Scottish National Trail: 5 things I would do differently
In early November I returned from a six-week thru-hike of the Scottish National Trail. Here are the five things I would do differently if I walked the trail again.
1. Wear boots.
Controversial, I know. Heavy leather boots are still the most popular choice of footwear in the UK for a reason. The paths and tracks aren’t well maintained and sometimes are just a line on a map with no evidence on the ground. My friend who wore boots had dry feet the majority of the time, whereas I had to get used to one of the worst feelings on a thru-hike— putting on wet socks and shoes every day.
2. Go northbound.
The Scottish Highlands are the hardest and most scenic part, so you have that to look forward to if you go north. You also get the relatively flat parts out of the way first so you can get fitter as you make progress. If you go south, you have done the best bit first, and it’s mentally harder to carry on.
3. Avoid instant noodles.
As well as just not being very nutritious, instant noodles always contain palm oil as one of the top ingredients and I am not comfortable with the idea that, as a hiker, I am driving the demand for it. In Scotland, we really got into appreciating nature. It’s a shame to think that we’re contributing to deforestation in places that grow palm oil to put into our noodles.
4. Choose a different route through the Pentlands.
The official route through the Pentlands isn’t great— a long road walk and a quick up-and-over the hills including only one climb. Instead, I would choose my own path south out of Edinburgh and stay in the hills for longer. You could spend at least two days just in the Pentland hill range. It is a difficult but beautiful area of Scotland.
5. Bring a ball.
When I was a kid, my dad and I would spend time on a hike passing a rugby ball between us. There is 75km of canal towpath across the centre of Scotland, and I needed a ball to throw or kick to keep me sane. Luckily we found two tennis balls discarded by dog walkers on the path and kicked those along for a few hours. It definitely made the time go faster!
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