lands_end_small_bw.png ...and Loving It
A Walk from Land's End to John o'Groats
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Introduction Preparation Equipment Costs Maps About  

Books

The main source of information about the walk is from the Andrew McCloy book, The Land's End to John O'Groats Walk.

This is the book that I suspect most people go to when they first decide to do the walk, and is probably the standard text on it. What it will give you is, at the very least, a starting point as to what is required, and, more importantly, a basic route.

I basically followed his route as described in the book, with some very minor deviations.

Update: There are two other books now that seem to be recommended. Note that I have read neither of these: Another excellent resource is the website by Mark Moxon, called http://www.landsendjohnogroats.info/, which has got lots of useful information. I was amused to note how good the weather was when he did it in 2003. Bastard!

Fitness

I have some interesting observations on this. First of all, I don't think you need to be super-super-fit from an aerobic point of view for you to be able to complete this walk. Don't get me wrong, if you get breathless fetching the remote control then this walk is probably not for you, but at the end of the day you're just walking. The real issue here is endurance. My training was basically in two stages.

From February to March I took up jogging to get a basic level of aerobic fitness. I would jog about 3 or 4 times a week, and got up to about 10 or 15km a run.

Then from March to basically the day before I left, I did a lot of regular walking, with a fully laden backpack, and in the shoes I was going to wear.
I did this for two reasons:
  1. There is a big difference in walking with and without a heavy backpack, and you will be fooling yourself if you think that walking 10km without a backpack is equivalent to walking with one
  2. You get used to getting up in the morning and putting on the pack and walking. It becomes a habit. This was really important for me, as by the time I'd gotten to Lands End I didn't find it weird to get up and put it on
By regular, I mean I would walk to and from work 4 days a week, and then once on the weekend. Again, this was a lot to do with forming a habit of walking everyday.

In hindsight, there were two things wrong with how I did my training.

Firstly, I really fooled myself into thinking I had loaded my backpack with all the equipment I would need. In the end I probably only trained with 60% to 70% of the weight I ended up carrying.

Secondly, I didn't walk on tracks that were representative of what I would walk on in the UK. The first section of the walk in Cornwell is very up and down, and this almost killed me as it was a lot harder than the flat walking I had done around Melbourne.

Either way, and especially if you are holding down a full time job, it will be difficult to walk distances that are the equivalent to what you be faced with, so I suspect most people go though a lot of on the job training as it were.

Mental Fitness

This, I think, is much more important than physical fitness, because this journey, unless you try and do it in an insanely fast time, will last two to three months.

The following is based completely on my own personality and experience, so what follows mightn't apply to you!
Neither am I claiming that any of this is strictly healthy for you, but it got me though.

Getting To Lands End

I tend to back out of things a lot, so this was really critical for me. I found that shame and pride are your friends here. Tell everybody you know that you are going to do this walk, and when you are going to do the walk. I found that it makes it really difficult to back out without looking like a complete idiot.

Getting Through

Maybe you like walking. Maybe you really like walking. But unless you really, really, really, really, really like walking, believe me you will get jack of it a few weeks in. Here are a few things that got me though a day:
Lie to yourself a lot
If you find it easy to delude yourself, then promise yourself a treat at the end of a hard section, but when you reach the end, keep going. I was continually amazed that I kept on fooling myself with this one, and yet it kept me going.
Don't Stop!
I don't mean Don't Have Breaks, I mean don't stop every time you feel a bit weary, or bored, or have got wet, as you will never finish.
Depression
Again, to repeat, this will come down mainly to your personality, but I certainly went though bouts of depression. I think there were 3 main reasons for this:
  • It is lonely. Obviously, if you are walking with a group this is less of an issue, but I found I could walk for days without meeting anybody. This was made worse by me breaking my phone half-way through the walk.
  • The weather. I had shocking weather, and apart from the first week and the last week, had virtually no fine weather. I guess there is nothing you can do about this.
  • It can be mind-numbingly boring. Believe me, once you've walked along one country lane, you've walking along every country lane.
One of the best things I did was bring a small radio. I listened to hours and hours of BBC4, which at least gave me a connection with what was happening in the world.
I found sending regular reports back (via mobile phone in my case), was a good way of keeping in contact with your friends and family, and often prompted them to keep in contact with you.
Funnily enough, I found having a hot shower at the end of the day was incredibly important. So unless you are on a really tight budget, try and stay somewhere with a shower.  
 
1st November 2007 John Minack