Fort William to John o' Groats

11 messages
08/02/2012 at 11:36
I'm hoping this coming summer to complete the final leg from Fort William, of my walk from Land's End to John o' Groats. Advancing years and an arthritic ankle means that I need to keep mainly to paths and tracks. Once I get through the Flow Country it looks as though I shall be walking on a great deal of tarmac. Can anyone offer advice and information, please?

This leads me to the observation that, whilst Scotland has wonderful opportunities for access that we who live south of the border envy, it seems that there are large areas of the country, outwith the Highlands, where paths are virtually non-existent making it difficult to plan a long walk. I had considerable trouble working out a satisfactory route from Kirk Yetholm (the end of the Pennine Way) to Milngavie (the start of the West Highland Way).

08/02/2012 at 15:30

The Cicerone End to End to Trail describes an off road route from the end of the Choire Lodge access track to John O Groats if you go that way. If you're lucky you may get a preview of p390-99 at Google Books. I've heard from someone thats tried it thats its anything but easy going though (bogs, blocked forest paths, downed bridges etc).

Also of interest may be the Ca na Catanach, the old drove road between Kinbrace and Dorrerry, from where you can cut across to the north coast and follow this to John o Goats. Again this is described as challenging with rivers, deer fences and bogs to cross.

I haven't tried either of these myself, I just gritted my teeth and kept to the roads.

Too late for you now, but just for reference, there's an easy route from the PW to the WHW mostly on waymarked trails, St Cuthberts Way to Melrose, Southern Uplands Way to Traquir, short way on road or over the hills to Peebles, John Buchan Way to Broughton, a signposted RoW and tracks to Lamington, over Tinto to the Falls of Clyde, then the Clyde Walkway (finally complete)and Kelvin Walkway to Milngavie. The centre of Glasgow may be avoided by cutting across to a level crossing just north of Coatbridge (NS722673) from which an old railway may be easily followed to (annoyingly) a mile before the WHW joins the railway south of Drymen. Theres's a parallel track for this short stretch though.

Edited: 08/02/2012 at 15:49
08/02/2012 at 17:42
Can't help you, Hugh, except to wish you good luck and an enjoyable finish to your long walk
08/02/2012 at 21:54
W & T, the route you describe -'Lamington, over Tinto to the Falls of Clyde' passes right past our front door. I did once encounter an end to end'er picnicking in the village, but it sounds like we might be seeing more of them!!

If any regular OM'ers are passing this way post me and call in for a cup of tea and a chat.
10/02/2012 at 08:07
Thanks for your good wishes, Kate!


What has astonished me is the lack of public paths in the farmed areas of Scotland.
When planning my route through England I was spoilt for choice, but once I crossed the border suddenly there were very few paths and it looks as though I shall have to walk many, many miles on tarmac before reaching John o' Groats.

10/02/2012 at 11:44
Hugh, I suspect the lack of paths in Scotland is historical. - lower population density/more 'open upland' ground/ancient clan ownership of land = wider access rights etc. =less need for paths to evolve.

However nowerdays, the lack of paths does not mean you cannot walk across farmed land in Scotland. It just means negotiating field boundaries/fences/hedges/finding gates and causing no trouble to crops or stock. In arable areas this is trickier, but in areas with stock relatively easy. Just close the gates after you.
On long distance walks the crux points are crossing rivers, in lowland areas. Then some road walking is probably unavoidable.

Walking across the 'Flow Country' is quite another 'kettle of fish'!!
10/02/2012 at 12:32

I appreciate that it is legal to cross farmland providing that crops etc are not damaged. That's fine for local people who have time to explore and discover where the gates are located, but it would be impossible for a stranger who is walking to a particular destination to plan a route across farmland..

10/02/2012 at 15:51

Interesting point about the lack of paths in farmland, Hugh. I think Cathy has got it right. Paths possibly didn't evolve the same way up here as they did down south. Paths follow the line of least resistance, and they probably became roads up here. There wouldn't have been the same amount of cultivated land, as modern techiques were needed to make much of the land suitable for growing crops.

You don't need a map to cross a field.

12/02/2012 at 13:30
Hugh I may be teaching you 'how to suck eggs' here, please ignore this if I am !!
I have just found this web site - and wondered if it would help for your route to John O' Groat's?
It might be of interest to other Scottish walkers too. I have no idea how well know this site is.
12/02/2012 at 13:33

I'm sure you've already thought of it, but you could follow the great glen way for the first part (Fort William- Inverness).

Whatever you do I hope you enjoy yourself and have a grand finish to your walk.

01/03/2012 at 22:01
cathyjc wrote (see)
Hugh I may be teaching you 'how to suck eggs' here, please ignore this if I am !! I have just found this web site - and wondered if it would help for your route to John O' Groat's? It might be of interest to other Scottish walkers too. I have no idea how well know this site is.

Its the site I linked to for the description of the  Ca Ca Catanach, Ca Ca.. Cathy.

I agree with Hugh about difficulty of planning a LEJOG route in Scotland. Its not only the lack of numbers of viable routes, its the dispersed nature of the information that is available, even on the web.

For instance I've just found that 1 of the 2 "gaps" in the route I described above between the PW and the WHW is actually filled - there are 3 supposedly waymarked "Tweed Trails" between Traquair and Peebles, one along the Tweed via a forest track and the old railway and two over the hills.  But I only found these by accident on a horse riding website! (Although the pdf leaflets describe the routes as being suitable for walker, cyclists and riders).

Your say
email image
11 messages
Forum Jump  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter
Sign up to our twitter feed