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Scottish National Trail

Scottish National Trail


Postby oldowl » Thu Oct 06, 2022 9:19 am

Route description: Scottish National Trail

Date walked: 11/05/2019

Time taken: 33 days

Distance: 816 km

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May 11th to June 12th

Number of days 33
Number of miles 510
Average daily ascent 2,300 (Should I be posting this in 'on the level'?)

Hills climbed -

Munro - Ben Chonzie
Corbetts -Sgurr Gaorsic, Breabag, Glas Bheinn
Grahams - Carn Mhic Toisich, Meall Dubh

Sub 2,000 feet hills - Eildon middle hill, Minch Moor, Menteith hills, Creag Beag, Ben Dreavie

Having fancied doing a long walk for several years, I decided that coming up to 59 years old, if I didn't do it soon it would never happen.

This is a slightly modified version of the SNT to suit me.

1. Start from Lindisfarne to take in the whole of the St Cuthbert's way and to take the mileage over 500.
2. Head for Livingston instead of Edinburgh as I live in Livingston.
3. Walk by Bruar lodge instead of down Glen Feshie
4. Head straight over the hills into Glen Affric instead of walking round to Cluanie

My plan was -

Hostels or B&Bs where possible
Bothy's or camping when there was nothing else.

All of the hostels and B&Bs were booked in advance, apart from turning up at Gerry's hostel.

I didn't send any parcels on.
I bought all of my food along the way.

My rucksack with camping gear, 2litres water, and one day's food was around 7kg.

Day 1 - Lindisfarne to Wooler 17.8 miles

The week leading up to the walk had been none stop rain, so I was quite concerned as I headed for the first day.
This was totally unfounded as I didn't see any rain at all during the first week.
In fact the whole week was pretty much shorts and tee shirt.

We had a caravan booked in Wooler on the Friday night.
Saturday, my Mrs gave me a lift to Lindisfarne and I walked back to the caravan.

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Lindisfarne priory

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Day 2 - Wooler to Kirk Yetholm 12.7 miles

Another very pleasant day.

My dog is 13 years old now, but she came with me for the first 2 days.
She was still bouncing along at the end of 30 miles.

Nice lunch at the Border inn.

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Day 3 - Kirk Yetholm to Lilliards Edge 18.2 miles

Start of the SNT proper at the Border inn

Really varied day - Highest point of the St. Cuthbert's way, a ruined castle, riverside walk, and a long woodland walk.

Came to the grave of the fair maiden Lilliard, who basically fought the English in the style of Monty Python's black knight

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Day 4 - Lilliards Edge to Galashiels 16.7 miles

First Marilyn of the trip today.
Also Melrose Abbey - The end of the St. Cuthbert's way.

Went into the cafe at st. Boswell at 11:15.
They refused to serve me any food because it wasn't 12:00 O'clock yet.
(not even a sandwich).

I thought I'd accidently stepped into Royston Vasey - 'why are you here? this is a local cafe, for locals'

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Day 5 - Galashiels to Innerleithen 14.8 miles

After another nice day I arrived at the Tweedside Hotel only to find it was closed!
Nobody answered the phone.
Had to wait until 5 O'clock before someone turned up.
They had forgotten that they had a customer.

I've never stayed in a hotel before where threats are posted on the walls.

'If you get mud on the stair carpet you will be fined x amount'

Then a full list in the room -
If you break the kettle you will be fined x'
'If you break the telly you will be fined x'
'If you block the toilet you will be fined x'
etc

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Day 6 - Innerleithen to West Linton 19.9 miles

My plan was to wild camp well before West Linton, but because the walk was low level and the fields were full of sheep I carried on walking to West Linton.

Turned up at the Gordon Arms which was around 5 stars better then Innerleithen

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Day 7 - West Linton to Livingston 13.2

Finally arrived home from Lindisfarne
For the last few days I'd been following the old drove road.

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Day 8 - Livingston to Broxburn 7.8 miles

This was a planned very short day.
I wasn't sure if I would need a rest day at any point, so tried to keep things flexible.
This was a short walk to my son's house in Broxburn

First rain of the trip.
Rained steadily for the whole 2hours 45.

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Day 9 - Broxburn to Falkirk 19 miles

Back to good weather.
I thought that walking along the canals would be the worst part of the walk, but this was very pleasant, even though I had walked along a lot of it before.

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Day 10 - Falkirk to Kirkintilloch 15.1 miles

Another day along the canals.
By the end of the day I was getting ready for a change of scenery.

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Day 11 - Kirkintilloch to Drymen 17.5 miles

Had to follow the West Highland way for around 9 miles.
I was amazed at the number of people walking this.

They all had enormous amounts of kit.
I was speaking to a few people at the campsite.
They were all carrying over 30 pounds.

Enough gear to walk to the moon and back.

Definitely the right choice to cut across towards Pitlochry at this point

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Day 12 - Drymen to Callander 17.4 miles

Walked over the Mentieth hills to Callander.
Great views.
Well worth climbing.

Could only get a cup of tea at the Rob Roy Hotel in Aberfoyle as 11:30 was far too early for food

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Day 13 - Callander to Comrie 15.3 miles

Another nice day, over Callander Crags and along Glen Artney

It feels strange to be walking throught the glens rather than over the hills.

Got a nice air B&B in Comrie

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Day 14 - Comrie to Wild camp past Loch Freuchie 18.1 miles

I had a choice of walking over or round Ben Chonzie.
It was a nice day, so an easy decision.

Spent ages on top chatting to an old guy about the hills.
Ben Chonzie was his local hill.

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Day 15 - Wild Camp to Pitlochry 14.7 miles

Packed up my tent and walked to the brow of the hill.
Found that I was in the midle of a wind farm.

Got some very light rain for a couple of hours as I approached Pitlochry.

At one point, in the distance on the path I saw a weasel bouncing towards me.
It looked very pleased with itself. If it had been a Disney weasel it would have been whistling.
I stood still and it didn't notice me until it was around 6 feet away.
Gave me a quick bodyswerve and carried along it's way.

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Day 16 - Pitlochcry to Beinn Dearg Bothy 14.6 miles

A very rainy and misty start to the day in Pitlochry.
I stayed in the youth hostel until kicking out time at 10:00, then headed to Greggs to stock up for the bothy.

Turned out to be a good decision.
The rain had stopped by 10:30 and the day gradually got better.

Nice walk along the pass of Killiecrankie.

The Cameron McNeish version heads off up Glen Tilt, Glen Feshie, and by Geldie Lodge to Kingussie.
I've done Glen Feshie a few times, and also camped at the side of Geldie burn, so I decided to head to Beinn Dearg bothy, and on to Bruar lodge, and Gaick lodge as I've not done this before.

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Day 17 - Beinn Dearg Bothy to Kingussie 21.4 miles

This was another day where I was going to camp, but because the day was nice and the path beyond Gaick lodge was tarmac the going was very easy, so I carried on walking and suddenly found myself at Ruthven barracks, and Kingussie.

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Day 18 - Kingussie to Newtonmore 6.5 miles

I had done most of my miles for today, yesterday, so I took the scenic route to Newtonmore climbing Creag Beag on the way.

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Day 19 - Newtonmore to Melgarve Bothy 19.4 miles

Walked initially to the cafe at Laggan for lunch.
No chance I was too early this time as it was 12:30.
ooops. Wrong day. Closed all day Wednesday.

Fortunately I was getting used to this sort of thing and had brought along my own lunch.

At Melgarve bothy I met another couple who are doing the SNT, but one week each year.

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Day 20 - Melgarve Bothy to Fort Augustus 13 miles

The weather was really overcast and it looked like it would rain at any time.

I got my head down and legged it to Fort Augustus without any breaks.
A good decision as it rained all afternoon.

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Day 21 - Fort Augustus to Allt Garbh wild camp 22.7 miles

This was the worst day of weather during the whole trip.
I was hoping for a good day because I wanted to camp on the summit of a Graham.

I started overcast and was soon raining heavily.
The rain carried on from 10:30 and was still going at midnight.

I climbed the first Graham Carn Mhic an Toisich, but I was soaked well before I got to the second Carn a Chaochain.
Instead of camping on this, I decided that it was best to ignore the hill and descend, gradually heading towards Glen Affric.

This turned into a really long trudge through forestry with nowhere to camp.

I ended up walking right along to the Allt Garbh and finally found somewhere to pitch the tent where it wouldn't float away during the night.

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Day 22 - Wild camp to Glen Affric youth hostel 8.5 miles

this was a short day because I had once more done half of this days walk already.

Surprisingly, the rain had stopped, and my tent was dry.
I packed up and headed for Glen Affrice youth hostel.
It rained for the last hour of my walk, but after that I could sit snugly in the hostel, drinking tea and watching the rain out of the window.

What a great hostel.
There should be more like it.

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Day 23 - Glen Affric youth hostel to Maol Buidhe bothy 14.3 miles

This turned out to be the only day for week where there was sunshine after leaving Fort Augustus.

The good news was that as I reached the summit of Sgurr Gaorsic the weather started to clear a little, giving me some sort of a view.

I varied the route slightly again.
The usual path is to descend by the falls of Glomach.
I had done this before, so carried on much futher and descended closer to Iron lodge.

Maol Buidhe was a welcome sight.
What a great setting.

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Day 24 - Maol Buidhe bothy to Gerry's hostel Craig 15.8 miles

This was the one day during the trip that I was really concerned before I started off.
There had been rain on and off through the night.

In the morning it was blowing hard, and the rain was almost horizontal.

My concern was that I had 3 stream crossings that I couldn't avoid.

Each of the crossings turned out to be knee deep, but I could see the bottom of each.
The worst of them was the Allt a Chonais on the way to craig.

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Day 25 - Gerry's hostel to Kinlochewe 11.1 miles

Another shortish day to Kinlochewe.
The final part of the walk towards Kinlochewe is described as overgrown.
I would describe it as boggy.

I had met a lad who was walking Land's end to John O'Groats.
We walked together that day.
He described it as overgrown, and boggy.

Another closed cafe at Kinlochewe.
This time because it was a Tuesday.

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Day 26 - Kinlochewe to wild camp past Corriehalle 20.3 miles

Walked much further than I intended.
My aim was to camp somewhere near Shenevall.
I carried on up to the col that leads to An Teallach.
I decided that I would camp on somewhere on the descent to Corriehalle.

I spotted the perect place at the side of a stream in the distance.
Turned out that it was covered in cow dung.
This ruled out the whole of the rest of the descent.

I had to walk on to Corriehallie and climb up the hill on the other side of the road.

Had a perfect camp spot to look at An Teallach.
Sadly, it was hidden by cloud.

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Day 27 - Wild camp to Knockdamph Bothy 17.9 miles

Woke up in the morning and An Teallach still wasn't visible.

The day was quite wild at times, and often without a path.
Climbed another Graham, but again, no view. Could hardly see the cairn.

Had a nice dry night in the bothy.

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Day 28 - Knockdamph Bothy to wild camp beneath Breabag 20.9 miles

Woke up at 6:30 to sunshine.
When straight out and tied my wet clothes to the deer fence.

A couple of hours later they were all dry.

Really nice day.
Popped my head into the old schoolhouse bothy on the way to Oykel Bridge.
Had lunch in the hotel and carried on to Loch Ailsh which is absolutely stunning.

Found a great camping spot at the side of the river Oykel beneath Breabag.


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Day 29 - Wild camp to Inchnadamph 8.6 miles

Nice easy sunny day climbing Breabag, and descending to Inchnadamph

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Day 30 - Inchnadamph to Glendhu Bothy 14.1 miles

The terrain suddenly changed character after I left the summit of Glas Bheinn.
(Glas Bheinn is a great viewpoint)

A nice days walking along Loch Glencoul and Loch Glendhu.
Both Glencoul bothy and Glendhu bothy have great settings.

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Day 31 - Glendhu Bothy to Rhiconnich 17.4 miles

Last Marilyn of the trip Ben Dreavie.
This is the only summit which actually on the route.
All of the others I cimbed were minor detours.

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Day 32 - Rhiconnich to Strathchailleach Bothy 14.3 miles

Strange start to the walk, walking 7.5 miles along a minor road
This was followed by a huge wide track to Sandwood bay.

I hadn't realised how popular this bit is.
I met more people on this stretch than I met since I left Fort Augustus.
It was like being on the WHW again.

After Sandwood bay I headed for Strathchailleach bothy.

This bothy is though to be the last property that someone lived in permanently in the UK with no services at all.
It doesn't even have a path and is 6 miles from the nearest shop.
A guy lived in it up to the mid 1990s.

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Day 33 - Strathchailleach Bothy to Cape Wrath 7.4 miles

I left myself a short 3 hour walk to the lighthouse.
No paths but easy direction finding.

Head north until you hit a big landrover track, then turn left.

As usual the Scottish highlands had a sting in the tail.

I was told at Cape Wrath that the ferry wasn't running because of the wind.

I had taken this possibility into account and kew it was at least 8 hours to walk to the hostel at Durness for my booked accomodation.

The guy at the cafe offered to give me a lift back to the jetty (11 miles), for a price.
I snatched his hand off.

I then had to walk for 1 and a half hours around the estuary until I could cross.

When I rached the road I stuck my thumb out and got a list straight away.

Result!
Job done!
Great walk!

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oldowl
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Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 6, 2022

Re: Scottish National Trail

Postby ahukippax » Fri Oct 07, 2022 1:44 pm

Thanks for sharing. Nice to see that you did a few variations from the Walk Highlands Route. I see we took a similar number of days, although I think I was fortunate to get slightly better weather. I do love this walk. I've just returned from doing the 500 mile Colorado Trail ( supposedly one of the most scenic in the US ), but I prefered the SNT. I love how the scenery evolves from the borders to the highlands and then you have the lovely quaint villages you pass through on the way. At some point I will do a variation of my own from the borders to the north coast.
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Re: Scottish National Trail

Postby baublebag » Sun Feb 12, 2023 12:02 pm

Really enjoyed that account, I walked the SNT in 2017, so many great memories, thanks.
I couldn't get across Geldie Burn so had to trek all the way back down Glen Tilt, luckily managed to hitch lifts.
WHW was a zoo as you say and folk already with shoulder blisters from insane packs. Good to get off it onto the Rob Roy.
I too had no issue with supplies, I had a rest day in a BnB at Clachan and just booked a Tesco delivery ;)
Oykel Bridge Hotel were great, sorted me out a breakfast bap and hot coffee after a night in the Schoolhouse.
Glen Affric hostel an absolute gem as you say.
Thanks again for all the memories. Andrew
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