Unlike in southern Scotland, there’s no dedicated trail across this remote country, so it was back to the maps again, to find myself a line that would both test my capabilities and yet be within them – much like the latter stages of south-to-north had done, and indeed the SUW.
The Caledonian Sleeper leaving Newtonmore
Halfway between west coast and east coast is the great south-to-north transport artery formed by the rivers Tay and Spey and bearing both railway and trunk road, which facilitates getting there; specifically, the Caledonian Sleeper stops at the main Spey valley settlements. Hence one year I could walk to the Spey valley, and the other away from it.
Rather perversely, I decided to do the latter first, in 2017. After all, it was all but new country to me – my south-to-north walk had not touched it, and I can barely remember one solitary walking-and-motorcycling holiday back in the 1970s (though there might be some black-and-white photographs still to be dug out of the attic).
Back a year later, I stepped off the morning train at Strathcarron on a beautiful sunny day. Would the weather gods shine again? Yes they would! Not that there weren’t challenges along the way, but I left with my confidence boosted and a firm intention of using these two years’ experience to good use on The Great Outdoors Challenge of 2019. For that reason, I’d stopped short of the east coast, but finished at the village of Edzell.
I’ve split the walk into four sections.