Walk across Scotland

11:11 a.m. on April 8, 2018 (EDT)
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I thought I would share my plans for my trip across Scotland in May as part of the TGO Challenge for those interested, or considering this in the future. 

I am excited to be going home for the first time in 25 years, and hoping to complete my approximate 190 mile route in two weeks.  Here is a quick look at the route in red overlaid in Google Earth with a map of Scotland.
For those unfamiliar with the TGO Challenge, every year approximately 300-400 people sign out at one of 13 starting points on the west coast and cross Scotland to the east coast in two weeks, with an optional large dinner party in Montrose at the end.  There is no prize for speed, finish number etc. – just camaraderie along the way as your path crosses with others through one of the wettest and windiest countries on earth.

Routes are personal (or by group) and vetted through experienced highland walkers.  While you can stay in accommodations along the way, wild camps and backpacking is the intention.  Scotland has an open access law that allows walking and camping on private land as long as you respect the owners and don’t camp near residences etc.  This creates an almost endless variation of potential routes.  This also means you can walk across the country, or anywhere else, on your own time – I chose to participate in the Challenge as a good re-introduction to Scottish highland hillwalking.  As a mostly solo hiker I am a little reserved about the amount of people, but hoping dilution on different routes will solve that and allow a good balance of company with peaceful walks.

To get into the TGOC you first have to apply and your experience is checked. Scottish highland experience is strongly suggested but not required.  I owned up to not having much, but did mention a week of day hikes in the early 1990s, plus growing up as a wee lad walking in the hills with my grandad…

that’s me on the left on the shore of Loch Lomond…not the highlands or hiking but we don’t have many photos from back then!

After being accepted through a lottery drawing in November, I spent a lot of winter evenings piecing together trail and off-trail sections that met my goals (castle start and end points, and a couple of old haunts and landmarks along the way).  At a small cost for what it was worth I used Routebuddy software to combine OS maps (Ordinance Survey – UK version of USGS maps but much more frequently updated) and aerial photography to develop the route. Some great advice from my TGOC vetter (himself planning his 20th crossing) resulted in only a couple of changes to the route and some advice on missing trails etc.

My planned route will start in Dornie near Eilean Donan Castle on the west coast,

A first night camp at the top of the Falls of Glomach will be a grand start to the trip…


Then a hop over the hills to follow Glen Affric for a while...

Then along or above Glen Urquhart passing through Drumnadrochit on Loch Ness not far from where I was born...

Note that I have few remaining relatives in Scotland, not sure if this is a distant cousin...

After a ferry ride over Loch Ness (the only non-foot transportation allowed), I’ll cross the Monadhliath Mountains...


Pick up supplies in Kingussie and head up Glen Feshie...

A few days later another highlight if the weather is behaving…walking the rim of Lochnagar...


and then some gentle hills to close things out ending at Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven on the east coast. 

There is a bunch more scenic spots and route details along the way but too much to load up here.

All told around 190 miles - a low route (advised for first timers in the Challenge) with less than 30,000 feet of elevation gain, but I have included options if I am feeling good to climb some more hills along the way as long as the weather cooperates.  There are two nights in hotels (with diversions to pubs) at resupply points and the rest (11) wild camps.

I may upload some photos at a few stops, but will definitely work on a trip report after I return!


Work and life have conspired against me lately on the training side of things so I hope I will be able to complete the route.  To help keep me motivated and do some good along the way, I have set up a couple of fund raising sites for two causes close to my heart for different reasons:  Rheumatoid arthritis which my late mother (from Glasgow) suffered for 40 years, and ALS which we are currently helping my father in law tackle.  If you feel like helping out, any size donation is appreciated but not expected.  Both charities are very efficient and funnel a lot of the money into research. 


Hiking to Cure Arthritis


ALS One Dollar Difference:


10:28 a.m. on April 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Good one Phil.  There is something really fun about meeting people along the way out in the raw weather.  Makes me think of a single malt with friends around a peat fire. 

11:27 a.m. on April 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Good luck!

10:51 a.m. on April 10, 2018 (EDT)
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The closest I have come to such a trip was the Chilkoot Trail.  It was very interesting to meet and camp with people from Germany, Switzerland, Canada and UK.  It was one of the most fun things about the trip. You are going to have a great time. 

7:54 p.m. on April 10, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks guys.  Partly the trip and partly the homecoming, I am looking forward to this one more than any other trip.

Ppine - I agree meeting folks along the way from all over the world is something I look forward to...especially after hiking through wind and rain for days (if I get "normal" weather) creating that bond.  My reservations on the number of folks is just too large a crowd on a given trail or in town...I prefer smaller groups and a little less volume until the big dinner party at the end! 

2:44 p.m. on April 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Phil how many days is the trip to include travel?

5:37 p.m. on April 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Denis - I'll be walking for 14 days plus about 2 days to get there (three flights and a 5 hr bus ride).  The trip back is one long 3-flight day but I have added on a couple of nights in Glasgow where we used to live in order to dry things out and stop by my mother's second resting spot (one cemetery in the US and one in Scotland) and see a couple of other sites around town.  All told for me its 19 days but you could do it in less time.  You can finish faster but I may only do this once so want to stop and smell the roses, or rest the feet which won't smell like roses!

5:55 p.m. on April 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Looking forward to following along with your journeys Phil!

1:51 p.m. on April 16, 2018 (EDT)
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Trip like that will make you feel like a kid again, take time to play in the castle! Hope it everything you want and more. Happy trails And safe journey!!!

3:51 p.m. on April 20, 2018 (EDT)
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Phil that's a nice holiday all those days,,You posting as you go or just gonna do a trail report at the end? Love to follow sounds awesome

7:45 p.m. on April 20, 2018 (EDT)
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It's nice except I am working about 70 hrs a week ahead of time since work is absolutely crazy busy right now. Throw closing on a house and moving on top of that and I barely have time to prepare! Those first few days are going to hurt.

I'll try to upload a few photos here during the trip:


But will definitely get around to a trip report on my return.

12:00 p.m. on April 23, 2018 (EDT)
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Phil I did that on a 1200 hike first three days was sore and then just rolled into it...Just do what you do..Your not new to backpacking...I am excited for your trip...

5:54 a.m. on April 24, 2018 (EDT)
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Yeah, I'm not new and neither are my legs! I am ready for the first few days adjustment...been a while since I did  trip of this length but I know things will settle out. Good news is with limited training time at my age I won't start off hurt already!

Flying out two weeks from tomorrow so I'm down to the details of packing now and staying healthy.

7:58 a.m. on May 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Pack is ready in its duffel bag and my plane leaves at noonish. Won't be posting here much for a couple of weeks hopefully as I plan to be walking. My knee is taped up and ankle isn't doing too well either but hopefully my braces and tape will keep me from falling apart for the trip. I'll post when I get back and start work on the trip report!

2:18 p.m. on May 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Quarter way in...first pub stop. Most photos on my camera so will have to wait for the report on my return.


Cheers from Scotland!

3:28 p.m. on May 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Looking beautiful so far. Don't get too comfy there at the pub!

8:42 p.m. on May 15, 2018 (EDT)
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Phill thats gorgues and iam jealous lol enjoy the pub

February 27, 2020
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