Wild camping at Sandwood Bay

Wild camping at Sandwood Bay

Last October I blogged about the official launch of the new Scottish National Trail, an 864km (535 mile) route from Kirk Yetholm in the Borders right up to Cape Wrath on the north coast. Devised by Cameron McNeish, outdoor writer and broadcaster, the new trail links together a series of existing trails to form the longest walking route in Scotland and the second longest in the UK.

Following the launch I went along to hear Cameron McNeish and Richard Else talk eloquently about the creation of the Scottish National Trail, part of a tour to launch their book – Scotland End to End – which describes the character of the route (text by Cameron with photography by Richard). At the time I asked Richard if a detailed route guide was included, or if there were plans to produce one.

It’s now great to hear that the people who run the excellent Walkhighlands website have now completed detailed route guides for each stage of the trail together with a new website to promote it.

According to Walkhighlands:

The route combines sections of official routes such as St Cuthbert’s Way, the Southern Upland Way, the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals, the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way. Other parts – including sections through central Perthshire, the Cairngorms and the Northwest Highlands – make for a more serious backpacking route with neither waymarking nor a continuous path, as well as a number of potentially hazardous river crossings. The difficultly generally increases as the route heads northwards. Walked in its entirety, the route will surely come to be regarded as Britain’s toughest and yet most varied backpacking challenge.

There will be relatively few people able to spare the five weeks or so needed to complete the trail in one continuous walk; most will want to split it up into sections and perhaps complete it over a period of years.  Walkhighlands have divided the route up into 40 sections ranging from 8.5km to 39.5km which means it’s now far easier to be able to plan and undertake your walks with more confidence.

This must surely rate among the most varied and spectacular walks in the world, and I can imagine it’s a challenge many people will want to add to their bucket list.



15 Comments on “The Scottish National Trail – A Detailed Route Guide

  1. Pingback: Scotland’s Long Distance Walks | Wild about Scotland

  2. Walking the whole route on may 1st May 2016 with teddy my dog, trying to find out what maps I need to take with me, cannot find out anywhere I have a route idea, but all info will be greatly received. Also I walked around the coast of Britain, which took 2 years, I will be carrying a 85lb Bergan and camping all the way.

      • Always carried everything, around the coast of England ,it as heavier,35 years Army, since I was 16.will carry 5 days rations and the dog carries 16lb on his back packs, plus I will have extra food for him, never bothers me carrying that weight, and I am 5ft 7” tall and 58 years old survival instructor, mountain trained and I was born in Snowdonia.

  3. Wow ! I’d say a third of that weight was heavy….

    I hope you have a great time. I’d be interested to hear about the best/worst bits of the Trail and how you get on navigating the route.

    • Ha ! just stumbled across your website Wild 2012, i can vouch for Dave and the weight he carries and his walking habits as i have known him since we joined the Army. I had the pleasure to accompany him on the Coast to Coast St Bees To Robin Hoods Bay Walk two years ago and we did it in seven days, bivvied all the way, the only way i could slow him down was to buy him 2 pints instead of the one.
      He set off on the Scottish Trail on Tuesday and should be in West Linton now, awaiting an update.

      • Thanks for the update, John, and good luck to Dave on the Scottish National Trail.

  4. I’m planning on doing the route starting May 1st 2017. I won’t be carrying anywhere near 38 kilos though.
    I’d be interested to find out how Dave got on though.
    Small spot, doesn’t 864k convert to 536m?

    • Thanks for spotting that mistake – now corrected. Hopefully Dave – or someone else – will let you know their experiences. Good luck with it and please give some feedback once you’ve completed it!

  5. I’m planning to walk the Pennine Way in May but then go on from Kirk Yetholm to end in Edinburgh. Should I follow the Scottish National Trail or St Cuthberts? I don’t want it to take more than 3 days.

    • Hi there, the Scottish National Trail is actually the same route as the St Cuthbert’s Way from Kirk Yetholm to Melrose, and this section should take you two days. If you have a look at the route guide for the Scottish National Trail it then splits up the route from Melrose to Edinburgh (well, Ratho, on the outskirts of Edinburgh) into several smaller sections. It depends how fast you walk of course I reckon this would be 3 days for the section from Melrose to Edinburgh. So if you only have three days you might want to finish in Peebles and then get the bus up to
      Edinburgh? https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/scottish-national-trail.shtml

      • Thanks for this. I am a bit puzzled though, as the miles listed from Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh is 51 which should take no more than 3 days – I thinking of ending at the ski resort on the Pentland Hills. I’m wondering if I should therefore forget these traditional routes altogether and map one that is more direct to Edinburgh. Has anyone done this, do you know? I could do it in 5 days, it just seems a huge detour.

      • You’re right that the direct route to Edinburgh is shorter but, having lived in the area, I can tell you that it’s not the most interesting or scenic. St Cuthbert’s Way was created in the ’90s (by Roger Smith, ex-editor of TGO) along some of the quieter and most scenic parts of the Borders. It takes in the River Tweed, the Eildon Hills and goes past Dryburgh and Melrose Abbeys, for example. The section of the Scottish National Trail from Melrose to Peebles follows the Tweed and is a lovely route. By contrast, the direct route misses out on the best bits and either goes through less interesting agricultural land or along the A7/A68 road/rail corridors. Maybe others have done the direct route and can comment?

      • I looked at the map and I think you are right – I guess I will just have to consider giving it more time (and possibly walking faster – lol) Thank you so much for your time and comments.

      • No worries – lots to think about. If you do decide to walk the St Cuthbert’s Way, Melrose is on the bus route to Edinburgh, as is Peebles if you have time for a short extension.

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