My Experience Hiking the Scottish National Trail

Scottish National Trail

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In 2018 I was the first solo female to hike the Scottish National Trail, a hike that runs the length of Scotland. The Scottish National Trail begins at the England/Scotland border by Kirk Yetholm and concludes at Cape Wrath. It is 854 kilometres (536 miles) in total, and was devised by Cameron McNeish, who is a pretty big figure in the hiking and outdoors world in the UK.

I hiked in every type of weather, including thunderstorms and a heatwave that lasted several weeks. My journey began on May 13; I estimated it would take six weeks to complete, and I finished it in seven thanks to the unpredictable Scottish weather.

Hiking one of the most challenging days to Glencoul Bothy

Hiking one of the most challenging days to Glencoul Bothy

The Scottish National Trail was both the hardest and the most incredible experience of my life. I went into the trail not knowing what to expect- I had never attempted a long distance hike before, nor had I camped overnight in the wild since a high school camping trip. I’d never even been wild-camping by myself before.

Scottish National Trail map

A map of the Scottish National Trail

There were many reasons why I decided to hike the Scottish National Trail, but here are the three main ones:

1. To explore Scotland the way my ancestors did

I’ve always been passionate about my Scottish family history and while it is difficult to know exactly what it was like to live like my ancestors back in the day, I wanted to get as close as possible to experiencing life as they did.

For me, this meant exploring the Scottish Highlands by foot.

As a result, I learnt an incredible amount about the landscape and what life would have been like sleeping under the stars in the Scottish Highlands.

Scottish National Trail

Crossing a river near Shenavall in Scotland’s Great Wilderness

2. To reconnect with myself

I work in digital marketing, so I am constantly connected to some type of device. I wanted to go back to basics, immerse myself in nature and deepen my connection with myself.

This might seem like a drastic way of reconnecting with myself, but I wanted to push my mind and body. I can honestly say the things I learned about myself and the skills I developed will be with me for life. I learned some of the most important life lessons on the SNT, and I am so grateful for the experience.

Wild camping at Lochan Fada on the Scottish National Trail

Wild camping at Lochan Fada

I feel as though when we put ourselves in temporary uncomfortable situations, it helps us to be more comfortable in the long term. I often push myself but putting myself in challenging situations- for example, in 2017 I lived in a van in Canada for seven months. It was challenging living in such a small space without a bathroom or kitchen. I didn’t think I would last three months. As time went on I adjusted to vanlife and I learned new skills and even more about myself.

I hoped the challenge of this hike would bring more of the same. It did- it completely changed my life.

My Experience Hiking the Scottish National Trail

On a mountain somewhere in the highlands

3. To raise money for Cystic Fibrosis

I decided to hike the length of Scotland for another very good reason. My goddaughter, Olivia (6, at the time of my hike) was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) when she was born. CF is known as the hidden disease and is the most common life threatening genetic disorder affecting New Zealand children.

There is no cure for CF, but the gene that causes cystic fibrosis has been identified and researchers are working to find ways to repair or replace it, and medications to treat CF complications.

Half of the funds I raised (£1030 in total) went towards Olivia’s treatment costs. The remaining half went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to care for families living with CF.

I know Olivia will have many challenges ahead of her, and I wanted to be someone she could look up to. I wanted to show her that your body can do amazing things, as long as your mind is strong. For me, the Scottish National Trail was 80% mental strength, 20% physical strength.

My Experience Hiking the Scottish National Trail

Me and Olivia in 2015

My Scottish National Trail Hiking Guides

When I was researching the Scottish National Trail I was disappointed in the information available, so I decided to write my own series of guides.

The marketing around the SNT seemed to die off shortly after it was launched, and I only found a small handful of men who had completed it before me. No one really seems to know about the trail, as every time I mentioned the SNT they just thought I was doing the West Highland Way!

Scottish National Trail

There is no official guidebook for the SNT either, which makes planning even more difficult. My hope is that my guides will address this gap.

My guides are regularly updated, and if you have any more helpful advice to add, just leave a comment on one of my posts. There will be more guides to come- including my packing list and how I navigated the SNT, so make sure you sign up to my mailing list or follow me on Facebook. Happy planning!

Read my Scottish National Trail Hiking Guides

My diary of the Scottish National Trail

Part 1 – Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh

Part 2 – Edinburgh to Drymen

10 bothies I stayed in on the Scottish National Trail

What happened after the Scottish National Trail

Have you found my guides on the Scottish National Trail useful? You can buy me a virtual coffee here to say thanks 🙂

Scottish National Trail blog

Loch Broom, Ullapool

Social Media

I also shared my journey on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can search for my social media accounts using the keyword ‘Scottish National Trail’ on Facebook or #ScottishNationalTrail on Instagram.

I also documented my journey on YouTube – so check that out too!

If you stop by any of my social media accounts, make sure you say hello! I’d love to hear if you’re planning on hiking the Scottish National Trail, follow your journey and I can answer any questions you may have.

Watch: Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see the rest of my videos of the SNT

 

 

Scottish National Trail blog

The incredible beauty of the Scottish Highlands, hiking from Inchnadamph to Kylestrome

I’m also writing a book

I am also writing a book about my journey, which I am hoping will be out in 2020. So many amazing things happened to me while hiking the Scottish National Trail, and I’m excited to share my story with you.

You can sign up below to receive an email notification when my book is released. Until then if you’re looking for some adventure inspiration, check out these beautiful quotes.

Have you hiked the Scottish National Trail or parts of it? Comment below!

 

PLANNING A HIKING TRIP IN SCOTLAND?

Hostelworld is the best place to book hostels

Airbnb is another affordable alternative to accommodation in Scotland (psst- get $33USD credit for your first booking here)

For booking hotels, I recommend comparing prices with Booking.com and Expedia

Need to get somewhere remote? I recommend booking car hire with Auto Europe

Check the Scotrail website for train times

Always take the correct OS Survey map with you

Shop my favourite travel guides on Scotland

Read my other articles about hiking in Scotland

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ABOUT YVETTE

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Hello, I’m Yvette! I’m originally from New Zealand, I now call Scotland home. I left New Zealand three years ago to go on an adventure around the world. I help people to go on their own adventures, whether it’s travelling to a new country, hiking or outdoor activities.

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