I am planning to run /walk /crawl again, this time from John O'Groats down 'South' to St Albans .......... not sure how far i will get but its one heck of a journey!

Sunday, 30 May 2010



Quarter of the way through my journey & another great breakfast to celebrate the milestone with the company of Anita and Paul! It felt like such a luxury and secret that we have a car at our disposal today! It created a lovely warm feeling that no-one else knew about and as i walked out of the B & B with the wishes of 'Have a wonderful walk today' i felt a bit of a phoney climbing into the car!!

I soon got over this about 20 yards into the drive as i saw how the walk would have panned out along a rather busy A road with fast traffic and many twists and turns! We reached Ballater in around 1/2 hour and it was funny to think that although it felt like a really long way in the car, i have already walked longer distances than that with my pack on!

The sun was out in full today for our first really fabulous weather day.... at last! Ballater is a beautiful Scottish town right in the midst of the Cairngorms and it seemed alive with all the visitors and a really happy High Street with lots of cafes and bistros all with home baking and wonderfully enticing menus!!

We parked easily and found our nights accommodation, then wandered into the Tourist information office to find out what walks we could do that wouldnt tax us too much after our 17 miler yesterday! Anitas feet were still sore and whilst mine have repaired a lot, it was still a welcome idea to do a local route off the beaten track! (My mini tubigrips for my baby toes have been invaluable and my feet are really looking much better now since i have been using them!)
We settled on a 5 .5 mile Seven Bridges hike, a circular route around Ballater and crossing (surprisingly!) 7 bridges!! We pic-nicked (?Spelling?!) half way around on the banks of the river and lapped up the welcome sunshine pretending we were really somewhere in Spain! Afternoon tea was then beckoning by the time we got back to Ballater so we whiled away 1.5 hours over a pot of Tea and some scrummy homebaked delights and put the world to rights with conversations that i always see my children yawn over!

We decided to check out our seperate pads for the night - Anita and Paul are in a little hotel across the road from me, as i am in the Habitat Bunkhouse for my resting place for the night! My residence looks newly fitted out with underfloor heating and a great lounge area and there is only one other room mate in my bunkhouse of 8 so hardly overcrowded!

Dinner was at 6pm but as the Italian is closed on Mondays, we ate at a lovely place up the road..
Looking forwards to seeing all the children tomorrow, they are already in Manchester and should be with me by early afternoon hopefully.....
(Side Note: Apologies for always seeing photos of me in the Red Coat! It is my main outerwear and as i cannot carry an extensive wardrobe, it'll probably be in a lot more shots! I thought i would ring the changes with todays picture and not have me standing in the doorway to save us all from another Red Coat Front door apearance!)



Whenever anyone says i probably cant do something, why does it always make me more resolute to do it?!! Where does that come from?!! The gauntlet had been lain down by Harry last night suggesting Anita and i wouldnt make it today and the challenge must have been set subconsciously as i woke up this morning full of beans with feet raring to go! Having said that, i have felt like that a few mornings last week but it isnt until the ceremonious boot fitting happens until i realise that whilst most of the body and the mind are willing, the feet just arent co-operating!

This morning was different however and my feet felt the best they have done since day 1!! Whooohoooo!! Celebration!! We had a lovely breakfast, i had fresh blueberries and strawberries with my bran flakes as well as my poached egg and beans, so we were fully fuelled before walking down the lane to the bag drop stop where we unfortunately managed to completely interrupt Sally & Dave's cooked breakfast (SO SORRY!) whilst they so kindly squeezed both our bags into their sporty Audi TT boot to take on to our B & B in Tomintoul.

By 9.30 we were well on our way and going at a great pace! Both of us agreed that our feet felt the best they had in days and it was such a relief after yesterday to get back into the stride of things as i had felt quite dispondent last night after my poor distance and lack of stamina in the feet department.

We strode on through Bridge of Nethy, agreeing to stop at the next hotel or cafe stop ..... but it never just arrived or materialised!! We walked and walked and walked and about 17 miles later, we still hadnt passed one single open place where we could stop for any sort of refreshments!!! Anita had a mild sense of humour failure around the 14 mile mark before having a second wind when she started jogging intermittantly to relieve the pressure off the soles of her feet!!!

We had just gone through Glenlivet and stretched out our muscles on the bridge when all of a sudden our knight in shining armour arrived in the form of Paul in his blue Ford Focus hire car! Thrilled to pieces, we hurriedly jumped in the car and drove the 1.5 miles on to our B & B for the night - The Argyle Guest House, in the main street of Tomintoul and most importantly right next door to the Whisky Castle where there are apparently over 500 different single malt whiskies!!! Whoaa!!

I had absolutely forgotten how fantastic a steaming hot bath can feel for sore muscles and feet and languished in it for over 1/2 hour, pushing completely to the back of my mind how Eddie Izzard followed every run each day with an ice cold bath for 15 minutes!! I AM NOT EDDIE, I HAVE NOT RUN AND I HAVE NOT QUITE COMPLETED A MARATHON EACH DAY so i dont qualify for that bath!!! That is my story and i am sticking to it!
A bit of down time and the fastest internet connection i have experienced so far in the Highlands later, i felt fully refreshed and restored and we all walked down the High Street to the Clockhouse for a bite of lunch/supper! We managed to squeeze in a 2 our 3 course wonderfully relaxing dinner and had such a nice evening that i hardly wanted to shuffle myself off to bed! Bust needs must!

Today has felt very good all in all and i feel that my feet are finally falling into line and that i have maybe turned a corner .... certainly walking without the backpacks makes a huge difference but i am finding the mileage and the foot pain more bearable and today, for the first time, think i may make it to the end all with a little help from my friends! Thank you!



I really must stay that we had the most delightful hostess Christine at our Strathallan B & B who absolutely couldn’t do enough for us! After a lovely breakfast, we nipped into Inverness to pick up some extra plasters and T-shirts and by the time we had hobbled back, Christine had the taxi waiting for us to get us to the beginning of our day’s walk which allowed us to miss all the Inverness streets & the beginning of the horrid A9.

As we got out of the taxi, the skies continued to cloud over and a few miles into the walk, the drizzle commenced followed by the pouring rain. In spite of our good start (in the taxi!), we really began to flag up the hills and our pace just got slower and slower. Anita’s pack wouldn’t sit comfortably and both our feet were still causing problems. We listened back to our BBC Radio 2 performance which went out today at 11.30am and hoped we didn’t disappoint anyone with our performance!! Anyway, it made us laugh, walking along the lanes in the Highlands, sharing the headphones in the teeming rain!!!

After a short rest stop at 6 miles, in a disused bus shelter, munching on an apple and an oatcake, we agreed to rejoin the A9 and see if we could get a lift to a lane a bit further down the road as we still had a long, long way to go….. We stood just near a lay-by and after sticking out a thumb for 15 minutes in the absolute pouring rain, Anita managed to chat up a Highways worker in a large white van, Ian, who was kind enough to take us right to the front door of our next B & B – The Boat House in Boat of Garten.

Our room was nice and again we were blessed with a lovely hostess and her cutie daughter Mena, baby rabbit and Poppy the dog! Anita and I have a lovely double bed tonight but having been camping buddies in Nepal, I think we will manage this challenge! (As we are both hardly able to move once we stop, I am sure we won’t be bumping into each other much in the night!!)

After lovely hot showers and hair wash, we wandered down to the local Boat Hotel, and ordered some fabulous hot bar food & wine and sat next to the crackling log fire for the next 3 hours watching the original steam engines go by!!!! Whilst snuggled on our big leather sofa, we idly chatted to a lovely couple SAlly & Dave from Dundee who were away for a night off from their 2 year old - in amongst the conversation they very kindly offered to take our bags on tomorrow to Tomintoul!!! How could we be so lucky to find another wonderful offering!! We celebrated with a 3rd (or was it 4th?!) wine and by that time needed to stagger up the lane again to get back for an ‘early night’!

On our return we got speaking to Harry our host here about our route tomorrow, and he thinks we might be overly ambitious thinking we can make it to our next B & B in one day even without our packs on!! We said we would sleep on it over night and assess the feet situation in the morning but if the weather is still terrible and our feet no better, then we may take him up in his offer to drive us to Tomintoul and then for us to do a circular walk around the local trails….. lets see what magic sleep can do ........

Friday, 28 May 2010



Well, it was so lovely to have Anita join me, that i have officially named her as my first Saint of the journey! Saving me mainly from myself and the depths of dispair with my blisters, she came to my rescue and renewed my faith for my walk and my ability to make it to the end. Thank you Anita!

We had a late breakfast at 8.45am but were ready for the off by 9.10 and managed to get ourselves onto some great cycle paths and footpaths to keep us of the A9 for at least the first 5 miles of the day. Conversation flowed allowing me to forget all about my feet (could it really be that simple?!) and before we knew it we were at the bridge over the Cromaty Firth just in time for the rain showers and the wind to batter us the whole1.25 mile walk across!
Over the other side, a few more side lanes and one big hill later, we found a small pub to stop in for a quick half and some soup before carrying onwards towards Inverness and our Sex and the City 2 tickets which we had all booked for the 6pm showing!!

At 2.30pm on the dot, my phone rang from BBC Radio 2 & Jonathan Ross was all ready to include us on his pre recorded show (going out tomorrow morning/Saturday around 11.30am if anyone can record it please?!!) in the quiz they were running. We talked idle chit chat about what a great thing it was doing the walk, Junior Apprentice and Pancake Passion bits before i dramatically lost hands down to the other contestant Simon.... at least it got a bit of publicity for Grove House and a mug (for a mug!) is winging its way to home in commiseration of my (listening!) appearance!
By 4pm, it was becoming evident after 16.5 miles that we were going to be leaving it late to get to Inverness in time for the big film opening so we detoured into a filling station and made a few enquiries if anyone was heading our way! It was only 3 drivers later before we found our next new Saint of the day - Saint John!! He was actually going in a completely different direction to ours but so kindly said it was only 5 minutes drive for him and he duly sped us to right outside our Strathallan B & B door!! What a gentleman! Hoorah that they do still exist!!

It allowed us time for a shower each, cup of tea and biccie all in readiness for our big night out on the town! We sat in our socks, massaging our feet (!) in the back row of the cinema completely surrounded by other 'girls nights out groups' and loved every minute of our chick flick which couldnt have been more appropriate for the evening!

Immediately post film we shuffled up to the bus station to find out about routes for tomorrow but alas it was all closed up! Enroute back to our beds, we had a quick bite at an Italian but the calling for bed was so strong that we made it there by 9.45pm! Great to have the company and so grateful for Saint John getting us to Inverness in time for our relaxation time! There really are some great people around, prepared to offer unconditional favours to complete strangers ..... Thank you Scotland for being so hospitable!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

DAY 6 - REST & RELAXATION .... Mmmmmmm


OK, OK, so maybe i did do this walk yesterday (24 hours ahead of schedule!) but its just as well really, as i cannot walk at all today due to the dreaded blisters and sub blisters and other family members of the same blister clan! I have made the executive decision to give them a bit of R & R (Forces speak for Rest & Relaxation!) and hence caught the bus (using my return ticket .... hmmm, how could i have bought this in advance??!) BTW Bed & Breakfast at Ross Villa was lovely! (Great room, shame i was there on my own!)

Anyway, I got as far as Invergordon relatively quietly but this peace was shattered as a cruise liner was in and all the occupants seemed to think they could fit on to our bus! Well it may have been a double decker, but even quadra decker (is there even such a thing?!) wouldnt have fitted in all their 'Gee ... what a cute bus' comments as they chattered on for the next 2 miles when i thankfully reached my stop!
Alness in the rain, looked much like .... well, Tain in the rain i suppose! Wet and miserable basically....! But the Scottish folks are ever cheery (i guess they must just be acclimatised to it!)

I was able to check into my Tullochard Guest House B & B early thanks to lovely Smiley Shelley letting me in after our pre-agreed arrangements made yesterday! I offered to help make up the beds for a bit of calorie burning, seeing as i wasnt walking today, but she sadly declined and so i was left to burn these up by getting to Morrisons mid afternoon for some lunch.

A whole cooked chicken later - £3 bargain!! - i reached the B & B again after another quickstep shuffle! I have now made some alternative plans with HeadQuarters down south to get a bike brought up next week for me to make up some mileage up that way and give my feet a bit more time to recover! It arrives Tuesday with the children!

Anita is now on the train from Inverness to Alness so i am hobbling down to meet her .... better leave soon to get the 200 yards otherwise it will look like she has come all this way in vain!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010



Well, i hobbled down to breakfast at Blar Mhor after a great nights sleep and a beautiful day of sunshine was beginning outside! After packing up my teeny weeny, light version of my rucksack, i walked to the local bus stop and waited for my X25 to Tain .... and waited .... and waited .....

And like all good buses, after waiting an absolute age ...... 2 came along at once! I spent the next 20 minutes reaching what would have taken me 5 hours on foot along the treacherous A9 and arrived in Tain around 9.30am, very pleased to have avoided risking my life at the mercy of the juggernauts! I found my next B & B Ross Villa very easily thanks to my mini Sat Nav on my iPhone and after dropping my bag in, i began my scenic walk in the country with my paper map in hand, radio on and trainers ....

I managed about 14 miles today and reached Alness just after 3pm on my little country lane. Unfortunately my feet deteriorated yet again after about 2 hours but as i was half way along my desserted country lane, it was as far go if I turned around & retraced my steps as it was to keep going! As i entered Tain, I eventually heard the magic 'M' word when someone said there was a Morrisons nearby! Music to my ears!

So i sat in their cafe, trainers off, jacket potato ordered and a smug feeling of having beaten the blisters for another day, yet again! It wasnt til i got back to the B & B, a scenic 1 hour bus drive later, that i realised i was mistaken again and that the blisters had yet again got the upper hand and reached a new level of grottiness! I wont post another photo as i am sure you have seen enough now (and Meg said she wont read my Blog again if she has to see my feet yet again!) but suffice to say, i have needed to start again with a whole new box of compeed and my yellow iodine spray! Agggghhhhhhhh!

As i sit here typing with saffron feet exposed to the air, i have decided to keep off them tomorrow in the vague hope that a day out of action will give them a chance to repair enough to get this walk back on track. I have Anita joining me tomorrow night so want to be in a position to get going again on Friday and think this may give me the best chance instead of keeping pounding them into the ground!

So, it looks like i have a lie in (on my own prescription of course!!), with another bus journey awaiting first thing and a necessary day of relaxing & chilling out .... Hmmmm, now that sounds like just my kind of Little Walk in the Country!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010



Great nights sleep, wonderful home made breakfast of porridge in the hostel kitchen and someone to take my pack on to base camp (thank you so much Shirley and Claire (!) ...... oh, and the sun was shining as i set off bright and early at 8.15am!!

Things certainly started off well and for the first mile and a half out of Helmsdale, all was looking good......

And then the pavement ran out!! And i was left on the A9 at the complete mercy of the motorists who were coming thick and fast!

And if there had been a reasonable hard shoulder or grass verge, then i think i could have remained reasonably safe ..... however the verge disappered in places and at times i was literally ON the main road with no where to go facing blind hairpin bends with articulated lorries and coaches going in opposite directions and everyone needing maximum space on the road and therefore absoutely no place for little me!!

It took about 2 hours of experiencing this menacing dilema before i made the decision that this road walking was really unsustainable! The dangers are immense and it would only take one stray driver not concentrating for a split second for it to mean i may not make it home in one piece....

Without making it all sound overly dramatic & morbid, there really were several times today when i honestly thought i was mince meat! And on that basis i have had to review my decision on my 'little walk in the country' and work out how i can continue in a safe way but still reach my home!

The options seem to me to be the following

  1. Carry on existing route - I have decided this is too dangerous

  2. Go home now! - this would be such a shame as i have everything booked and i am sure there is a better option!
  3. Re-route - possible option but i still have all the accommodation booked and would therefore need to get to each nights stop by a different & less direct walk and so i think the additional mileage would make this option prohibitive

  4. Travel to each destination by public transport and once checked in, walk from the B & B and do a scenic circular 'walk in the country' and that way i can decide on my mileage each day and still see a good deal of the local countryside (& possibly even more!) as it wont involve just seeing the main road!

I have therefore chosen option 4 and i will endeavour to cover as much mileage as possible at each place to equate to my previous planned distances getting from place to place....

It has been a hard decision to reach today and maybe not all the roads would have been this treacherous to walk along but planning this all in the safety of my office in St Albans, it was very difficult to visualise or know these things...

I am sorry if this is a disappointment to anyone reading and following my Blog. I have made this decision for my own safety and because i do have a number of friends joining me and i need to be responsible for their safety also. I hope that my deviation of plans will allow me to continue enjoying my journey and allow me to meet as many wonderful people as i have so far come across!

Returning back to today, i did still keep up my mileage of the day and covered off nearly 18 miles as per the schedule. Halfway through the day, my blisters really came back with a vengance and it wasnt until i rocked up to my beautiful B & B and peeled off my socks that i discovered my feet covered in lots of blood blisters and fluid filled pockets under all my previously dressed plastered blisters! (Sorry for the details and graphics but i wanted to share my miserable feet!)

I relaxed in a hot bath for 1/2 hour contemplating my day & my decisions before limping up to the Pharmacy and asking for some over the counter remedies .... i now have some lovely yellow iodine spray to ensure no infections follow on and another box of plasters to save my socks from the bin!

The B & B i am in this evening is Blar Mhor and it has such welcoming Rhodedendrons at the front, that it was quite spectacular looking at the entrance from the road.

I will probably look at getting my first bus after breakfast in the morning and get to Tain and decide on a plan of action depending wholly on the state of my feet and toes! I am most disappointed that my naive invincible bravado presumed i would walk this with ease! Whist the rest of my body does so far seem to be holding up, i had never anticipated the blisters situation or the road dilemma. Still, it all happens for a reason and i would much rather be here to write about another day and change the plasters than not! 70 miles covered in 4 days isnt bad for a beginner ... lets see what day 5 brings!

Monday, 24 May 2010



I had a reasonably good nights sleep and woke bright and early for a nice breakfast of porridge and poached eggs/beans/toast. Mrs MacDonalds lovely Tormore Farm had this amazing ivy loveheart on the end of the wall of her house which has apparently been there since 1904! At 106 years old it only needs trimming a couple of times a year (its a shame most bushes cant make do with trimming that infrequently!!) but it certainly goes to show what you can do with a bit of stray ivy!

My right calf was very tight today and matching my blister for discomfort but a mile or two into the walk it had eased up and i didnt need to reach for the Tiger balm. My pack felt extremely heavy today and i became increasingly weary with each step and wondered when it was going to start getting easier? My dispondency was matched by the drizzly day (yet again! whilst the rest of the country seems to be experiencing a heat wave no less!) and it was very hard trudging along the A9 with hardly any pavements.

I was walking against the traffic as pedestrian rules suggest however at one point traffic from behind me (on the opposite side) whizzed by so fast with one car overtaking a lorry that the gust of the passing car swept me right off my feet into the verge and it took about 10 minutes to feel brave enough to recommence walking. I have also had more than my fair share of hills to climb today, one which went on for over 2.5 miles and seemed to never end. By the time i reached the other side i was very tempted by the signage indicating an Escape Lane but worried that it didnt tell me where i was escaping to..... not that i really cared by that point!

By the time i reached Helmsdale Youth Hostel, i was very tired and rather low in mood ..... :( It was only when i began unpeeling my socks off that i realised i now had blisters on my blisters and even a blister on the compeed covering one blister!!!

I decided there and then that i needed to take action and seperate out the very things i definitely could do without! It is funny how 3 days of carrying something suddenly makes you acutely aware of its level of importance and how vital it is for my everyday existence!!! I therefore laid all my wordly goods out on the bed and made a pile of yes / no / maybe! It was funny to see how my view on items which i had previously described as 'crucial' had now changed to 'completely unnecessary & superflous to manoevres'!!

4.1kg later, i wandered down to the Post office, and with the invaluable help of Elizabeth the Post Mistress, I sent it all in a box to Mike's - the best £9.58 i have spent today! It means that not only am i over 1/2 stone lighter each day, but i wont have a battle of the zips every morning before i have even taken my first step! Hoorah!

I celebrated with a Magnum (!!) and bought my tea from the local Spar to heat up in the hostel kitchen. I am in an 8 bed dorm (thankfully NO BUNKBEDS!) and the only one staying in the girls side tonight! There is no bath here but the shower was nice and hot and i spent about 20 mins just warming up and washing my hair.

I think another early night is in order and i am relishing packing my (relatively) compact rucksack in the morning and seeing if the lightened load will match my mood!

Sunday, 23 May 2010



Take a long hard look at this photo here because this is what real life Good Samaritans look like! And yes they really do turn up in the most unlikely of guises when you are least expecting them! The Lord was shining on me today and manifested my greatest wish (just of today!)which was to have someone appear out of the mist and say 'Caroline, would you like us to take your very heavy pack all the way to your next B & B so you wont have to carry it 20 miles today?!!' And so the Lord provided today on this Sabbath day, 2 Samaritans in the form of Jane and her good husband Piers!
I dont think there was anyone else in Scotland right now that i would have entrusted all my wordly goods to at this stage but i met Jane yesterday just on the last leg of her own LEJOG route and knew that as a fellow walker she was definitely A-OK! I must have only gone around 1/2 a mile before they appeared out of the mist and as they drove off leaving me probably 12kg lighter, i just couldnt believe my luck!

I had woken at 7am to be sure i was on the road by 8am for my first long day and after the largest bowl of Scottish porridge i have ever seen, i was too overwhelmed to manage my cooked breakfast! My hostess at the Brown Trout was good enough to package it up in foil for me later on my walk and thankfully she did as it turned into my lunch as there was nowhere enroute available for this meal! (note to myself: next walk, plan around Pubs for lunch!)

Proud to be off on time, and after my very good fortune with my rucksack, i felt on another high as i strode boldly into the depths of the forest and along an extremely long and straight road yet again .... (deja vue!) It seemed odd that the rest of the UK seems to be basking in another of the hottest days this year as i was muddling along in the dense fog and drizzle but i thanked my lucky stars that it wasnt a scorcher as my face was still burnt from the hidden sun from yesterday!

My journey today was mainly forest and country fields with yet more sheep, a few deer, rabbits, cows and one very large bull!

I began to feel grateful for the fog after a while as the upside meant i couldnt see how long each hill was!! By the time i reached the very main fast road, i was another endorphin high as my Garmin was telling me i was over 15 miles and not much further to go!

I began to feel a few blisters on my feet over the last mile or two but it wasnt until i reached my last B & B at Tormore Farm that i realised they were whoppers! Jane has advised Compeed as the remedy and so i will go with that experienced opinion and hope i get tougher as the week progresses!
I arrived at Tromore Farm around 3pm, wet, bedragled but very pleased with myself at managing my longest walk ever. I thanked G*D again that it was blessed without my rucksack and settled into a very hot bubblebath to celebrate my Day 2 achievement taking me to 5% of my journey completed!
I have a dinner date with my Good Samaritans this evening to celebrate Jane's wonderful achievement and when she said she felt a bid sad that it had all come to an end, i began to wonder if i would have any of those same sentiments in 36 days time?!!!
I am beginning to decide how i can rate each place i stay and have worked out that the fundamental things that are important to me are whether there is sufficient hot water for a bubble bath or good shower, the quality of the porridge and the comfiness of the pillows! So far i have been very lucky with my accommodation choices and hope this is a continuing trend!

Saturday, 22 May 2010



At last the preparing is over, the talking, the trepidation and the planning! Only thing left now is to get on with it and just put one foot in front of the other! SIMPLE!

I slept pretty well alone in my 4 bunk dorm and started the day by wrestling with my rucksack trying to cram in everything i had been carelessly bringing along as extra twiddly bits in a carrier bag! It was a battle but it did all fit although i wasnt expecting to break into a sweat before leaving the bedroom!

I was wished Good Luck from the fellow guests i had met and then Charlie took the photo once i was all ready to set off! His final parting words once he'd perused my map seemed a little disconcerting (G*D that is a souless terrible road that just goes on for miles and miles and miles!!) Hmmmm!

However, nothing could dampen my enthusiasm for this momentous day 1, even the drizzle that gently fell from the skies as i began my walk....

I was fine with the map reading today and felt perfectly safe on the empty roads... in fact my biggest problem was the number of people i kept bumping in to who wanted to stop and chat!! I certainly didnt want to seem rude and welcomed the conversation but had one eye on my Garmin and timekeeper, knowing full well that my average miles per hour were dropping through the floor with each conversation i had!

Still, the whole journey is what i came for and part of that is meeting all the lovely people on the way.... Today i met Morris Puttinger, a charming spritely 80 year old/young gentleman who updated me on all his blogs and historical sites he is writing about!

Next on my country lane was a lone cyclist who slowly edged closer as i walked towards her! 'She' turned out to be Brigid, a wonderful 75 year old lady who was on her last leg of cycling up from Lands End!!!!! Wow! How impressed was i?!! She went to get me out one of WI toffees but we got so caught up in her journey & conversation that it went completely out of our minds sadly... She had stayed in the place i was walking to this evening so after updating me on how to flush the loo in Room 3, i congratulated her on such an amazing feat and cracked on with a few more miles, hoping i will also be as fit and as adventurous in another 30+ years!

I alternated between listening to my radio, checking out the scenery and talking on the phone which worked wonders on keeping my spirits high. My next lady i met was Jane and again she was at the end of her travels and i felt inspired to find another fellow walker ...... she was on day 76 and luckily had her husband in a support caravan not too far away so she hasnt had to carry much on a day to day basis - i asked if he was for hire but she didnt think he would fancy turning around to head South with the same task! (Shame!)
I finally trekked into The Brown Trout Hotel in Watten, just past the Lake, around 2pm with my first 15 miles under my belt! I was very relieved to find my room all ready to check in to and spent 10 minutes peeling off all my extremely soaked clothes!! It took a further 2 hours to finally leave the room long enough to venture downstairs for a hot bowl of soup and 2 pints!! (soda water & lime!!) in a pub full of (Scottish - surprise surprise!) locals and dogs! I havent had to divulge my English accent much so far and am not always sure of the reception for Southerners so far North but i must say that all i have met so far have been most welcoming!

I can certainly say i have enjoyed Day 1 and feel very pleased it is out of the way and i am started. I am sure i will be incredibly stiff in the morning in my feet, legs and back/shoulders but hope i will harden up as the days and weeks go by. Off to lay down (again!) and prepare for Britain's Got Talent .... need to keep some creature comforts and help me feel at home!

Friday, 21 May 2010



First night yesterday at the Inverness Youth Hostel and it was quite a novel experience! Shared a room with 4 other female buddies in our 'dorm' and as i arrived last i got a top bunk! Ugghhhhhh! Not a choice to be repeated as it was a right pain to keep shinnying up that ladder, especially at 3am in the morning! We also rather (in)conveniently had a coach load of 100 french students staying next door and i had forgotten how noisy that volume and nationality can be!

Still, .... noise, top bunk, snoring roomies and a new bed aside, it wasnt a bad first night. One of my lovely room companions, Carol, donated a Scottish £5 there and then to Grove House for my walk so i felt very heartened to have such generosity shown before i had even started, especially from a complete stranger.

I shared my Sultanan Bran breakfast with Rosemary from New Zealand (on route home via Dubai...taking 10 years ....) who looked a little woeful on her travels but i couldnt stay long enough to hear all the details as i wanted my day to cheer up somewhat so hurried out towards Wick Station and off for my last train journey.....

Stopping briefly via Morrisons, where i collected todays lunch and tea, i caught the 10.38 train of 2 carriages and rather fewer people than on yesterdays Kings Cross to Inverness. I didnt have to share my 4.5 hour journey with anyone else on my table so spread out all over it with my magazines and maps to do my last final bit of planning!

Once at Wick, there was a 1/2 hr wait to get the (school!) bus to John O'Groats, about 16 miles away. I waited with 2 fit tattooed rugby lads and their bikes, as they are also starting tomorrow on their own charity cycle to Lands End - only difference being they will be at their destination by next weekend and i will only be nearing Inverness! They plan to cover 120 miles each day / me only 20'ish! So hence the time delay on my travels! (shame i couldnt fit in a pannier but no chance at this late stage!)

I got dropped off outside my Youth Hostel at 4.20pm with the school children, only to find a large 'CLOSED' sign on the front door!!! CLOSED??? Closed for what? The winter? The Spring? The Summer? Or Closed just to me for this one day?

Well, it was closed.... until 5pm so i had a 40 minute wait in the drizzle whilst i phoned home to speak to the children and hear they are having a brilliant day of sunshine! Typical! After checking in at 5pm with Charlie & Nancy (who actually are just standing in for Jules!) i realised that i was still 3 miles from JO'G and that tomorrow morning i would need to do a 6 mile round trip to get there for a photo before i even got my day going ... hmmm....

So i decided to get this walk started EARLY and begin today by marching (without my pack, well it was just a warm up!) to John O'Groats to officially wave the flag! I took around 40 mins to reach the hallowed spot but was absolutely AGHAST to find that only a post was in the ground and no official JOG signpost was to be seen except one against a cafe wall! I later discovered that there is a man who OWNS the sign and he takes it home each night and doesnt get there til 9'ish for the tourists when the Ferries come in!!! Sacrilage! I really thought that famous sign was a National Treasure! Alas! It is not! (I feel a Facebook campaign coming on .... perhaps there is already one out there for me to sign?)

Anyway, i had to seconde the bus driver to take some happy snaps as proof of my presence at JOG and then he was kind enough to give me a lift back to the Hostel for free! I had a big bowl of soup for tea and was pleasantly suprised to learn i was sleeping solo in my dorm for 4 so I have settled in for an early night with my electrical appliances all on charge, after rearranging the contents of my pack 3 times!

Looking forwards to tomorrow with anticipation and energy and hope i feel the same in 24 hours! WATCH THIS SPACE....

Thursday, 20 May 2010



Well after a mighty big Pancake Party for my send off last night, i packed the final few bits in my ever expanding 'day' pack (its officially up to 10kg now!) and left for the station for the beginning of my journey Northwards to the starting point for my walk....

After a rousing hot chocolate send off at St Albans (you may be noticing a chocolate theme developing?!), i met my intrepid traveller of a mum at Kings Cross who was there to send me off with a proper royal wave!! I think she was more concerned that i may not get on board the train at the last minute and instead divert myself off for a months Spa retreat in Penzance, but she was reassured that i was on board as she saw with her own (newly treated!!) eyes that i was really going!

The train journey was brightened up by my first conversations with 'new people' that i am sure will be many along my journey! The Strutt & Parker 'Train boys' gave me many kind words of encouragement & helped me feel more positive about my challenge ahead, but it took all my will power not to disembark with them at Edinburgh and stay on board the train for the last 3 hours up to Inverness where i am staying tonight! Their evening sounded way more fun than my first night at the 'Youth' Hostel but i hope i will be pleasantly mistaken!

I will be so excited when i am back in Edinburgh in around 2.5 - 3 weeks as i will have covered most of Scotland at that point and will have my first DAY OFF to look forwards to in the beautiful city! Bring it ON!!

Gone (ok not completely gone, but slightly hiding away) are the excited thoughts about what a wonderful 'Walk in the Country' it will be and instead they are replaced with trepidation and worry about how good my iPhone sat nav will be when i need it most! My wonderful house buddie Adriana gave me a fab solar charger for my phone and the rest of my electrical store, so i will be monitoring its 'robustness' and let you know if i can recommend it! (i wish it were powerful enough to charge an electric scooter with as it may have widened my transport options for the future?!)

And as i head further into these Scottish Highlands, i am looking more and more nervous here in seat C43 as the MOUNTAINS are looking ginormous and the landscape more and more moonlike! Oh HECK! i can even see snow!! Where is my woolly scarf? Oh yes, i remember, no room to pack it!

Ok, but JOKING ASIDE (!) i am looking forwards to my travels and hope you enjoy my journey with me..... i do see it as a (Massive!) adventure to tell the children and grandchildren and whether it ends in success and completion or an unexpected detour along the way, its all part of lifes rich tapestry and reminds me that its not necessarily about the destination but more about enjoying the journey.

Thursday, 13 May 2010



Not sure if my training regime included so many cupcakes but they do seem to be an easy routine to follow with increasing frequency!

I can now manage 1 before lunch, 2 mid afternoon and if i am really diligent i can squeeze in another after dinner!

So by my counts that is 4 reps and i am really enjoying my time following this routine!

In all honesty though .... i have been panicking a bit this week and turning to the food cupboard as my salvation! Needless to say it isnt the fuel of Athletes but i never proclaimed to be a shining example and i am nothing if not honest about things!

In the time it has taken to write this page i have excelled myself and eaten 1/2 and the proof i guess is here for you all to see. Mmmmmmmmm!

So, if you thought this blog would just be jammed packed full of training tips, info on the route and B & B's, i am sorry but its not! It will cover some of those things when i get going but for now, its a stark bleak update on how unprepared i am really feeling ahead of the big O-F-F next week.

And just in case you wondered how i plan to celebrate my departure tea with the children - i can reassure you and let you know its a full on PANCAKE PARTY - American pancakes smothered in chocolate Nutella, strawberries and bananas and as many as children, grandma, sisters and brothers, uncles and aunties can eat!

OK! Hardly the Protein shaken fuel of the hardened walker! But, that is what makes my walk all the more human!

Because if I can finish this trip ..... then anyone can!

Monday, 10 May 2010


OMG! Who fogot to mention that my calves would be on fire the next day? I must have missed the small print somewhere! (The lovely calm memory of the bluebells yesterday is fast wearing off!)

I nearly fell back into bed this morning as soon as i had put both feet to the floor, aghast that a teeny tiny little walk in the country could have such reverberating adverse repurcussions! Pre yesterday i would have told anyone i was already 'fit enough to get going today ho ho!' but since this morning i am having serious second thoughts!

Not that i have any intention of cancelling / delaying / postponing or rescheduling anything! All bar 3 nights accommodation are now reserved and apart from not being able to face the thought of re-booking anything, i am adamant that THE SHOW MUST GO ON with or without my aches and pains! (although i must say it would be preferable without them!)

So i have now packed an industrial sized tube of Ibrufen Gel, alongside my industrial size deodrant and am just keeping my fingers and bunion free toes crossed that it lasts long enough to get me through the Highlands to the nearest Boots as i cannot afford to carry more than one tube due to strict weight restrictions! (self imposed by me obviously - even my nail clippers have been downsized to a mini pair!)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

BLUEBELL WALK - Berkhamsted

PRACTICE DAY! (because Practice makes permanent!)

Today was my Practice walk and Berkhamsted seemed a good a place as any to try my first walk with my heavily laden backpack (8kg!) and as they had kindly arranged their Bluebell walk to coincide with a free day i had, it seemed rude not to make use of their marked route!

We arrived in time to start at 10.45am with a bit of drizzle and overcast skies but it was good not to have heavy rain as that would really have put a dampner on my ever growing enthusiasm!

After a somewhat sleepless night worrying about how it would feel to carry my full bag, i was pleasantly surprised that i had not keeled over after the first 4 miles when we reached Checkpoint number 1. Unfortunately (or not?!) the Steward advised us that our 18 mile route followed the Pink signs which we duly did, until we found we had missed out the entire 6 mile add on and so were in fact on schedule for only the 12 mile route! OH, WHAT A SHAME!??!

We therefore commiserated in the local Greyhound Public house over a pint (of soda water and lime!) & hot bowl of chips before getting back on track for our last stretch! I was surprised to find we had covered about 13 miles over 4.5 hours which was a bit slower than i was expecting but i was pleased to be managing my pack and make it back home for a hot bath!

11 days and counting ..... not sure if i am counting down or up but its approaching and i am one step closer to leaving slightly more prepared i think!