Scotland.
This last section from Ullapool to the Cape proved to be the most difficult both in terms of planning and in terrain. It was by far the most challenging environment I walked through but made more rewarding for that.
I had visited Sutherland several times before but it's one thing admiring its ancient landscape from a car travelling at 60mph and quite another soaking up the fantastic views at walking pace. Traversing Sutherland on foot may have been challenging but it was also a joy. If you've never visited that part of Scotland you're missing out. Don't hesitate, it's beautiful, go.
From Kirk Yetholm to the Cape I've tried to ensure I've walked when the forecast has been good. I'm happy to admit I'm a fair weather walker. Indeed in the 32 days walking I did from Kirk Yetholm to Cape Wrath only 2 - the 2 shortest days at that! - were wet: Aberfoyle to Callander and Fort Augustus to Invergarry. The MWIS, Met Office and BBC Weather websites have all been Internet favourites these last 14 months :)
The last stage was made difficult in terms of planning because it is so distant from my home in Edinburgh. Communities are small and accommodation is limited - I stayed in Bed and Breakfast, Hostels and Hotels; I never camped. Public transport north of Ullapool was also pretty much non existent when I walked through. I was fortunate in that I was able to hitch, I never had to wait too long for a lift to return to my car. Heartfelt thanks to all who gave me lifts.
As I perambulated along, I came to realise the importance of good planning and research. I'd suggest that the further North you go, the more important the planning and preparation becomes. In my experience, the better prepared you are, the more you will enjoy the walk.
My route from start to finish went as follows: Kirk Yetholm-Harestanes-Melrose-Galashiels-Peebles-Carlops-Edinburgh-Linlithgow-Falkirk-Milngavie-Aberfoyle-Callander-Invergeldie-Aberfeldy-Pitlochry-Calvine-Dalwhinnie-Laggan-Fort Augustus-Invergarry-Cluanie Inn-Morvich-Strathcarron-Kinlochewe-Dundonnell-Ullapool-Oykel Bridge-Inchnadamph-Kylestrome-Rhiconich-Blairmore-CapeWrath.
Longest stage would have been about 25 miles (Falkirk to Milngavie; Invergeldie to Aberfeldy and Laggan to Fort Augustus were the 3 longest days in terms of distance) shortest would have been the 4 miles from Melrose to Galashiels. Why a section as short as 4 miles? I arrived in Gala late afternoon, checked into my B & B, took a taxi to Melrose then followed a lovely walk along the Tweed back to Gala before completing the Gala to Peebles section the next day.
The walk is over but the memories will forever linger. Scotland is a beautiful country, we have a wonderful landscape, one that is a pleasure to walk through.
Whether you do as I did and walk this in stages, at times of your choosing, or attempt to complete it in one continuous walk, if you derive half as much pleasure from it as I did, then you'll love it. I can't recommend this highly enough. Don't think about it, just do it!
The links to the 6 stages I walked from Ullapool to Cape Wrath containing my routes, photos, time taken, thoughts etc are below and below them are the links that detail the earlier sections I walked.
Happy walking :)
Ullapool to Oykel Bridge (25th March 2014, 34 km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=40633
Oykel Bridge to Inchnadamph (26th March 2014, 32 Km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=40663
Inchnadamph to Kylestrome (22nd April, 2014, 27 km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=41738
Kylestrome to Rhiconich (23rd April 2014, 30 km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=41840
Rhiconich to Blairmore (24th April 2014, 14km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=41851
Blairmore to Cape Wrath (30th May 2014, 19km)
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=42774

Details of Stage 1, Kirk Yetholm to Milngavie can be found here:
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=38487

Details of Stage 2, Milngavie to Invergarry can be found here:
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=38490

And details of Stage 3, Invergarry to Ullapool are here:
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=38502
Alba Bhoy
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Re: Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Postby nwtrunner » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:42 pm

I enjoyed reading your descriptions and seeing your photographs. I hiked the Scottish National Trail this past summer - started 24 July and finished Cape Wrath on 14 September. It was an incredible hike. I mostly camped with my tent, but stayed at some hotels, hostels, and B&Bs when it suited me. I only averaged about 19 km per day as was hiking with a big backpack.

John at the Ozone told me that I was the 26th finisher and the first Canadian (I was born in Scotland thoug - emigrated to Canada when I was 7). I had incredibly good weather and some of the river crossings that can be tricky or impassable in spate were an easy crossing - you seem to have had the same.

It's an incredible adventure with a wide variety of hiking conditions - I also highly recommend it to people. Maybe I'll get around to putting a trip report up - still in process of going through my photos!

Cheers, Alasdair Veitch
nwtrunner
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Location: New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada

Re: Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Postby Alba Bhoy » Tue Feb 10, 2015 11:51 pm

Alasdair, congrats on completing the National Trail in one go. Doing it in stages as I did certainly sounds easier!

I can only agree with what you say, it is an incredible hike. Can't recommend it enough. That said, I'll always appreciate that I was blessed with good weather, that definitely helped.

Can't believe so few have completed it. It's a wonderful challenge and passes through some amazingly scenic country, especially in the far north west.

Look forward to reading your report and seeing your photos.
Alba Bhoy
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 56
Munros:201   
Islands:31
Joined: May 12, 2013

Re: Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Postby Bjorn » Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:10 pm

Hello guys!
I already was, but after reading your stories, I even got more exited!! My biggest goal is to complete the trail as well, preferably in one stroke. Thanks for giving me inspiration :clap:

Busy doing hard training already, useful tips are always welcome!! Especially for choosing (rainproof!)gear and navigation.

cheers, Bjorn :wink:
Bjorn
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Re: Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Postby Alba Bhoy » Sun Feb 22, 2015 11:00 pm

Bjorn, the best tip I can give you is to research, research then research some more. Plenty good links in this section of the website, check them out and also check out http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/scottish-national-trail.shtml

As for the weather, it's Scotland. Be prepared for every eventuality. Depending when you walk you may get sunburn one day and soaked the next.

The best thing you can bring to this trek is not equipment, it's a positive spirit. It's a challenging trek but all the more rewarding for that.

Look forward to reading your report and viewing your photos :)

Good Luck :)
Alba Bhoy
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 56
Munros:201   
Islands:31
Joined: May 12, 2013

Re: Scottish National Trail: Stage 4, Ullapool to Cape Wrath

Postby Bjorn » Tue Mar 03, 2015 3:45 pm

Haha, positive spirit is my middle name so that shouldn't be the problem :lol: The research is in full swing at this moment supplemented by information from your report as well!
I just did some improvement on my gear, buying myself a proper pair of rainproof trousers and some slightly lighter items(tent/sleeping bag) to get the weight down just a little more. ..

to be continued :wink:
Bjorn
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Feb 20, 2015

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