Walking Lands End to John o'Groats
Updated: Dec 15, 2019
Back in 2012 before I had even thought about making a motorcycle channel, I had decided to take on the UK's longest (point to point) journey. It was a painful, exciting and unforgettable journey that would end up taking 36 days. There were fun times, hard times, and times where I wanted to give up. All I can say is "the memories I took away from it were priceless" - It was the best and worst walk I have ever done! With all its challenges and problems we soldiered through, it was a journey like no other. So lets start at the beginning with the big question. How did it all start?
Back in 2011 I was made redundant from a company I had been with for many years. I had finally achieved a position of mild seniority. The wages weren't good but the work was great, the people were awesome and everyday I was happy to stay late. After all I was the one bringing in the 30+ pallets every evening. It was the sort of job where you were always amongst friends, and everyone pulled their weight. This company had trained me as a "dangerous goods" supervisor. I had learnt all about chemical classification, composition, chemical formulae, labelling and DG notes.
I was so keen to stay with this company that I even relocated to their new base over 100 miles away in Crawley. But after only a few months, some really heavy nights with the supply chain manager, and a workforce that couldn't communicate - the job was no longer for me!
So there I was, back in my old town with no job, a couple thousand in savings, and living back at my folks home. I was feeling quite down, and the people I had worked with for so long just seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth. The reality was clear, it was either a trip to the dole office, or start over in a completely new job. I spent only a couple weeks out of work before being offered another job. It was a company that was a rival of my previous employer, and quite possibly my only option - I took it!
It was a few months in to my new job that I realised I wasn't going to fit in easily. It was an "outdated" management system with no ears for listening to the workers. I wouldn't suggest for one moment that I am an educated person, but the managers & supervisors in this place made me feel like a genius! I really couldn't get along with their outdated concepts, the way they handled problems, and their terrible attitude towards their subordinates. The workers themselves were mixed, some you got on with, some you avoid, and a couple would be my new mates.
It was a Saturday evening and I was sat at home on my own. I don't watch much television, so to relax I watch videos on YouTube (mainly motorcycle ones). It must of been close to midnight when I saw a video in my "suggested" list, it was titled "Lands End to John o'groats in 8 minutes". This video was published by a channel called "imsodave". The video itself is a relaxing slideshow with a powerful song playing in the background. That song would later become part of my walk to, it is called "Hercules" by the band "Mercury Rev".
I didn't think much of the video at the time, but I gave it a like and added it to my "favourites" list. The next day I remember searching for the band "Mercury Rev" to see what other songs they had made, I was surprised to find a selection of decent songs (although they may not be to everyones taste). I ended up back on the same video again, this time paying more attention to Dave's journey. I don't know what came over me but for some reason I became fascinated by this journey. I tried to find out more information about the walk, and started reading articles written by people who had completed it. I was now completely infatuated by the idea of walking the entire length of Britain.
Monday morning and I was back at work. It was 11 am and the supervisor at the time had called me to one side. He said I was not working fast enough and there are plenty of others who could do the job quicker. I knew this was utter nonsense, so I went through all of that days orders during my lunch break. To no surprise I found that in fact I had done more orders than anyone else so far that day. We didn't see eye to eye, it had been obvious that he had a problem with me since day one.
I was torn between quitting my job, or asking for short term leave! After very careful consideration I asked for 3 months leave, and to my absolute amazement this proposal was accepted. I later found out that it was only accepted because I was doing it for charity. I had no intention of doing this walk for charity originally. However I knew this would be an enduring challenge, so it would of been wrong if no one benefited from it.
Before anything else I needed to confirm the dates with my work, so without a second thought I just picked a random Saturday (22nd September 2012). I had only a few weeks to prepare for this walk, and I had no previous experience with long distance walking. But I did have a good friend who would be joining me on this adventure - That was all the motivation I needed!
The next few weeks were just like any others: go to work, come home and relax. The weekends however were slightly different. We would walk from Ringwood to Burley, and then on to Bransgore before taking a steady walk back home. It was a very long route which totalled over 18 miles (but this would never prepare us for what we were about to take on). In the time leading up to the walk we started a YouTube channel called "CRUK2012" where we would talk about our preparation, camping gear and clothing. Here is one of the uploads from my original "CRUK2012" YouTube channel.
This video is pretty much my first ever vlog, and watching it back just feels awkward. Anyway, I released a total of 7 videos prior to the walk, including one video showing our "intended walk" published in the "Daily Echo" newspaper. When I first saw our story printed in black and white, it gave me my first real insight in to the shear magnitude of this walk. What had I let myself in for?
It is now Saturday the 22nd of September, I am waiting anxiously for my good friend Richard Jackson to arrive at my house. Finally he arrives and I get a strong sense of relief. I now know that I am not alone on this walk. We were excited, nervous, anxious and had no idea what to expect.
My Dad is the next person on the scene, reaching us around midday. We loaded up the car with two very heavy backpacks, each one weighing around 18kg. This was also the first time that we had felt the weight of the backpacks fully loaded, and it was surprisingly heavy. The car broke down 3 times on the way to Lands End, each time we had to pour lighter fluid in the engine and give it a bump start.
The first video update was in Devon, I had filmed it with my Panasonic camcorder and it was basically me saying we were on route to Lands End. For the more observant of you there was a subtle hint in the first video that the car was having problems. Nevertheless we made it to Lands End, and it was already getting late. I got out of the car and started filming some video clips (including the famous Lands End sign post), before passing the HD camera to my Dad and giving him instructions to upload the video.
We were now completely alone at Lands End! We spent no more than 30 minutes looking around before signing the guest book and taking a picture by the sign. I was shocked by the price to have your picture taken with the sign, so we each stood by the barrier and done our best to get a good photo (the photos turned out surprisingly well).
It was now 17:30 in the evening, and we had only just crossed the "start" line. We were finally heading away from Lands End! The next stop was St Sennen church (1.2 miles) and we already knew the backpacks were far too heavy. We walked for a further hour and a half (3.5 miles) and it was getting dark. It was time for our first nights camp. We assessed the area and decided to camp on a small hill in the background. That hill was "Chapel Carn Brea".
We only set up one tent, unrolled our sleeping mats and got in to our sleeping bags. It was now spitting with rain, and we could hear farm animals within close proximity. We were both asleep by 11:30pm, and after 5 hours of intermittent sleep we were awake and packing away. That was by far one of the worst sleeps I have ever had.
It was now 05:30am and there was barely any daylight. We put the tent away, packed up and put on our waterproofs. It was a dense misty rain that would of soaked our clothes in minutes. We didn't have any good quality waterproofs, they were very basic, non breathable and they trapped the sweat like a latex glove. Anyway we put our backpacks on and followed a very narrow trail to a wooden gate. We were now on a public footpath with no sense of direction, really hoping we were heading in the right direction.
Finally daylight broke and we found ourselves on a country lane. I remember looking through the hedges and there was nothing but trees, hills and the occasional farm house. But after a fairly long and uncertain walk, we saw a large reservoir at a gated field. It just looked amazing and was such a welcome sight after walking down what seemed like an endless road. Within minutes we were on the A30 and back on track!
We were walking for quite some time before finally taking shelter under Heamoor roundabout. It was a dirty underpass that stunk of urine, but it was still a welcome stop away from the rain. We didn't stay long and decided to brave the rain again. We continued walking for some time, but our feet were now completely soaked! Finally we got a break from the rain and we followed a short track that led to an old church. It looked deserted so we took out the stove and a mess tin...we began to cook our socks!
It was a feeble attempt and it didn't work. We put on our warm wet socks, and continued our journey. The next place we passed through was "Cockwells" which was a fairly pleasant walk with pavement. We found a garage to get some supplies, and then continued to the next challenge - A very long stretch of dual-carriageway! It seemed to go on forever with no destination in sight. We constantly had cars flying past us at 70+mph, and some beeping their horn at us. It was a really "edgy" walk, but at the same time very productive.
After a solid ten and a half hours of walking, we had enough! We took the next available exit, and were now walking in to a place called "Blackwater". There was nothing to be seen from the road except for a couple of farm buildings, and a sign for some old tin mines. We decided to follow the gravel track which shortly led us to the mines. We were now out of sight, away from the road and there was no one around. Nature was calling and I left a "deposit" in the most suitable area I could find. It was now time to set up camp.
We pitched both tents next to the old mines and then had a brief look around. There was just enough light to get some pictures and a short video. It was a quiet area and we would not be disturbed by anyone. There were also some fresh blackberries, mint and a small stream nearby. It was the perfect end to the day!
We slept very well that night, but the morning held more bad news. Throughout the night it had been raining profusely, and the tent was not capable of keeping out the rain. Everything in the tent was completely soaked! This was a real blow to our morale, and was the first time we thought about giving up. But we didn't, instead we salvaged all of the dry clothes and electronics, repacked our bags and began planning the next sensible move.
It was a crazy step to take but we decided to throw away the tents! They were already soaked, they couldn't hold out the rain, and we decided we could travel further without the extra weight. We put our waterproofs on and headed back on to Radnor Road. The rain had now subsided and the road had come to an end. We started walking through the hedge line parallel to the A30, and finally found ourselves at the "Plume of Feathers" on the A3047.
This was the first stop and we both decided this would be the perfect milestone to get our first signature. We each had a "proof of walk" sheet, and we had to collect signatures, stamps and dates throughout our journey (for proof of completion). They very happily obliged and then we continued on our journey again.
The weather was pretty good all day, but there was a lack of conversation. We needed to find a new tent asap, and as time went by we began to regret our decision to throw away our tents. We eventually entered a more built up area along Moorland road, and we found a surplus shop that had a selection of cheap camping equipment. We purchased a very small & cheap two man tent. We knew it was not a suitable tent, however we needed to ensure that we had something to sleep in.
It was now getting very dark and we were somewhere near Bodmin. There was a heated debate as to which direction we should take, but in the end we found ourselves no where near Bodmin. After around eleven hours of walking we had ended up in the countryside (even looking at the map today we are still uncertain as to where we actually were). There were no houses in sight, open fields, and we never saw Bodmin town. I can only assume we crossed back to the A30 Bodmin bypass before setting up camp in a nearby woodland.
The next morning we found ourselves back on the A30, there was another brief debate on whether we go left or right. We took the right and began heading towards what we believed was the correct way to Launceston. Our concerns quickly disappeared after we found a sign confirming our route. By the afternoon we received a phone call from my dad. He had gone to a camping store in Taunton and picked up a new tent for us. Within seconds of receiving the call, we decided to throw away the cheap tent that we had only just purchased yesterday.
With much higher spirits, less weight to carry and a new tent on its way to us, we continued to Launceston. We agreed to continue walking on the A30 for a few hours before finally jumping off the main road to set a meeting point. It was a built up area with some big shops, and there was a footbridge overlooking the A30. We had literally just sat down for no more than 10 minutes before receiving a phone call asking where we were. With seconds he had spotted us and we were now in possession of a new tent. The man from the camping shop told my dad this was the perfect waterproof tent to carry out this trip - the tent was a Phantom 200.
It was now getting dark and we had bypassed Launceston. With time ticking on we decided to get off the road and find a place to camp. We found ourselves walking along a tree line next to a river. I'm pretty sure it was the Tamar River, as I could not locate any other rivers on the map. It was a perfect spot, shielded by woodlands with no one in sight.
The night was windy with some light showers, and the tent survived with no leaks. It was going to be another rainy day. We packed everything away, put our waterproofs on, and started walking again. We continued along the A30 for quite some time, before eventually seeing a Little chef just off the A386. It was a welcome sight and a much needed stop. I recharged my powerbank & phone for 30 minutes before getting back on the road.
We made our first big road change and decided to head on to the A386, which would hopefully guide us in to Okehampton. It was a rather short walk, and took around 7 hours to get there. It was still light, and we decided to carry on until darkness. We took another road (the B3215), a very awkward country road, and spent most of time on the hedge line. It was a real nuisance jumping on and off of the road, but there were so many cars speeding past us that it was essential.
We were completely surrounded by open land, so we could make camp at any time. As darkness fell, we simply jumped through the hedge and pitched up in a field for the night. We were convinced there were animals in this field but we could not see them, nevertheless it was a good nights sleep.
The next day was a pretty normal start, and the weather was a lot better. We climbed back through the hedge and continued with our journey. This country road seemed to go on forever, as we were treading on the grass line, and jumping on and off the road. We then took another turn on to the A3072. There was a very unusual sign reading "Nomansland", we stopped for a 10 minute break before carrying on down this country lane. Unfortunately there were no grass banks now, and no where to jump if a car was coming. We must of annoyed more than a hundred drivers on the road that day. We followed the road, and it eventually merged with yet another really awkward country lane (the A396).
Finally we had made it to Tiverton, it was still daylight and I was just glad to be off the road. We probably walked for another 20 minutes before finding a little spot to setup camp for the night. It was a quiet night and I was really happy to just setup the tent and get to sleep. This was the first night where I had no intention of taking anything out of the backpack, I just took my sleeping bag and crashed from exhaustion.
The next morning I awoke very early and felt completely refreshed. We had a long journey ahead of us, but I knew we would be sleeping in a normal bed tonight. We got packed up and began walking towards Taunton. It was yet another terrible narrow road, hedges on either side with open fields. We did contemplate walking in the fields, but knew our feet would get soaked in the grass. It was another day of jumping on and off of the road.
It was now late afternoon and we just entered the town of Taunton. Our plan was to locate the canal that runs towards Bridgwater, but we were really struggling with directions. After a quick stop in a corn field, we ended up asking people for directions. Most of them pointed us in the direction of the river Avon, and It wasn't long before we found ourselves on a small gravel track alongside the canal. I now knew we wouldn't need the map for the rest of the day. I was on familiar ground and I had walked this route hundreds of times when I was young.
The canal was a really pleasant walk, there were no people, no cars and no obstructions. Once we reached North Newton we ventured off from the canal and started heading towards North Petherton. It was a welcome sight to see my brother and my very good friend (R.I.P). We dumped the bags down and took a relaxing walk to Tesco.
After returning back to the house we enjoyed a hot a meal, followed by a short rest. It was very unusual timing that the Bridgwater Fair was is in town, so we decided to have a bit of fun. It was about a 3.5 mile walk which was not really a sensible option after our hard day. We spent about an hour at the fair before taking a very tiring walk back to the house. We did regret adding those extra miles but at the same time it was a good boost for our morale. We got home shortly before midnight, and we were fast asleep within seconds.
The next day was a very late start, we had overslept and didn't want to get out of bed. The day started with a shower and clearing our backpacks of all unnecessary gadgets. It was now almost one o clock in the afternoon, and the backpacks were a few kilograms lighter. We set out heading back to the canal, this time towards the A361. It was a fairly nice walk back along the canal, and we climbed on to the road at the bridge where the A361 runs over. We were now on more spacious country lanes, with mild traffic. We stopped shortly for a break at Burrow Mump. It was a very scenic place, and reminded me of a small version of Glastonbury Tor.
Just a short walk further down the road and we found ourselves in a small pub in Othery. We got another signature on our walk sheets, enjoyed a nice cold drink and continued along the A361. A few hours later it was getting dark and unsafe to be on the roads. We continued with caution alongside the road in the dark. We came across a pub called the The Pipers and decided to take another rest break. Once inside we were treated like "third class" customers. The barman refused to give us glasses, and we ended up with 2 small plastic cups, before being asked to drink outside. They informed us they had an image to maintain and we were not dressed appropriately.
We continued on again and we were fairly annoyed by the service we had just received. We were still walking in the dark on some very sketchy roads, and an accident could occur at any moment. Finally we were at a place called "Street" where there were streetlights, services, and paths to walk on. We stopped at a garage and grabbed a much needed sandwich. It was now just a case of following the signs to reach our camping destination in Glastonbury. We intended to camp on the Tor!
We entered Glastonbury town from the bottom of the hill and took a very steady walk through the town. After reaching the top we crossed a road and headed towards what we thought was the Tor. We were very much mistaken and walked about a half of a mile up a country lane. Luckily we bumped in to a rather strange hippy with 8 large dogs. He was very helpful & friendly, and even gave directions to all the local facilities (should we need them). Next he walked us to the "Chalice Water Well" and pointed to the Tor. We couldn't thank him enough, he was a genuinely decent human.
We took an incredibly slow climb up the hill towards the Tor, before putting our bags down and just taking in the incredible views. It was now after midnight and we pitched our tents about a third of the way down the hill. It was a great nights sleep but we were rudely awoken at 7 in the morning. A local dog walker banged on our tents reading out loud a list of local bylaws that prohibit camping. After telling him to "f*ck off" we promptly packed away our gear and headed back down the hill.
We washed our faces with the water from the well and refilled our water bottles. It felt like it would be a good day and we were in high spirits. We planned a route to get us to Cheddar following the Wells Road. It was a really nice walk with suitable paths taking us all the way to Wells. The weather was dry with sunny spells, and was the perfect opportunity to put on my shorts.
We stopped at Lidl supermarket in Wells where we restocked on snacks and enjoyed a nice cheese and onion pasty. The next part of the walk however was about to get sketchy again. More narrow country lanes for the next 9 miles! We walked in the centre of the road (where possible) for maximum visibility, and occasionally we would pass through very small villages with paths. But one of the most memorable moments on the A371 was at the turning for little green. There is an old fashioned water pump that sits at the side of the road, and upon seeing it, my mate emptied his water bottle and was going to refill it from the pump. With his empty bottle in his hand he began pumping. It was a matter of seconds before realising the pump was not real, and now he had no water. It was a hilarious moment for me, and a bad situation for him.
We soldiered on until we hit Cheddar, and it was now very dark! I knew there was a small walkway behind Cufic Lane that would take us to the top of Cheddar Gorge, It was a slow an arduous walk, but it had great camping potential at the top. We were literally 15 meters from the top before my friend put his bag down for a rest. The bag slipped off the step and rolled about 100 meters back down the hill. It was yet another stroke of bad luck for my friend, but he retrieved the bag and we were now at the top of the cliffs. We setup camp and once again went straight to sleep.
It was a fresh morning and a great place to camp. Our shoulders were sore from the backpacks, and we once again decided to clear out some more items. I reluctantly gave up my stove with the intention to retrieve it in the future. We also got rid of some small bits and pieces, knocking another few kilograms off the backpacks.
We packed up our remaining gear, carrying only essential clothes and equipment. We took a walk down the old quarry road and prepared for a very hard days walk. Our plan was to cross the Severn Bridge and setup camp the other side. It would be the hardest days walking of the entire trip - covering more than 35 miles over 14 hours. Our route took us through Axebridge and on to the Bridgwater Road. Luckily for us most of the roads had pavement alongside. There were some nice views along the route until we eventually hit Bristol. We got very confused with which roads to take, and ended up asking for more directions (just like we did in Taunton).
Whilst in Bristol I picked up a very cheap digital camera (as the Olympus I was using occasionally got a lens error). We were now back on route and heading for the Severn bridge. The bridge was very uncomfortable to walk on due to the high winds, and my mates fear of heights, nevertheless we were glad to have made it.
Once reaching the other side we immediately began searching for somewhere to camp. It was not looking good, so we needed to carry on through Chepstow, and find a quieter place. It was now late evening and we were sat by Cheptow castle, deciding if we would get away with camping there. We were very tired and needed somewhere we wouldn't get disturbed so we carried on following the road. Eventually we found a public footpath leading in to a woodland, and took our chances. It was quiet, away from the roads, and looked perfect! We pitched the tent and went to sleep.
The next morning we awoke fairly late, and after peering out from my tent I realised we were at the bottom of a very large cliff face. My feet were quite sore from all of the walking, and I knew today would not be as productive. We took a pleasant road heading towards Coleford. There were plenty views of the river Wye, and overall it was a quiet days walking.
About half way through the walk we stopped at a little bus shelter. I was trying to take a photo with my Olympus camera but it had finally packed up. The lens error would not go away and I ended up launching the camera at the ground. I had lost several photos between Cheddar and Chepstow, and was very annoyed at the time. We continued walking but my feet were now very sore (and the misty rain was not helping). It was late afternoon and we spotted a campsite just outside of Coleford. It was perfect, so we pitched the tents and got some rest.
About 8 o clock in the evening we decided to take a walk in to Coleford town centre. The town square looked remarkably similar to Ringwood. We walked in to the first takeaway we found and ordered two large doner kebabs with all the toppings - It was incredible! Darkness was setting in and we needed to find our way back to the campsite. It was an unproductive day covering a mere 12 miles, but my feet really needed an easy day to recover. After returning to the campsite I enjoyed a nice warm shower before heading to bed.
The next day was a fresh and early start, we were getting quicker at packing away and even considered throwing away more items from the backpack. I was rolling my foam sleeping mat up when I came up with a great idea. I decided to cut two foot-shaped inserts from my sleeping mat to put in my boots, it made my feet feel 10 times better - Simply the best idea I had so far!
It was now 6 in the morning and we were already back on the roads. We took the Gloucester road out of Coleford and followed the A4136 for several hours. It was relatively quiet for the first few hours so we made good progress, but as the morning moved on we found ourselves jumping on and off the road again. Luckily this road had a nice grass bank running alongside and it had not been raining. There was nothing special I remember about this road but as we reached the last couple of miles in to Gloucester, there were some great views across the land and a very welcome pathway that led us slowly in to the city of Gloucester.
We stopped at Subway to grab a bite to eat, and this was the first Subway I had ever eaten - It was delicious! After our short break we had to ask for directions again, it seemed to confuse us every time we entered a town or city. Finally we were on the Gloucester Road leading us in to Tewkesbury. This was yet another fairly large town so this time we stuck to the main road. It was getting late and we could see several boats moored on the river. Directly opposite the mooring was a very small woodland with some open land. We decided it would be a safe bet to camp there for the night. At first the camping side of things was fine but the road opposite was incredibly busy with boy-racers. It was a very noisy nights sleep!
The next morning was another fresh and damp start. I don't want to bore you with the same details we have already covered, as the next 9 days were pretty much all the same - walking along roads and country lanes, occasionally jumping out the way of traffic. The weather was generally pretty wet with a handful of dry spells. We passed up through Worcester, Titton, Kidderminster, Whiston, Stoke on Trent, Bollington, Milnrow, Clitheroe and Shap. It was hard work and the biggest concern was finding a shop each day. There was also another incident where our toilet paper got soaked, but we don't want to talk about that 🙄.
So it is now Day 21 and we are in Shap. We hadn't really had many problems on route, but if I had to pick out my biggest concern it would definitely be - not knowing where the next shop or water supply is! We had just restocked on supplies and took a very unnecessary decision to follow the signs to Shap Abbey. The roads had old-fashioned stone walls on both sides, with fields as far as the eye could see. Upon reaching the Abbey we had a small argument as to wasting time and energy only to end up in the middle of nowhere. The Abbey itself was a pleasant site, but a completely unnecessary walk!
We were not on speaking terms for the next hour as my friend started walking ahead back up the road we had just come from. It was a poor decision on my part and now we had to backtrack on ourselves. It wasn't long before we laughed it off and focused on the next part of our journey. The area was surrounded by so much land that camping would be an option at any time. We finally pitched the tent on the outskirts of Penrith and enjoyed a fairly comfortable nights sleep.
The next day we got packed up and entered the town of Penrith. It was my decision to visit Penrith Castle and I was a bit apprehensive after suggesting we should walk to Shap Abbey yesterday (after all I didn't want to cause another argument). The castle was not what I expected, it was merely the remains of a former castle. We spent no more than 5 minutes before heading on.
The next few days would take us through Carlisle up to Selkirk. It was the end of day 24 and we were camping on the outskirts of Selkirk. This was probably the most disheartening night yet, after an hour talking with my best mate, he could not push his situation back any further. He was currently wanted by the police as he had skipped his court date by taking on this walk. I was just as much to blame for suggesting we could complete the walk in 25 days. Tomorrow would be Day 25 and my mate had to get back. I called my dad and let him know the name of the road we would be walking along the next day. After making that phone call, I knew tomorrow would be a very sad day.
It is now Day 25 and my mate was packing up for the last time. He gave me the remainder of his supplies and we set off along the A7. I was feeling very concerned about continuing on my own, and I was even considering giving up. It was now late afternoon and after several phone calls my dad was just a couple miles away. We sat at the side of the road very patiently in silence, it was a really awkward moment.
Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of a car horn. It was time to wave goodbye to my friend! Within 15 minutes of arriving the car was now heading off in the distance along with my motivation. I was alone and cold but the only thing I could do was carry on. It was an awkward feeling walking these roads alone, and my demeanour changed for the remainder of the walk. The fun factor had now gone and I was more determined than ever to get the walk finished and out of the way!
By the end of the day I was tired, with no one to talk to, and no one to confirm directions with - It was a very poor nights sleep! The next day however I had a fresh outlook on the situation, packed up my tent and got moving. I was keen to countdown the miles and stop as little as possible.
The weather was now very cold, and over the next few days would become even colder. The views were getting better and better with every mile I walked. I enjoyed several beautiful camp spots over the next few days including Loch Fitty, Struan and Loch Moy. The rest of the journey would require no map as I simply had to follow the A9. It is a very long never ending stretch of road, with plenty of space for walking safely along the side. The views were now incredible and I was completely engulfed in mountainous land.
After setting off from Loch Moy, it was a matter of hours before I crossed a bridge taking me in to Inverness. Another built up area, and a good place to restock on water and supplies. Shortly after I was walking along another bridge that led me back in to the wilderness. I was walking alongside a river for what seemed like miles. It was a very busy road, but plenty of space for me to walk on the green. Finally I was greeted by a roundabout, where I followed the A9 sign towards Wick.
This was one of the most challenging roads yet! I would travel miles and miles each day without any sign of shops. It is a beautiful road that I would love to ride with the motorbike, but since I was walking my biggest fears were slowly becoming a reality. I was running out of food, and collecting rain to refill my water bottles. I was living off of chocolate digestive biscuits and Haribo Tangfastics.
The only places I can remember restocking on food were Helmsdale and Wick. There was a really quiet pub in Helmsdale where I stopped for a steak & ale pie with chips. It felt like the best thing I had ever eaten and was the biggest morale boost since continuing on my own. The rest of the journey was simply following a straight road. I could see and hear the sea so I was convinced the end was in sight. It was a few more days of walking covering at least a hundred miles, each step being teased by the sea.
Finally I was at Wick, the perfect place to restock! I now knew I was potentially one day away from my final destination. The A9 had really tested me, there was a small embankment on the West side of the road where I would cut through the trees to camp each night. The embankment was completely littered with rubbish, and it really annoys me to see such nice areas being littered in.
It was now nighttime and I had just passed Wick. I set up my tent and quite simply couldn't sleep! I was too excited and too close to the finish line. I slept for only a couple of hours before deciding to pack my things away and carry on. I was very tired and it was pitch black but I was determined to finish my goal. My dad had just driven past me without noticing and parked ahead at John o' Groats.
I was knackered but driven by determination! I finally saw the first sign for John 'o Groats. It was about 7 in the morning, and I was walking down the final stretch. I passed my dads car and he was fast asleep inside. I knocked on the window to let him know I was there before continuing down the road. I passed a few wooden chalets and the reality was now overwhelming - I had done it! I was standing next to the John o' Groats final sign post. The walk was over!
My initial feeling of excitement completely disappeared. I felt no sense of achievement and almost felt depressed. The walk was over! It was in that moment that only then had I realised that it was no longer about reaching the end, but about the journey that took me there. All of the problems, issues, and challenges were now over. I had nothing more to do. The pictures I took at John o' Groats clearly show that I was not happy or excited to have completed the walk. I felt sad that my 36 day adventure had come to an end!
Looking back I can say it was a great adventure, and I really enjoyed the whole walk. It tested me physically, mentally and spiritually. I have memories from this adventure that no amount of money could buy. The only 3 regrets I have are not touching the sea at each end, not finishing with my friend, and not taking longer to enjoy the walk and explore more places on route. Would I do it again ..... Yes!
Thank you very much for reading my vlog, I hope it gives you a better insight in to my adventure, and helps in some way with anyone who wishes to take on this walk. All the best!