Your First Long Distance Footpath
Where to go? With so many options, this is probably the hardest part. You’ll nee to decide if you want a coastal trip, rural or a bit wilder. How far?
If you’re still undecided, why not get out for a day walks on one of the National Trails to see how you like it – we’ve some suggestions here.
Know your limits. Are you really going to complete the Pennine Way over the 14 days leave you can spare for the trip? Pick a path that’s realistic and you’re reasonably confident you can complete in the time available. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and ensure you don’t plan for long days that you would normally struggle with. You’re not going to suddenly find a reserve of energy from somewhere, though you may well start to feel fitter a few days in if you’re lucky.
Planning and budgeting. You know what you’re doing and roughly how many days. Get a guide book and search on-line for route guides for your chosen trip. They’ll have suggestions of possible itineraries and where you can spend each night, but be careful as some routes may have a particularly tough leg in the middle of it in order to end the day at suitable accommodation. The choice is then down to personal choice and budgets. A trip camping all the way, with a few wild camps, can cost less than £5 a night plus food and transport. Stay in B&Bs every night and eat out at every opportunity and that budget will need to be well over £70 a day.
The middle ground is to stay in Youth Hostels, but they’re not recommended if you’re a night owl. I can’t abide going to bed before eleven and I’m not likely to sleep for a while after that, but forget about that in a YH, along with bedtime reading. Of course, it’s more than acceptable for the other occupants of the room to snore and fart loudly, and for the family in the next room to allow their brats to run up and down the corridor at half past seven in the morning (Glencoe). Then there’s the lack of security, and you may well find some of your food stolen (Crianlarich). Despite that, I think that the Loch Ossian YH is one of the best spots I’ve stayed. If you’re travelling in a pair or group then you can rent your own room, making the whole experience much more pleasurable!
Logistics: You’ve got a list of where you’re going to spend each night, you’ll need to make sure you’ll be able to stock up where you have to. If you’re eating out, phone up to make sure they serve food that evening. If camping, you might arrive to find that the shop closed at five. You can always make it easier by going on an organised trip and maybe using baggage transfer services. If your trip poses particular problems, then you can send parcels ahead to be picked up en route. The Post Office can accept parcels marked Post Restante and keep them in the chosen post office for up to two weeks. This is a great way to send on food, maps and clean clothes, then you can post home anything you no longer require. Of course, you need to ensure you don’t arrive at your chosen post office on early closing day. Better still is to send one on to any B&Bs you’re going to stay at, most should be willing to help and may even be willing to post your parcel home for you.
Kit – One advantage of staying in hotels or B&Bs is that you don’t need to carry a tent or all that other gear. This makes the walking much easier and more enjoyable. All you’ll need is your usual day walking kit, You will need enough spare clothes to last the duration which adds to your usual day pack or just go the whole hog and go for luggage transfer.
If camping then this link shows you all the gear you need. What else?? Keep the weight to a minimum and carry as little food as you need between resupply points. I make as much use as possible of any pubs or eateries on the way as it means less to carry and puts something back in to the local communities you travel through.
Finally – will you do it alone or with someone? Can you cope walking two weeks on your own, or perhaps you’ll be grateful for the peace and quiet. It’s even more difficult to work out whether you can cope with your walking partner for two weeks without ending up at each other’s throats or casting their foetid socks into the fireplace!