I would never consider myself a brave person. I'm scared of heights and cows and caterpillars. I don't do scary rollercoasters, go in confined spaces or jump off high things.
But I have decided that I want to take on a challenge that scares me. Many people will think I am insane for considering it. Others might shrug and think it's not that scary. I'm not doing this to compare my adventure ability with anyone else. I'm doing it to prove to myself that I can. (And to give me the content for a book, which I want to write.)
I have set myself a goal to not only do this adventure, but have written the book and become a speaker about how to challenge yourself by the end of of next year. And unless you set big, scary audacious goals and tell people about them, life will just stay the same. I'm tired of waiting for a magic wand. I'm making my own magic.
To walk the Cape Wrath Trail. On my own. April/May 2018.
The Cape Wrath Trail is considered the UK's toughest long distance walk. It's not the longest. In fact it's only 200 - 250 miles. The reason the mileage is approximate is because there is not an actual trail. There is no lovely way marked footpath. You have to find your own way from Fort William to Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point in the UK.
The way goes through some of Scotland's wildest terrain, boggiest ground and most remote areas. It is tough walking where every mile feels double that.
Not only will I have to navigate my way using a map and compass, I will have to carry everything I need on my back. My accommodation will be a tent, wild camping anywhere I can find a not boggy piece of ground. Or staying in very, very remote bothies (little stone huts that provide four walls, a roof and a fireplace, with little more.) I will have to carry my own food - there are not many places to restock en route. Access to water will be less of an issue, but will require purifying. Staying dry will be a major challenge. In fact, I can expect to have wet feet for the 20 (to 30) days it will take me (depending on how lost I get).
If I go too early, there will be too much snow/cold. If I go too late, there will be too many midges. If I go from August onwards, I'll come across deer stalkers doing a deer cull. And when I get to Cape Wrath I will need to ring the MOD to find out if they are practicing live drills or dropping real bombs. They typically do this in April.
Upon reaching Cape Wrath, when you are supposedly done, there is a long slog over bogs to reach a tiny ferry, which may or may not be running depending on the weather and the sobriety of the skipper. Once across the Kyle of Durness, I will need to get back home. There is a very limited bus service.
I have walked 192 miles during the coast to coast. But I have never carried my kit on my back (except for one 1 mile walk to a wild camp). I have wild camped on my own once, close to home in sight of humanity.
This walk will require massive physical, mental and emotional endurance. Getting lost, running out of food and crossing rivers are the three big challenges (the rivers can be particularly dangerous if in spate). I expect to cry a lot.
But I want to know that I can find my way in the wilderness. And I want to embrace the solitude and amazing views. I think everyone needs to test their endurance at some point in their life. I've done other challenges, but nothing on my own. And frankly, why start small? If you're going to go solo, go REALLY solo to one of the last remaining wild spaces in the UK. In the words of Rafiki from Lion King, 'It is time.'
My husband has kindly agreed to me doing this and some how I'll sort out childcare cover. I will take a satellite emergency tracker so that should I get into real trouble I can call the rescue team and so that my path can be plotted at all times.
I have booked myself into a Mountain Navigation Skills course for November and will have my silver certificate by the time I go, with possible additional training should I feel I need it. Plus I will be doing practice walks in boggy ground carrying a heavy pack. I do not want to have to call the emergency services unless absolutely necessary so I won't be going into this ill prepared.
I know that for many women, the thought of being alone in a bothy with strange men who happen to also be there may seem dangerous. But it is highly unlikely that people walking that trail are the type to go raping and murdering. I doubt they'd have the energy!
I have applied for an adventure grant (fingers crossed) to cover the costs and have got in touch with a mad man who has run it in 8 days, getting tips and advice from him. I have the maps and guide book.
I AM GOING TO DO THIS EVEN IF IT SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME.
There. I said it. No turning back now.
So why should a mother in her forties choose this over having a comfortable bed and a nice holiday with her children in the sun? I do question my own sanity. But I also know that inside me is a secret adventurer. Not a very brave adventurer, but an adventurer all the same.
Every single time I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I come back feeling a little more confident, a little more capable and a little more comfortable in my own skin. As they say, it's only when you get lost that you truly find yourself.
What's your challenge for 2018?
Please join me in the Glamoraks group on Facebook to share any adventures you may have planned. They don't have to be a multi-day hike through the wilds of Scotland. Just tackling whatever is out of your own comfort zone is enough. Seriously. If you have never put on a pair of hiking boots and even walked a mile, make that your challenge. This is not a competitor sport. It's not about who has gone the furthest or done the toughest thing, it's about pushing your own personal levels of comfort so that you can discover just how remarkable you are. And trust me, you are remarkable. You just need to realise it.
Distance: 10.5 miles (depending on where you start in Scarborough)
Terrain: Mostly flat walking on good paths but with several steep hills. Stretches of woodland plus cliff edges most of the way
Starting point: Scarborough train station or anywhere along the Scarborough seafront. Parking available at Scarborough train station (pay at meter)
This is the last leg of the Cleveland Way, a 108-mile national trail that crosses the North Yorkshire Moors and a long stretch of the North Yorkshire coast. I've walked most legs of the Cleveland Way as day walks or two- day stretches, but I'd yet to do the final leg that runs from Scarborough to Filey.
You can either catch a train to Scarborough station or drive there and park next to the station (making it easy to get home on your return). But you can start from any point along the Scarborough seafront. You can even have a dabble on the penny slot machines before you kick off if you like! If you start in North Bay, before the hill with Scarborough castle on it, you will be walking for about an hour before you really start the walk route.
Leaving the sandy beaches and promenade behind you, you will climb up a hill where you can admire the views as you catch your breath. Be sure to look behind you to see the bulk of Scarborough Castle looking impressive on the opposite hill. For a stretch of the path, you'll walk alongside a golf course to your right. The sea will remain on your left and in sight for most of the walk. Having waved goodbye to the golfers, you will follow a headland, then go down some steps to a ravine until eventually you have to turn right along a track that takes you past some holiday houses.
This bit of the walk isn't particularly lovely. You skirt the holiday homes before connecting with a suburban road. Turn left and follow the road until you see a National Trust sign for Cayton Bay. You follow the steep steps down through woodland then turn right onto a path that leads out of the woods and along a cliff overlooking Cayton Bay, a great spot for surfing.
After climbing a hill you reach the road that takes you down to Cayton Bay itself. Here you can pop down to the Beach Shop for snacks if you didn't pack a lunch, or simply use one of the two handily placed benches for a lunch break. Lovely views and a good chance to rest after quite a few unexpected hills.
From here you simply follow the cliff top path. Some of the edges are pretty sheer and if you're not a fan of heights (I'm not) simply walk as far from the edge as you can. I really don't like heights but I managed it fine. The views are magnificent the whole way, with thousands of nesting birds swooping and calling. The only thing that detracts from the view are the numerous caravan parks that run along your right hand side. It makes the walk feel less remote and the people traffic also increases near each of the sites.
That said, once you've left the last of the caravan sites behind you, the views continue with the white cliffs of Flamborough Head appearing in the distance. There is something about looking at the outline of the English coast that makes me feel inordinately fond of this little island country. It stands so resolute against the sea, despite the waves taking constant bites out of its cliffs.
The rooftops of Filey will come into view and eventually you'll reach the sign marking the end of the Cleveland Way. But if you still have energy left, it's worth walking to the end of Filey Brigg, a headland jutting out into the sea. Carr Naze, the landward end of the peninsula had flint tools discovered on it dating back 3 to 4000 years. The Romans also used the headland as a signal station to warn against invaders. You can see why as the headlands to the north and south of it as clearly visible.
Once you've had your fill of sea air, head back inland and follow the signs for the town centre until you reach the bus station. Catch the 120 or x20 buses back to Scarborough - they run every 15 to 20 minutes - and will drop you outside the Scarborough train station, ready to catch a train back home or a short walk to your car.
A lovely seaside walk with stunning views. Definitely one to add to your list. See the video below for a sense of what it's like.
I put my boots on. My backpack has water, a little picnic lunch, a map. I start to walk. If I'm lucky, there is no-one there except me. The crunching of my boots, the sound of birdsong, the steady crash of waves or the gentle baa-ing of lambs are my soundtrack. My muscles start to warm up and my shoulders relax. I feel the sun on my face or the wind in my hair or the gentle tickle of drizzle or the sharp bite of cold. The weather works its deft fingers into the tight knots of my soul and frees them. I breathe deep. I am alone but I am not lonely.
Walking solo is one of the finest gifts you can give yourself, whether you're a man or a woman. But many women shy away from it. Some think they will get lost. Others worry that something might happen to them. And others are simply so used to company that the concept of being entirely alone makes them uncomfortable.
That's not to say that walking with others is bad. On the contrary, walking with others helps you connect at a far deeper level than our instant society normally allows and the joy of an experience shared is joy doubled. But as the Byron quote says, 'I love not Man the less, but Nature more.' And it's true. As wonderful as it is to walk with someone, there is a healing power to solitude that is unrivalled.
Without human company, you get time to simply be. Your thoughts are free to fly in and out of your mind with gay abandon. There's no need for conversation, although talking out loud to yourself can be liberating. As is singing loudly without a care about being off key. You have the time to absorb the beauty of the world and marvel in it. And being witness to the magnificence of nature feels like a secret gift that is yours entirely. Your time is yours, the pace your own. You choose when to stop, when to move on. Added to all of it is a slight frisson of fortitude. You are alone and that in itself is a brave thing in an overcrowded world. Your inner spirit of adventure will raise its head and you will want to yell, 'I am woman, I am fearless. Hear me roar!'
And when you're on your own, you can literally roar. Stand on a hilltop and bellow into the wind. Let your pent up tension be carried off on the thermals. Rediscover that person you are underneath the layers of labels given to us by human life. Simply be.
There are no words that quite capture the rare combination of freedom, tranquility, excitement, sadness and joy that comes from complete solitude in nature. But words aren't really needed. You simply need to feel it. Once you do, you will hold it inside you like a balm for your soul.
Tips on walking solo
Share your solo walking experiences with me below. And feel free to join the Glamoraks group over on Facebook so that on the days you do want walking company, you can find someone to walk with. Also be sure to sign up to the newsletter to be kept abreast of walking ideas, events and initiatives.