My route from Land’s End to John O’Groats was a total distance of about 1,200 miles. I climbed Snowdon and Ben Nevis in snow and Scafell Pike in sunshine. I left Land’s End on 17th February 2019 and arrived in John O’Groats on 19th April 2019. This was a total of 62 days, and I was able to wild camp on 58 of the nights.
Recommended reading: Cicerone’s End to End Trail book.
You could read my post ‘Setting off – some thoughts’
It was the purchase of my new Inov-8 boots with graphene soles that gave me the idea of walking the length of the country. The soles were said to last 50% longer, so I decided I would try to be the first person to wear the soles smooth and review them in the process. The only walk that would have a chance of doing that was the Land’s End to John O’Groats walk. (You can read my review of the Inov-8 Roclite 345 boots here).
Just to prove to my teenage children that I’m still fitter than them, I chucked the three highest peaks of Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in to my route plan. For additional challenge, I set off in February (as I needed to be back in time for the start of my daughter’s GCSE exams) and wild camp all the way.
And so my LEJOG attempt was born. 17th February 2019 saw me setting off from Land’s End. I was happy with my kit (although soon realised I only had one pair of pants with me), but such a quick decision to take on the challenge meant my training had been minimal. I live in Norfolk, so the first two weeks on the rolling terrain of the South West Coast Path were a wake-up call for my leg muscles!
Cornwall in February
Wales – and Storm Freya
I was extremely lucky with the weather at the beginning and February was sunny and warm. I had no rain at all until I got to Wales…but then it just didn’t stop. This led to a last-minute change of route; instead of the Cambrian Way over the Brecons and Black Mountains as I had planned, I followed the Wye Valley Walk instead. I thoroughly enjoyed it, even in the rain. Storm Freya then arrived and delayed my Snowdon summit, so I spent two days in the lovely Machynlleth waiting for a gap in the strong winds. I managed to get up and over Snowdon just before a blizzard hit, although it was still cold enough to completely freeze the socks I had drying on the outside of my pack.
I hadn’t been looking forward to the next stage, along the North Wales coast and around Liverpool to Cumbria, as it was so much more built up. It turned out to be really interesting walking though, and a nice contrast to remote central Wales.
The canals were lovely and I did enjoy the flat ground, covering easy miles. The wild camping was easier than I imagined through this stage too, and I rarely struggled to find a place to put my tent. I have reviewed the Lancaster Canal walk here.
The weather began to improve, and by the time I reached Scafell Pike conditions were perfect. Full sunshine and no wind! However, the next stretch (Carlisle to Glasgow) was the toughest by far. It was a lot of road walking, despite re-routing on to paths whenever possible, and the blizzards returned, making it hard going. The hardest part was drying my kit each day, as I was wild camping each night. I couldn’t stop and go home, though, as my new boots were still not worn smooth – although the Gore-tex linings had failed and they were leaking like anything! You can read more about this here.
West Highland Way
From Glasgow I followed the West Highland Way, a route I have always sworn I will never walk due to its popularity (I don’t like making busy places even busier!) However, it was both tougher and more enjoyable than I expected. This led me to the third peak in my crown: Ben Nevis. What a climb in perfect weather – I had the snow-covered summit to myself. No wind, amazing views and all whilst wearing a T-shirt.
I then joined the Great Glen Way, which others had told me was a bit dull – again, though, I found it interesting. The new high level route was definitely worth the effort for gorgeous views of Loch Ness.
I arrived in Inverness to find the friendliest city I have ever been to. I intended to follow the new John O’Groats Trail all the way to the end from Inverness, but I met someone coming the other way who advised me to miss a couple of sections. Doing this saved me a lot of time and effort. The down side was some road walking on the busy A9, though, which was not nice.
The coastline on the way to John O’Groats was amazing. I arrived at the signpost, in bright sunshine, at exactly the same time as my wife and two youngest children, who had come to pick me up. A perfect finish to an incredible walk, all in one pair of pants.
All the way I met great friendly people, all willing to chat with interesting stories to tell. I managed to wild camp 58 nights out of 62, two nights in bothies and two in accommodation waiting for the weather to clear enough to summit Snowdon. I’d enjoyed 25 breakfasts in cafés, 33 meals in pubs and best of all, 52 pints. Despite this excess, I got home weighing exactly the same as when I left.
I arrived home aching and stiff, with sore feet, but happier and more settled with life. It was the best ‘cure’ for my mid-life crisis and I have never slept so well since I have been back. And my boots? They made it all the way to John O’Groats, and they still aren’t worn smooth – so perhaps it’s time for another challenge. This time, though, I’ll take two pairs of pants. 2020 update: Wrong, I’ve just walked 1100 miles and wild camped continuously for 52 nights with just one pair again. Read about my Dover to Cape Wrath walk here.
I wouldn’t have been able to do this walk changing the route as I went, if I hadn’t been carrying my Toughphone Defender Pro with all the OS mapping downloaded on it. Its been my favourite piece of kit for the last 3 years but I managed to break it and have had to replace it. I found the new Ulefone Amor 3W phone which has a lot larger battery and was cheaper. Very impressed with it so far and you can read my review of it here.
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