Day 1 – 5 on the Scottish National Trail

Day 1

After 24 long hours of trains, buses, flights, more buses, a 4 hours night at the airport and grocery/gas cannister shopping, I finally arrive at Kirk Yetholm, near the English border.

I’m really exhausted but also very happy to be here.
Whenever I set foot on trail, it just feels right, like seeing a long lost friend and reconnecting straight away.
It’s where I’m the happiest and the day it feels like I’m just ticking trails off a list, I’ll just stop.

I’m off to a rough start, as there’s a big climb pretty quickly.
I’m going mostly through farmland, but it’s actually quite nice, with lush rolling hills and sheep/lambs everywhere, that remind me of New Zealand, where I lived for a few years.
Ok, turns out it wasn’t a big climb, I’m just out of shape…
I see a little sign saying that I just reached the highest point of the St Cuthbert’s Way at only 1207ft/368m!

I usually take it easy on the first week/10 days of a trail.
I try not walk over 20 miles/30 km a day even if the terrain is easy or I’m feeling great. It just doesn’t work for me, plus I’m not 20 anymore…
My original plan was to hike for 2 hours as I started around 5pm, but I’m struggling to find a good spot to pitch, so I only stop walking at 9pm.
I can tell my body wasn’t ready for that after the day I had…

The Scottish National Trail is made out of connections of existing trails and the St Cuthbert’s Way is the first one I’m following.
Though it doesn’t seem nearly as popular as the Pennine Way on the other side of the border.

Day 2

It’s been a cold night and I’m definitely glad I brought some extra layers.
In the morning I bump into a hiker who is hiking the End to end Trail, a trail covering the length of the UK.
Though the Scottish section is a bit different from the SNT.
I didn’t realise that long distance hiking was a thing in the UK, I thought that only a handful of people thru-hike those trails every year.
But apparently there are more than I thought, this hiker telling me that he saw another person hiking the SNT just yesterday.

Today I’m walking on backcountry roads and along a nice river.
I’m definitely struggling with the accent a little bit since I arrived.
And some people have a hard time understanding me too…
Yesterday a bus driver couldn’t understand my destination (Kelso, not even that hard to pronounce).

Day 3

I can definitely feel my body today…
I’ve never experienced that kind of pain when starting a trail before.
I’m taking it easy so far, so I’ll see how it goes.
That’s the first time I start a long hike not being really in shape and I can see the difference!

Today I’m walking through farmland and along rivers.
That actually reminds me of the Waikato section of the Te Araroa.
Like a poster in Murray’s office says in Flight of the Conchords : “New Zealand… Like Scotland, but further.”
Going through the nice little town of Melrose, where I leave the St Cuthbert’s Way behind, to follow the Southern Upland Way.

I ressuply in Galashiels, then at the end of the day I get stalked by a bunch of young bulls as I’m crossing a paddock, but they eventually get bored.

I find a camping spot that is pretty exposed to the wind, but that looks like the best option for a while, so I hope for the best.

Day 4

Lucky for me, there was no wind.
I spend the morning walking on nice rolling hills.
Golf being a popular sport in Scotland, I’m going through a few courses.
The weather hasn’t changed much since I started. It’s overcast and not very warm.
But not much rain yet, apart from some little showers.

My body still isn’t doing great, but I can feel a tiny improvement, so I’ll keep making short days and take it easy for a while.
It’s funny how even when you feel sore and tired, it still feels great being on trail.
That combination of pain and happiness is quite a strange one…
One that I’m not really used to as I usually start my hikes being fairly fit.
Though last November I hiked the Stevenson Trail in France and I was really sick at the beginning (first time I was hiking with a cold) and even if it wasn’t easy, it still felt better than spending days in bed falling asleep while watching a movie.

Day 5

It’s a pretty sunny and easy day.
My body is feeling much better today, though I’m not going to start crushing miles right now, that’s a recipe for disaster. I’ll keep taking it easy a few more days and see how it goes.

Still going through farmland and rolling hills.
That might sound boring, but I’m actually really enjoying it.
When I started hiking, I wanted the most amazing scenery in the world thrown at my face constantly.
Now I still love that, but I’m also happy to just be walking in some nice rural countryside.
And I think I just love the cross-country trails.
It’s a great way to discover a country, with its most beautiful spots and some less spectacular but that have their charm.
And it’s lambing season, so it’s pretty cute to see these little fellows running around.

I arrive in the late afternoon in Balerno, 10km/6 miles from Edinburgh and I hope to find a decent spot to pitch before.
But it’s not ideal and I consider pushing till 8-9pm to get a hostel in town.
But I finally manage to somehow find a spot.
Which is great because I didn’t want to walk late!

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Comments 2

  • Enigma : May 10th

    Nice pics! Looks lush out there already. Hopefully The Pyrenees are well on their way to summer as well, I start hiking the HRP in a couple weeks! (Also a blogger here at The Trek, keep an eye out). Happy trails mate!

    • Gael Dida : May 11th

      Yes it’s a good time to be in Scotland.
      The weather is alright and there aren’t too many midges yet.
      You’ll love the HRP!
      Haven’t done it myself (in a few years hopefully),but hiked the GR 10 and GR 11 and absolutely loved it. Some of the best hiking I’ve ever done.
      Looking forward to read about it.


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