The Cape Wrath Trail: 8 Things to Expect
The Cape Wrath Trail is a remote and challenging 200-mile hike through the Scottish Highlands. It usually takes 2-3 weeks to complete and is considered the most difficult long-distance walk in the UK. Other resources online make it sound incredibly hard, but I think it is manageable for any prepared hiker. Here’s what to expect:
Scotland is a wet country; there’s no getting away from it. The trail generally follows glens and passes which means walking next to a lot of streams and frequently crossing them. Sometimes the trail is not visible on the ground because it is so boggy, and even when it is obvious there are a lot of puddles. It is up to you if you wear trail runners that dry quickly but get your feet wet or boots that may keep your feet drier. If you can embrace wet feet, then you are halfway to completing the trail!
2. Getting lost
As mentioned, sometimes the trail is not visible on the ground. There is also no waymarking. You will need to brush up on your map and compass skills for this one! There are GPX files you can download to put onto maps.me which you can use as a backup. But it’s fun to go old school and use a map! Harveys produce two CWT maps, one for each half, which I highly recommend.
3. Patchy phone signal
The trail passes through some very remote areas of Scotland, surely part of the reason you are taking it on! Although rural phone signal hotspots are popping up, don’t expect to be updating your Instagram feed every hour, or every day for that matter.
4. Wonderful bothy nights
Bothies are simple free huts that are dotted around the Highlands. Originally used as houses for shepherds, they have been restored to be habitable for hikers in need. Although wild camping is free and legal in Scotland, bothies provide a chance to make a fire and truly dry out. You are bound to meet some interesting characters and share stories huddled around the fire.
6. Expensive resupply
You will be resupplying at small, inaccessible stores and petrol stations. Naturally, these will be more expensive than supermarkets and often don’t have the range of products on offer. A resupply for three days in the hills would set you back around £25pp.
5. Deer sightings
Red and roe deer roam the Highlands widely. I walked the CWT in rutting season, September/October, so every night I could hear roaring from the mountains. It was a magical experience, although one night they came a little close and I could hear hooves outside my tent, and that was the scariest moment I’ve ever had whilst hiking.
7. Not necessarily finishing
The northern terminus of the CWT is at the Cape Wrath lighthouse; however, you aren’t guaranteed to reach it. To get to the lighthouse, you have to walk through a Ministry of Defence training area which is closed to the public at certain times. If you walk the trail from May-August, you should be alright, but check before you reach the end! You can contact range control on this number: 01971 511242.
8. Beautiful scenery
The Scottish Highlands are simply stunning. Assynt, Glencoul and An Teallach were my favourite parts. The mountains are rugged, wild and unique. When you are feeling low, you simply need to look around, and the landscape will inspire you to get going again. The wet feet and expensive resupplies are a small price to pay for the magnificence of the Highlands.
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