The Cape Wrath Trail (CWT) has a deceiving name: it is actually not a trail, but a route, running the length of the Scottish Highlands between Fort William in the south and Cape Wrath in the north. It is a long distance route that covers 200-250 miles (320-400 km) and can be walked in one go over 10-30 days (or run in 8 days…), but it can also be a great section hike, being done in stages over long weekends, coming back to meet the trail at various times.
Many describe the CWT as the hardest (or toughest) route in the UK, but I think it is not the route that makes it hard – it is the setting it is in. The CWT is, mostly, a non-technical walking route that includes no high peaks and only has short and simple trackless sections that require navigational skills. The real challenge with the CWT is that it crosses the Scottish Highlands: one of the last wild areas in the British Isles. For that reason I would call it the most challenging and demanding route in the UK, one that very few people see to completion.
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My affair with the Cape Wrath Trail
I have always been drawn to remote and hard trails – maybe it is my need to feel that I’m on the edge and pushing my survival limits – so the Cape Wrath Trail became my goal in the UK. I decided that I had to do it, no matter what. I’ve been day dreaming about it for years, planning details, reading and dreaming up my gear list (as we all do), but I couldn’t find the time or the means to do so.
Despite my need to be in remote and harsh places, I’m also very much a family man and being away from my family is hard. The longest I had been away from my wife was about a week (in eight years!) and only 3-4 days away from my daughter, so the idea of doing this trail over 3 weeks was not an option. From reading, doing research and over estimating myself I decided that I could do the trail in 10 days, basing it on my ability to walk 25 miles a day over several days. I originally planned on setting out in May 2014, but that decision was made only a few months prior and I needed to accept that I did not have the fitness, the gear nor the skills for such an undertaking (and what I did have instead was a newborn baby…), so May 2015 was the new time frame.
That trip was amazing, both as a trail and as a learning and humbling experience. I managed to finish the trail in 11 days, just barely making it and needing to skip a couple of 10 mile sections due to injuries and to get to the Cape within the time frame I had. Ever since getting back I’ve been hoping to be able to go back, try it and experience it in a better way. Not long after my return I’ve learned about the Cape Wrath Ultra and my imagination went to overdrive – I can do it in 8 days! In April 2016 I went on my attempt to walk the CWT in 8 days, fully self supported, but have not succeeded. I ended up learning a lot about me, the trail and Scotland on my second trip, but a mix of conditions made it impossible for me to walk the trail in 8 days.
This page is dedicated to my affair with the CWT, offering all the information I gathered, guides I written and maps I created around it. You will find my 2016 expedition just below and the details on my 2015 expedition after that.
The biggest outcome from my trips and interest in the CWT is a wealth of knowledge and resources that I collect into a comprehensive bundle for any CWT adventurer. This bundle is the perfect planning tool for the trail to help you get from just wanting to go to your first step on the ground. The guide won’t take through the trail, but it will help you get to the trail and make your trip a truly a trip of a life time.
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Cape Wrath Trail 2016
I took on the trail and the trail won
In 2016 my Cape Wrath Trail adventure was planned to be completely different: from fast hiking to ultrapacking, this expedition was fully inspired by the Cape Wrath Ultra, but with a twist. I’m not a competitive person (or too competitive according to some….), so I am not interested in doing a race. I also find it hard to justify the cost of a fully organised well staffed race. Lastly, I love doing things on my own – that includes carrying my gear, choosing my stopping points and dealing with potential risks, even if that makes my trip so much harder.
The trip ended up not only being harder, but practically impossible: I failed to reach Cape Wrath in my time frame and I had to cut the trip short due to family needs. This trip was an amazing exercise in planning and I share it all here on the site, from idea to failure:
- Planning the trip and the itinerary
- Gear planning and after trip gear debrief
- Menu planning that included a dive into the world of efficient backpacking food
- The route I’ve walked from Fort William to Attadle
- And last: why I failed to walk the CWT in 2016 and how you can avoid the same mistakes
Cape Wrath Trail 2015
11 days of utter surprise
My first go at the CWT was both a great disaster and great success, and I explained it all in details over 3 articles:
Part one: Introduction, travelling logistics and route descriptions from Fort William to Kinloch Hourn.
Part two: Route descriptions from Kinloch Hourn to Glencoul.
Part Three: Route descriptions from Glencoul to Cape Wrath, logistics, gear feedback and more.
The 2015 trip also included posts about my preparations: from the decision to go, through the training, menu, gear and leaving for the trip itself. I had many plans, but as a new father I quickly learned that I need to adjust, tuning down my training over and over.
A big part of getting ready for that trip also included fast over night trips to teach my legs and feet how to be comfortable in the walking conditions. I also spent a lot of time improving my navigation skills, though those were not needed much on the trail.
In all the posts above I have offered a variety of resources I’ve created, some free for all and some only for registered readers.
You can skip most of the reading on the left by just downloading the full trip report I wrote about my Cape Wrath Trail adventure in 2015. The report includes all of the information in a PDF format for you to read in your time and convenience. Just sign up to get the next Outdoors Father post in the email and get access to all the exclusive guides.
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