The Trail Book

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The route runs by the River Tweed up to Peebles before climbing over the Meldon Hills and then the Pentlands to reach the capital city, Edinburgh.

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Towpaths give very easy walking alongside the Union Canal to Linlithgow and on to the amazing Falkirk Wheel. At Drymen the trail switches to follow the Rob Roy Way to Callander, before a wilder stretch passes through Comrie and over the hills and glens of Perthshire to Aberfeldy and then Pitlochy. The Great Glen Way is followed briefly before the route leads through Glen Garry and on to the great mountains of Kintail. By this point the route has joined the Cape Wrath Trail - a more demanding route for backpackers.

The rewards increase too, with the glories of the dramatic West Highlands - the Falls of Glomach, the wilds of Monar and the Great Wilderness of Letterewe beyond Kinlochewe.

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The route crosses wild country to Oykel Bridge and then northwards to Inchnadamph and into Sutherland. A final wild stretch leads through this lonely land, passing the iconic beach of Sandwood Bay en route to Cape Wrath - and journey's end. Walker's website Walkhighlands has produced a series of detailed stage descriptions covering the whole route - written by on-the-ground researchers who have walked every step of the way to check it for you. Each stage is illustrated by a series of photographs and with Ordnance Survey mapping, as well as offering downloads in GPX format for use in GPS devices.

If you register on the site, you can also mark off each stage of the route as you complete it, keeping a record of your progress towards completing the whole walk.


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Access the detailed Scottish National Trail guide. Every stage on Walkhighlands is fully illustrated with photographs, but the following gallery should help give you a flavour of the wonderful landscapes and terrain to be discovered by walking the trail. Along its length, the Scottish National Trail has varied sections which will appeal to every type of walker. It becomes progressively more difficult as it proceeds northwards - eventually becoming a challenging backpack through the wildest Highland landscapes. The section through the Borders follows a range of established, marked paths, with a fair amount of ascent and descent.

This part should appeal to anyone who is a regular walker. We hiked the Appalachian Trail. I eventually did so, in It was roughly how Bryson described it: long, hard, and monotonous, but also beautiful and enlightening and wonderfully and then, later, worryingly slimming. Many thru-hikers bristle at this question. By quitting in Gatlinburg and then hop-skipping up the trail, Bryson bastardized the central conceit of a thru-hike, which is that you hike through —through mountains and valleys, through farms and small towns, through pain, through hunger, through nagging doubt.

For thru-hikers, the continuity is the point, in the same way that running a marathon is more meaningful than running four separate 6. Some touch or kiss every blaze of white paint along the trail, while others carefully line up their shoes, like Japanese slippers, in the precise spot they entered a lean-to, so as to know exactly where to resume hiking the next day.

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Bryson thus finds himself in the curious position of being both the outward face of the Appalachian Trail and its most inwardly mocked figure. Coelho quit in the town of O Cebreiro, some hundred miles short of his destination, and then rode in a bus to Santiago de Compostela. According to a profile of Coelho published in this magazine in , the proprietor of a hotel along the Camino told Coelho that his book had done wonders for his business.


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One obvious answer: great writers are simply less athletic than your average human. But this theory crumbles upon closer inspection. In fact, I would argue that the loneliness and skull-bound nature of a long-distance hike fits quite nicely with the thinking out, if not the actual writing, of books.

These books have a limited audience namely, other thru-hikers , whereas the books that become best-sellers speak to people who would never embark on a long-distance hike in the first place.

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Spare me. I could imagine it: We walked. We saw trees.

Snail Trail – read by The Phonic Fairy on ZeeKay Junior

We went up. They also avoid the doldrums of strict, day-by-day linear storytelling. The reader is never tempted to skip ahead to see if the author finished the trek or not, because that has ceased to be the point. Finally, all three narrators share the nervous, wide-eyed enthusiasm of a greenhorn. For four months? But that same lack of preparation and training made it exceedingly difficult for them to finish the trail, so they were ultimately forced to trim back their ambitions. Recently, while working on my own book about trails, I picked up my old copy again.

Reading it as a writer, rather than a hiker, it felt fresh.



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