Walking from Lands End to John o'Groats

April 2015: Wikipedia says that the shortest distance by road between these two British extremities is 874 miles. Probably over a thousand on foot. The call of the wide open countryside has lured me back to try again.

Will I make it? Am I as fit as I was ten years ago? Find out here over the next few weeks and months.

Lejog

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Jedburgh Tuesday 02 June 2015

Start: Byrness
Finish: Jedburgh
Miles walked today: 20
Total miles: 683

Scotland! Home of the haggis. Land of the SNP. Makers of whisky. What's not to like?
I passed a real milestone today - and left England behind me. Funnily enough, the weather perked up a bit too.
My alarm.was set for 6.15 and I left my wet tent to get my self service breakfast. Tent down, packed and a quick photo of Dan (on the left below) and Keith. They are both headed for Kirk Yetholm, the end of the Pennine Way. It's a very long day for them.
My route starts with a long climb out of Byrness up the side of the river Rede valley. I'm protected by lots of fir trees, so when I get to the top and the open moor the wind quite literally takes my breath away. It's blowing from the west, across my path, and I'm leaning at a ridiculous angle to counter it.
A few miles of boggy, windy walking and I get to my turn off (second photo below). The PW goes slightly right, and I follow the fence to the left - into Scotland! Passport control is nowhere to be seen, so I carry on.
The path eventually takes me to paved tracks, and drops enough for the wind to ease. Nearer Jedburgh, I'm walking in shorts and T shirt and the sun is shining overhead.
Ready for the next bit of excitement? Entering Jedburgh, I find a laundry, manned by Colin Crozier. Colin makes me a coffee, insists I take some biscuits, and does my washing.
He's lived a full and varied life, and doesn't look anything like his 75 years. Lots of people pop in to say hello and chat. Colin emigrated to New Zealand in the sixties, and married a Kiwi, but returned to his native Scotland a few years ago. His four children and (I think) nine grandchildren are spread out over Australia, New Zealand and Scotland.
He is a flugelhorn player in a brass band, and a bit of a bard:

It's easy enough to be pleasant
When life goes by like a song
The man worthwhile
Is the man with the smile
When everything goes dead wrong

We shake hands and I leave Colin and wander off to find a b&b - the lovely Akaso-Uram which is perfect:
7 Queen Street Jedburgh 01835862482
Jedburgh has an abbey, a jail, and a castle. It's a pleasant place to wander around and take photos of.
Kenonymous's latest donation and suggestion:
SCOTLAND JIMMA!!!! Wull ya be havina joug of Hadrians Border Brewery 'Coast ta Coast' ta celebrute eh pal? You're sort-of doin' tha' like anywho :-)
www.hadrian-border-brewery.co.uk/our_beers.html

I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to speak like that in the pub...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Innerleithen Wednesday 03 June 2015

Start: Jedburgh
Finish: Innerleithen
Miles walked today: 30
Total miles: 713

The scene: a cycle route following the valley of the River Tweed. The following dialogue can be heard:


Go on, take a look at your phone
No!
Go on. We can see how near we are on the map...
No!
At least look at the time
No!
You wanted to walk to Innerleithen
I know. We had no choice. It was either stop too early or keep going to Innerleithen. You know there's nothing for miles otherwise. No pubs, no villages, nothing
If you look at your phone we could be really close.
We could be miles away. I'd rather not know
Just a little peep?
No!

And so on... you get the idea.
Dot at the Akaso-Uram b&b (I should have asked her about the name) made me a delicious breakfast. Her house is lovely. The sort of place that is a real home. She has an amazing collection of miniatures - photo below. When I leave, she gives me back some of my payment (which was very reasonable) as a donation. Another b&b I must return to if I can.
The sun is shining as I stride out of Jedburgh. A shorts and T shirt day at last. I'm not quite sure about my route or destination. My plan is to head for Melrose and take it from there.
I head along the St Cuthbert's Way for a while, and later pop into a pub at St Boswells. Liam, the barman, asks about my walk and makes a donation. A very nice man.
I skirt around the south of the Eildon Hills and don't actually go to Melrose. Farm tracks take me to the cycle route and I plod on to Innerleithen.
As I round a bend in the road, I see houses on the opposite bank of the river. I've made it! Innerleithen. I finally take a look at my phone and discover that I am looking at the village of Walkerburn. Innerleithen lies a couple of miles further on. Oh well. Another few paces and I see a tiny chick in the road. A car stops as I pick it up and the lady driver tells me it's a pheasant or partridge. I put it somewhere safe where there's a chance of the parents finding it.
It's been a very long day of walking but good to be out in the sun.
The b&b is manned by Barbara and Colin, who make me most welcome.
www.crumbsbakingbandb.co.uk

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Carlops Thursday 04 June 2015

Start: Innerleithen
Finish: Carlops
Miles walked today: 22
Total miles: 735

One thing about doing LEJOG is that you can't be in two places at once. My ticket to see David Sedaris in Bournemouth last night was wasted. DS is a bit of a Marmite person. Many friends don't seem to take to him. Tina and I, and Carol and Ken, do like him, spread thick or thin. They reported back to me that it was a good evening, although the performance tailed off at the end with an impromptu q&a session. Here he is:

I should also mention Mark Moxon's excellent LEJOG site. I've been meaning to for ages. He's put me on his site, a very nice thing to do.
www.landsendjohnogroats.info/

Peebles is the sort of town you would like to spend some time in. I reached it after walking along the Tweed for five or six miles. A high street with hardly a big name in it, lots of friendly people to chat to, and lovely old buildings. I stopped for coffee and had a quick look around.
The rest of the day was uneventful, apart from a caterpillar on the road... Disused railway lines, paths, farm tracks and lanes made a slightly convoluted route to Carlops, and the
www.allanramsayhotel.com/
Tomorrow - Edinburgh? The Forth road bridge? Who knows. Not me. Yet...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Dunfermline Friday 05 June 2015

Start: Carlops
Finish: Dunfermline
Miles walked today: 27
Total miles: 762

Link to home page and all entries:
www.foshy.co.uk
There's a piece of grit in my left boot. It's annoying, but not enough to stop and evict. Airbusses periodically cross the sky in front of me, having been catapulted off the runway of nearby Edinburgh airport. Traffic thunders past on a road leading towards the Forth road bridge, also my destination. The grey sky threatens rain, which doesn't actually fall. The day started very differently...
At breakfast at the Alan Ramsay Hotel - named after the Scottish poet who was once as famous as Burns - Rosie and Kenny look after me very well. They send me on my way with lots of treats to eat as I walk. The Pentland Hills lie between Carlops and Edinburgh and the climb up and over is pleasant due to the warm weather and lack of wind.
The next few miles to the bridge are a strange mix of villages, industrial areas, motorways, building sites, and road works. I'm quite excited about the walk over the road bridge. The Genesis song Firth of Fifth comes to mind:

as the title is nearly appropriate.
A new feature now - a video of my own! The sound is bad - apologies, but it matches the shaky picture :-)

If you're interested, you can find out all about the saga of the cables and the new bridge here:
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forth_Road_Bridge
I also posted a video of Cauldron Snout in the entry for Dufton on the 28th of May. It's taken me this long to get a fast enough connection to upload video:
http://youtu.be/uM6611IoAf8
Looking at these two videos I can't help thinking of Paul Whitehouse:

As I crossed the bridge, another pedestrian asked me:
"Wheer are ye headed?"
"John o'Groats" I say
"Ye'll nae get there faer tea time!!"
Perhaps not, but I do get to the City Hotel in Dunfermline in time for my dinner.
Dunfermline is a fine town. It has an abbey, a massive park, interesting architecture, and a karaoki night at the City Hotel.
Fortunately for me, I can't hear a thing in room. Fortunately for Dunfermline, I'm not going to sing...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Perth Saturday 06 June 2015

Start: Dunfermline
Finish: Perth
Miles walked today: 27
Total miles: 789

On the outskirts of Dunfermline "Fife's First and only Social Reptile Store" catches my eye. I'm slightly shocked that it appears to be unique...
Further on, there are some holiday chalets. The saccharine sign announces that "The best thing about memories is making them." This awful bon mot is tempered by the two signs right next to it:
"DANGER OF DEATH -DEEP WATER!"
and
"SMILE -YOU'RE ON CCTV! "
How nice to think back about Dad falling into the deep water and reflect that the best thing was when it happened... all captured on CCTV.
Signs in general are getting out of hand. Walking around Dunfermline yesterday every view of the beautiful abbey was ruined by a sign about parking restrictions, warnings of cyclists, or something equally unimportant. This civic vandalism wasn't even well executed with signs that were in keeping. Most were horrid plastic efforts, cable tied to lampposts or anything else which came to hand. Oh well...
Today's earworm is this:

from Gene Pitney. I've been making up my own words:
And I was only... six miles away fr - om Kinross
Only... eight hours away fr - om Perth
I've got grit in my left boot
I can't be arsed to root it out
And I can never
Never
Ever
Walk south again...

Anyway, you get the idea ...
The wind is very strong at times, and there is rain in the air but it's never that heavy. A route on cycle paths and lanes changes to a climb over Dron Hill and then a short walk into Perth from Bridge of Earn along the A912 - not perfect but unavoidable.
Perth seems a bit big, but has some nice buildings and the river Tay running through. In my room at the
www.strathmorehotels.com/Salutation+Hotel/Home/
I settle down to watch the Champions League final only to discover that the TV doesn't seem to receive ITV. Whatever next!!
Kenonymous has been keeping up his sterling work on the Virgin Giving page. I feel bad that I've sampled so few of your recommendations old sausage.
I've been getting emails too - keep them coming please.
I hope Ken doesn't mind me quoting his email from today - I've removed all the intimate details:
I see there have been killer whales sighted in the Firth, so dont go paddling.
I was just trolling through the Grauniard today & spotted this 'spider-in-the-bag' story. Rubbish reaction, but the comments are wonderful.

www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jun/06/brazilian-wandering-spider-n...

I think this has to be my favourite :-) .......
thehumblegent 6m ago
I bought a bunch of bananas from Asda once and, being a bit absent minded and in a rush I didn't notice that the bag was quite heavy.
Anyway I got home and when I unpacked my shopping I noticed a chimpanzee fast asleep, clung to the bananas and a pot of natural Greek yoghurt. Obviously my partner and I fled the house in our pants and spent the night on our local B&B which, ironically, is own by Mr and Mrs Bonobo.
When we returned home the chimp had fled but had put the shopping away!!! However I was a little bit miffed because he/she had used the toilet but hadn't flushed, the damn dirty ape

Marvellous!!!

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Dunkeld Sunday 07 June 2015

Start: Perth
Finish: Dunkeld
Miles walked today: 15
Total miles: 804

So! The plan is to get to Blair Atholl, launch myself up Glen Tilt to Inverey, and tackle Lairig Ghru to take me to Aviemore. The only problem is that the remote and tiny youth hostel at Inverey is closed. I'll have to cadge a lift from Inverey to the nearest habitation a few miles away at Braemar, and do so again in reverse the next morning. I'm not going to wild camp unless it's absolutely necessary. A point in my favour is that the weather should be kind to me.
Perth to Blair Atholl is a very long walk, so I'm having two short, lazy days. The sun showed itself today, and the scenery along my route was pleasant if unspectacular.
At one point I met a cyclist walking towards me, pushing his bike. John is cycling 500 miles from Wick to Dublin for charity. On his first day he came off, injuring his leg, and has been reduced to pushing the bike up hills, and riding down them. A lesser mortal would have given up, but John is made of sterner stuff. He has a date to watch the Ireland v Scotland euro qualifying match next Saturday in Dublin and is determined to keep it.
I can't stop eating. Full Scottish breakfast this morning, roast beef lunch, and (don't tell anyone) fish and chips tonight al fresco by the river Tay. Plus various snacks when I can fit them in - my Snickers habit is barely controllable. It's ok so long as I'm walking and burning up the calories. I'm hoping to stay somewhere with scales in the bathroom to see how much weight I've lost. Maybe a stone or so, at a guess. I'll never keep it off when I return home, but will try.
The afternoon sun shows Dunkeld at it's best. A tiny town next to the river Tay, with its own cathedral, it's yet another Scottish hidden gem. As is the B&B which takes me in:
www.thebridge-dunkeld.co.uk/
Another Reddit thread:
www.reddit.com/r/unitedkingdom/comments/38q018/ive_walked_over_750_miles...
Someone gave me gold!! Thank you. Also I now know what the Proclaimer's mean by "haivering".

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Blair Atholl Monday 08 June 2015

Start: Dunkeld
Finish: Blair Atholl
Miles walked today: 19
Total miles: 823

It's so tough out here on my travels. Tonight, for example, at the modest Atholl Arms Hotel (third last photo below) my room is missing a trouser press and the hairdryer is much too powerful for my silken locks. And there's a sheep on the loose...
And this morning was hard. Doreen's breakfast was so delicious it was a struggle to get my walking speed up to my customary 3.3 mph.
A new take on the barbed wire front today - it's the second wire down, not the top one. What IS the point? Before I can get too worked up, I'm distracted by a view of distant mountains with snow on them. You can just about see it in the photo below.
I did reach Pitlochry eventually and took the opportunity to get my hair cut (I know, so what, but this is my blog), and grab a coffee and a sticky bun. Mmmmmm. But I feel I've let Dorothy (a Scot through and through) down as I didn't get a scotch pie. I'll make that a priority for the next day or two.
As I approached Blair Atholl a cyclist loaded down with panniers went past and asked if I was an "end to ender". I caught up with him at the first shop in Blair Atholl and we compared notes. His end to end takes much less time and is quite different but it's so good to talk to a kindred spirit.
I checked in at the:
www.athollarmshotel.co.uk/
where the receptionist is first class, and understands immediately that breakfast at 8.00 is a bit late for me and happily arranges a packed lunch instead.
Thank you C&N so much for your continued support. It is metaphorically downhill from now on but the next few days have far too many brown lines on the map for me to start coasting ;)
Finally, a moment of serendipity - Kenonymous's beer of the day:
http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardFosh
is at the bar! And it was excellent. A shame you weren't here to try it yourself, OS...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Linn of Dee / Braemar Tuesday 09 June 2015

Start: Blair Atholl
Finish: Linn of Dee
Miles walked today: 23
Total miles: 846

My alarm goes off at 6.00 and the sheep in the room doesn't wake. I'm up and walking half an hour later. The weather is perfect, clear skies, not too hot, and no wind. The route along Glen Tilt is quite straightforward and the scenery is magnificent.
Early on there is a section through woods where there are many trees down, blocking the path, but soon I'm out in the open. The higher mountains have patches of brilliant white snow looking to me like the markings on an orca.
I spy a walker ahead of me and walk for a while with Liz. She's Dutch, and exploring the Cairngorms. Also wild camping, which puts me to shame.
A little later I hear a noise rather like a bird's call but much louder, right next to me. It's a fawn, with mum nowhere to be seen. We're both a little startled, but I grab a picture before it wanders off.
I'm trying to resist the temptation of my packed lunch. The internal dialogue is heated, but I persuade myself to get over the fords marked in the map and then stop. The first one is easy, I fill both boots at the second, and wade carelessly through the third.
It's a pleasant spot to have a break. The sun is shining, and it's warm, so I rest my boots and socks on the grass to dry and tuck into roast beef sandwiches.
The path joins the road at Linn of Dee, from where it's a six mile walk to Braemar youth hostel. My intention is to thumb a lift, and either get a taxi or thumb it back in the morning. About twenty minutes before this I meet a man out bagging Munros. He says that he's tried to do the same, and ended up walking the whole six miles. I reach the road, walk ten paces, hear a car, put out my thumb, and am taken on board by Tim, Lucy, and their dog Woody. They have been walking Woody and live the other side of Braemar. They take me all the way to the little town, an act of kindness which is much appreciated. Thank you! The perfect end to my day's walk.
The youth hostel is busy, with people of many different nationalities all doing their own thing. Some bagging Munros, some passing through, and a few cyclists. My only concern is how to avoid a six mile walk tomorrow morning before tackling a long day over the Lairig Ghru pass.
I think I'll wait until my alarm goes off before worrying too much...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Aviemore Wednesday 10 June 2015

Start: Linn of Dee
Finish: Aviemore
Miles walked today: 27
Total miles: 873

What a day!

It's been perfect. Weather, scenery, donations (hit the target!!), phone calls, people, and a Kenonymous gem of a beer. What more could I want?
6.15 am saw me walking from the youth hostel in Braemar, and concerned that I would have to walk the six miles back to Linn of Dee. After twenty minutes or so I was distracted by a herd of deer crossing the road. There must have been in excess of fifty, all jumping the wire fence on one side and wandering off into the woods opposite.
A new shiny silver car came along, and I did my best with my thumb but to no avail. Fearing the worst, I heard another vehicle, who pulled in a little further up the road. The driver of the mini bus was having a quick smoke, and agreed to take me as far as he was going (school run - they start early) but after asking me about my day's walk took me all the way to Linn of Dee. A good start to the day. Thank you Eric Middleton.
The Lairig Ghru pass is an easy walk if the weather is kind, and nothing compared to what Munro baggers get up to, but it's still quite a challenge. I met two women who I'd seen in the hostel last night. One was carrying a large, heavy crowbar. It turned out that Martine and Dani were repairing the path above Corrour Bothy, work which would take several months. They would spend a few days at a time doing the work, walking up into the mountains each morning, and staying at the hostel in Braemar, before having time off at home in the west of Scotland and Inverness. A good job on a day like today - the sun was out and there was no wind. Lovely.
I passed a party of twenty or thirty young people - Duke of Edinburgh's Award I think - who didn't seem to be enjoying themselves as much as I was.
The mountains were magnificent. I lunched at the Pools of Dee, and soon after walked across snow.
As I decended towards Aviemore, I got a call from Christian at the Basingstoke Observer. I could be in the next issue! He was very positive and asked lots of questions, which could generate some more donations. This is all down to Kenonymous who has been busy drumming up support.
The Youth Hostel is quite big at Aviemore, and busy. Groups of young people are cooking and having fun. Which is nice...
Lots of donations today:
Thanks to Pete - I hear you're a married man now.
Thanks to Susan and Jim who were cycling near Aviemore.
George and Chris at the hostel kindly donated - thank you both.
And a special thanks to D&L for pushing the total over the target of £1000
Kenonymous is keeping up the sterling work on the beer front. I can't name today's beer, but a photo of it is below...

Walking Lands End to John o'Groats - Auchnahillin Thursday 11 June 2015

Start: Aviemore
Finish: Auchnahillin
Miles walked today: 23
Total miles: 896

Here I am at the excellent campsite in Auchnahillin. The sun is shining, it's warm, and there's no wind. Pot noodle and tinned fruit for dinner. Tom, Margaret and their dog Dexi have taken me under their wing and made me a coffee and given me a tiny homemade stove for hot drinks and food - I really don't deserve such kindness. Lovely :)
I wasn't sure where to stop tonight when Tom drove past and offered me a lift. I politely declined - of course. He explained that there was a campsite a mile or two further on and I thought I ought to spend at least one night under canvas in Scotland.
Today's walk was on cycle paths and there was a bit too much tarmac but I'm really close to Inverness and a rendezvous with Sonny Jim.
The cloud formations were stunning over the Cairngorms and the sun shone all day. Carrbridge had an elegant bridge - hence the name I suppose - and I stopped at Tomatin for a snack at a general stores. The distillery tempted me but not today.
A short hop to Inverness tomorrow!

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