Hiking the Length of Scotland: 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 the 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, was 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.

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.

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, emmerse 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.

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.

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.

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!

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

Part I – Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh

 

Part II – Edinburgh to Drymen

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 You Tube – 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

Photos of the Scottish National Trail

Hiking one of the most challenging days to Glencoul Bothy

Hiking one of the most challenging days to Glencoul Bothy

 

Scottish National Trail

Crossing a river near Shenavall in Scotland’s Great Wilderness

 

Scottish National Trail

Glencoul bothy

 

Scottish National Trail blog

Loch Broom, Ullapool

 

Scottish National Trail blog

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

Read: 10 bothies on the Scottish National Trail

 

Wild camping at Lochan Fada on the Scottish National Trail

Wild camping at Lochan Fada

 

Scottish National Trail blog

Hiking the section from Benmore Lodge to Inchnadamph

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.

Read: What happened after the Scottish National Trail

 

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 afforable 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

14 thoughts on “Hiking the Length of Scotland: the Scottish National Trail”

  1. Skye Class

    I love this plan! I’m definitely looking forward to seeing your updates, including on your YouTube channel. Good luck!!!

    1. Peter Wright

      Brilliant venture for you, and your hreat fundraising effort. Very best wishes with it – every step of the way. I Must check the map, to see how many times you cross and recross the great Ribbon of Wildness.

  2. This is very cool and for such a good cause! Scotland has always been somewhere that has held my interest. Can’t wait to follow your journey.

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      I’m excited to write about my experience on here- and also take some great photos of the highlands!

  3. Kathrine

    This is such an amazing adventure and with a great cause! I love the idea of experiencing Scotland like how your ancestors did. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot along the way! I wish you the best of luck!

  4. Goodluck with the hike & I hope you reach your fundraising goals for CF. X

  5. YOU. GO. GIRL. I hope you have a really amazing time walking Scotland and I hope you reach your goals raising money for your goddaughter.

  6. What an incredible thing to do, especially as you are raising money for charity and to help your god daughter through it too. The hike reminds me of the book ‘Wild’. I look forward to seeing updates of your adventure!

    1. Yvette Morrissey

      Thank you for your kind words 🙂 I love that book! And I have to say it has inspired me to do a long distance hike.

  7. Lindsay Campbell

    Hello Yvette, Your Campbell ancestors came from Kilfinan Parish, Argyll, which does not seem to be on the National Trail. I hope you can find time, and energy, to divert to Kilfinan. It must be an interesting experience. Your mother, Bev, told me of your trip. Bev and I are 3rd cousins. Regards, Lindsay Campbell

  8. I really love this post! this is now on my list to do – thank you

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ABOUT YVETTE

Hello, I’m Yvette! 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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