Why running across Scotland?
A couple of weeks ago, whilst sitting at my computer ploughing through some (not very exciting) life admin tasks, I decided that it was time to go on a mini-adventure again. I felt like I had spent too much time looking at my 13-inch laptop screen recently. Fresh air, the sound of my trainers hitting the trail and stunning scenery is exactly what I needed to reboot.
As you may have gathered from my recent New Zealand crossing, the idea of running from one coast to another really appeals to me. So I decided that it would be pretty fun to head to the West coast (of Scotland, since I live here it makes the logistics quite straightforward) and then run to the East coast. There is actually a trail that goes all the way from Fort William (on the West coast) to Inverness (on the East coast): the Great Glen Way. Decision made. The following weekend I would head off west to run the Great Glen Way.
One of the reasons I wanted to share this with you is to prove that you can have a really fun self-supported adventure without necessarily quitting your job, taking all your annual leave at once or spending half your salary on a trip. Just pick an area close to where you live that you would like to explore, figure out a route, pack your bag and off you go! And remember:
“The only impossible trip is the one you never begin”
Gear list for running across Scotland
I decided to stay in hostels instead of camping to keep my pack as light as possible. Here is what I took:
- Bag: Osprey Women’s Mira backpack (just bought this and I love it!)
- Running gear: shorts, short sleeve top, long sleeve top, sports bra (not everyone will need that), Buff, running socks, road running shoes (I would recommend trail running shoes if the weather is very wet), running watch
- Spare gear: waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket, gloves
- Evening clothes: legging, compression recovery socks, long sleeve top, flip-flops
- Electronics: phone + charger, Kindle, GPS (but I didn’t actually need it, the route is very well marked)
- Toiletry: toothbrush + toothpaste, brush, tiger balm
- Other items: head lamp, survival blanket, compass + maps, journal + pen, water bottle
Running across Scotland: the route
The Great Glen Way stretches between Fort William and Inverness and goes through some spectacular highland scenery. It follows the Caledonian canal, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness.
The terrain is perfect for running: really nice forestry tracks, walkways along the canal, some short sections on quiet roads and farmland tracks (but I was very relieved that unlike on the Te Araroa trail all the cows were actually behind fences this time. I actually like cows when there is a fence between them and me). The route is pretty much flat between Fort William and Fort Augustus. After that there is a bit more elevation gain but it’s all perfectly runnable.
I decided to run the route in 3 days but you could do it in less or more depending on what your goal is:
- Day 1: Fort William to Laggan (38km) – very flat all the way.
- Day 2: Laggan to Drumnadrochit (53km) – with a small detour via Urquhart Castle (definitely worth the extra couple of kilometres!).
- Day 3: Drumnadrochit to Inverness (30km) – beautiful open sections above Loch Ness.
The route maps and/or GPX files can be downloaded from the Walkhighlands website.
Accommodation on the Great Glen Way
There are plenty of accommodation options in Fort William, Gairlochy, Laggan, Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit and Inverness. The Walkhighlands website suggests good options situated on the route. If you want to camp, I spotted lots of perfect wild camping spots all along the route. But make sure you take plenty of water if you are planning on camping. Here is where I stayed:
- The Great Glen Hostel in Laggan. Really good quality hostel. They sell basic food / snacks and have cooking facilities.
- Fiddler’s B&B. Very cute place (with an awesome bath!). And they give you fresh hot baguette for breakfast.
Not into running?
If you want to explore the area but are not into running, there are many other options. You could hike the route, cycle along the Great Glen Cycle Route, canoe the Great Glen or even horsehide along the trail. So no excuses 🙂