Having had few exciting adventures in 2020 thanks to the Pandemic, receiving this book to review finally started to get me excited about future adventures.
Big Trails: Great Britain and Ireland covers 25 long distance routes. This includes famous routes such as the Pennine Way and Cape Wrath Trail, to routes I’d not even heard of, such as the Beara Way and the Raad ny Foillan. Having completed 3 of the routes already, gave me a good perspective on the descriptions provided.
First thing to note, this isn’t a book to take out on the hill with you. It’s meant for reading with a coffee on a wet day as you start to plan adventures; a place to start if you need inspiration and advice.
Big Trails starts with a detailed ‘How to Use this Book’ section highlighting understanding icons used, the colour coding used for when to go and the differences in pace calculated for each type of adventure.
For each route the book provides beautiful images along the trail, alongside a summary of the route, including highlights, key locations and things to think about while planning. This provides both inspiration and allows you to learn about the history of the area and the trail. It also has enough information to help start to plan your adventure.
For each route there is also an overview map showing the total trail. Obviously this isn’t going to be suitable to navigate with, but is great for planning and understanding where the route will take you.
The adjoining page provides a summary of essential information, such as distance, key features, a profile of the route height along the trail, and pros and cons of the routes, (my favourite is the Icknield Way Path which highlights Luton as in the list of cons!).
It also lists good places to find out more about the route to aid planning, from books to websites.
Reading through the routes that I have completed, such as the Pennine Way, Dales Way and Hadrian’s Wall Path reminded me of some of the highlights of the routes. It did however make me look in detail at the time taken for the routes.
The Dales Way for example I completed with a friend in 4 days which put us at the Trekkers category. The Pennine Way I did in 11 days (albeit over 8 years!) which put me in fastpacking category. That all sounds reasonable.
The Hadrians Wall Path however, I ran over 5 days. But the guide suggests is should be possible to trail run the route in 2 days.
Heading to the detailed section on speed at the front I looked at how they had calculated this – knowing that 138km in 2 days for Hadrian’s Wall was quite an undertaking for a ‘trail’ run. (That is technically an ultra run of 69km a day).
The calculations seemed logical but missed the obvious of how much kit you might be carrying which would slow you down, sensible places to stop for the night, and assume that you’re always going to walk/run for 8 hours a day. For walking this is probably realistic but the definition of trail running is a bit misleading. Few trail runners would run for 8 hours a day or complete such ultra distances. So that probably needs taking as a very rough guide!
That said the selection of routes is fantastic, with not all of them being National Trails or way marked long distance paths. I love that it has a fair spread of routes in the 5 nations and it does have some really useful information for planning routes. I’m totally inspired now to check out Ireland’s long distance trails and the Cambrian Way is now on the bucket list.
If you’re in need of some inspiration for an adventure and need a place to start then Big Trails: Great Britain & Ireland is a great book for your Christmas list.