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 kilometres) 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.
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
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.
Photos of the Scottish National Trail
Hiking one of the most challenging days to Glencoul Bothy
Crossing a river near Shenavall in Scotland’s Great Wilderness
Loch Broom, Ullapool
The incredible beauty of the Scottish Highlands, hiking from Inchnadamph to Kylestrom
Wild camping at Lochan Fada
Hiking the section from Benmore Lodge to Inchnadamph
I’m also writing a book
I am also writing a book about my journey, which will be available in 2020.