After reaching Cape Wrath in 2014, my cross-Scotland walk was complete. But I needed, I decided to keep my annual Scottish fix, so I walked the Southern Upland Way in the springs of 2015 and 2016. But then 2017 came round, and what to do …
The SUW is of course a coast-to-coast walk, well south of Scotland’s busy and built-up central belt. There seemed to be a certain symmetry in walking coast-to-coast again, this time well to the north. However there’s no dedicated trail across this remote country, so it was back to the maps again, to find myself a line that would both test my capabilities and yet be within them – much like the latter stages of south-to-north had done, and indeed the SUW.
In terms of time, you need about two weeks. In the middle is the great south-to-north transport artery formed by the rivers Tay and Spey, which facilitates getting there; specifically, the Caledonian Sleeper stops at the main Spey valley settlements.
Hence one year I could walk to the Spey valley, and the other away from it. Rather perversely, I decided to do the latter first. After all, it was all but new country to me – my south-to-north walk had not touched it, and I can barely remember one solitary holiday back in the 1970s.
Back a year later, I stepped off the morning train at Strathcarron on a beautiful sunny day. Would the weather gods shine again? Yes they would! Not that there weren’t challenges along the way, but I left with my confidence boosted and a firm intention of using these two years’ experience to good use on The Great Outdoors Challenge of 2019.