Hiking the Coronallacs

Having wanted to hike in the Pyrenees it seemed a good opportunity to visit Andorra – a tiny country tucked in between Spain and France entirely in the mountains. I knew Andorra was a good ski destination but was intrigued to find out about summer hiking there.

Having looked at the various long distance trails in the mountains I stumbled across the Coronallacs, a new circular route utilising various existing long distance paths through the mountains.

The Coronallacs is a 92km route which we chose to do in 5 days, allowing us to stay at the 4 manned huts in the mountains. This allowed us to carry less as the huts provide dinner and breakfast as part of the fee.

Whilst the route isn’t ridiculously long compared to some in the Alps, its shouldn’t be underestimated. It is relatively easy to navigate with a good map, but the paths underfoot are not like comparable long distance routes in the Alps such as the TMB. It is largely rocky, bouldery and can be difficult in places. The weather in the Pyrenees is also alot more variable with frequent heavy rain.

The route also doesn’t pass through places to pick up food (except on day 2) so you need to be self sufficient for food during the day.

We started the trail at the same time as two Spanish ladies, two French ladies and a Czech family. We and the Spanish ladies were the only ones to finish the whole route. It’s not to be underestimated.

The route website is the place to go for all the route information, although I found booking the huts directly with the huts to be simpler.

Day 1: Escalades-Engordany to Illa Refuge – 13km

We had a slow start to the day, leaving the commercial town of La Vella at 10.30am and heading up the trail. It took about 5 hours to reach the Illa refuge at 2488m. The route follows the GR7 and 11 trails, up the valley and through the woodland before it enters pastures.

It’s a straightforward 13km walk and while it climbs 1500m upwards, it’s not too steep. It was a scorching hot day and it was lovely to walk through the alpine pastures.

The Illa refuge is one of the newest on the route, and it was even possible to get a hot shower which was amazing. We met other people at the hut also walking the route and over the coming days we were surprised about the numbers who dropped out.

Day 2: Illa Refuge to Julca Refuge – 22.5km and 1400m ascent

The route from Illa headed past the lake at the rear of the hut to ascent up to Pic des Possons at 2810m, this was steep but straightforward and took us into the sunshine on the ridge.

From the ridge there was a clear path down, past 7 of the 12 lakes in the valley below. While the path was obvious it was narrow and bouldery and quite slow to progress through.

At the end of the bouldery path, the route pops out in a ski resort where it takes the ski roads and forest tracks down to the valley at Les Bordes d’Envalira. Here is the only point on the route where you pass a supermarket, so it’s a good place to get supplies, snacks and have a break.

I have to admit when we arrived at the road I had run out of energy and thus was definitely hangry, so we had to stop for homemade sandwiches at the bus stop before we could even go shopping.

After this the path heads uphill and isn’t particularly clear, but if you keep heading upwards to reach the flat summit of Pic d’Ortafa at 2691m. Here the path is more obvious as it traverses the hillside before dropping down the valley steeply.

At this point we could see the cloud rolling towards us and as we descended the thunder started in the distance. As we got near the river the heavens opened and we were instantly soaked. We could have doubled back to a tiny refuge on the other side of the river but after a debate we decided we were already soaked and we had no idea how long it would rain and so we carried on for the refuge.

The final section up to Julca refuge is a bit more technical. Quite rocky, chains in some places and not a quick path to follow. So you can imagine the conversation about doing this in the rain and thunder. An hour or so later we arrived like drowned rats at the refuge.

We weren’t the first to arrive as others were already drying kit, but we also weren’t the last, with the Czech family and the women from Barcelona we’d met the previous night also arriving after us.

For a refuge in the middle of the mountains and definitely not accessible by vehicle, the guardians did a very good job of feeding us.

Day 3: Julca Refuge to Borda de Sortney Refuge – 18km and 1400m ascent

It had been cold in the hut so it was good to leave the Julca hut early and get into the sunshine.

The route out of the hut was not a straightforward path but boulder hopping and complicated before it finally got onto the side of the mountain.

The path then climbed up and around the side of the mountains, dropping to rivers and lakes and climbing back to again.

Eventually we reached an unmanned hut surrounded by Chamois. Here we had an early lunch.

The path then heads uphill and down into another valley with cows before a very steep uphill to a tiny shelter almost on the mountain top.

There was a bit more uphill to reach the top of the mountain.

From there the route was a long descent down to the Sortney refuge. An easy path, but long and a considerable amount of descent. We had had lunch early so by this point it meant that we were starving and getting a bit hangry and tired.

Combined with a need to outrun the afternoon storm we were trying to reach the refuge quickly.

The Sortney refuge is a bit misnomer. It’s really a small restaurant with hostel style accommodation attached. This means that the rooms were warm, hot showers and the food was fantastic.

Day 4: Sortney Refuge to Compedrosa Refuge 19km and 1800m ascent

After a breakfast so large we took some out for our lunch we headed out on the trail. It was an easy start from Sortney as the route heads downhill through the woods to the village of Serrat.

From Serrat the route runs parallel to the road into the village of Llorts. Here we had a break before the long slog uphill.

It took a long time to hike up through the woods to reach 2200m again and when we reached the lake we had a break before the final hike to the summit.

Once on the summit ridge it was windy but at last we were out of the cloud, so we had good views as we headed across to Pic de Clot del Cavall.

We then had a long descent down to 1729m.

Here there’s a choice, the signposts head right and descend slowly, the official gpx takes you straight downhill. We decided to follow the gpx, past some cows to reach a farm and the track to continue to head downhill to Plan de l’Estany.

The only difficulty on this section is knowing how much height you’re losing as you descend, and being able to see Compedrosa ahead of you and what you need to climb to reach the end of the day.

The path up to the Compedrosa refuge is straightforward but uphill and feels like a slog at the end of a long day. It’s worth it as the hut is a popular one and so is big and well equipped.

Day 5: Compedrosa Refuge to Escaldes Engordan 22km and 550m ascent

With a pack lunch from the hut we set off early, and walked the start of the day with the Spanish ladies, it was nice to chat and hike.

Whilst it’s uphill, it’s not a big ascent to get over the mountain. From there the rocky mountain gives way to rolling grass vistas as the route traverses the hillside to meet the road.

Hitting tarmac was odd as we popped out at a car park with a bus load of tourists taking photos of the view.

From here the route heads through woodlands across the top of the hills before descending. At this point we discovered that a mountain bike race was on so as we descended the woods we periodically had to dive out of the way of bikes hurtling down the hill.

Eventually the route hits the valley and follows the river back into La Vella.

Being the Ultimate Dragon – Dragon’s Back Race

I had entered the Dragons Back Race in 2022 as a 40th birthday present to myself but then quickly bottled out – feeling under prepared and like I was trying to achieve the impossible. Having deferred a year I was then committed to doing it in 2023. This ‘do it now or lose my money’ committed me to training properly and gaining the confidence in myself too.

The Dragon’s Back Race is a 380km mountain race which covers over 17,400m of ascent over the 6 days. Yes that really is twice the height of Everest for those of you that wonder if I stuck in too many zeros. It heads from Conwy Castle in North Wales to Cardiff Castle in the South, twisting and turning as it crosses most of the major mountain ranges in Wales.

I’ve done a lot of mountaineering over the years and a couple of ultras and I felt confident the terrain wouldn’t be an issue, and whilst I’d recced a couple of sections I felt confident about navigating too. So, with training underway there was nothing else to it but to commit.

I didn’t do any other races in 2023 but did a lot of marathon length runs alone and the Tea Round route with my friend Kevin. I also reccied the end of day 1 (to make sure I knew the route into camp), the Rhinogs and part of Day 5. These long runs gave me the confidence in myself which was all that had been really missing.

Day 1: 49km and 3900m

I hadn’t slept much in the fancy hotel I’d stayed at in Conwy, and I was feeling sick with nerves on arriving at Conwy Castle. Having handed my kit in the day before all I had to do was show up.

Surrounded by flags from nations around the world, I had the overwhelming feeling that I was lost and didn’t belong there. I felt small and a bit embarrassed, like I was about to be found out for being in the wrong place.

Listening to the Welsh Male Choir singing in the castle at dawn, was special but only increased my nerves. The opening of the Dragon’s Back Race is definitely the most special start to a race there is.

However, once we set off I found myself excited for the journey. My game plan was to manage a sensible pace that I could sustain but wouldn’t burn me out – given I had 6 days of running ahead. The rising temperature dictated that this pace was slower than I imagined.

The route over the Carneddau was straight forward but it was clear quite quickly that the temperature would change the race for a lot of people.

I enjoyed the run over the Carneddau and even had a quick hello to Dave and his search dog Fern who were working on the Rescue team for the week.

Once at the Tryfan support point I ate quickly and topped up water and raced on. Half way up the path the heat hit me and I had to sit for 20 mins waiting for nausea to pass. At that point I realised my tactics for the race was going to have to change. It was going to be about keeping cool and being just fast enough for the cut offs. I wasn’t the only one sitting on the way up Tryfan, the route was littered with people trying to find shade.

I managed an ok pace back down Tryfan and up the scree onto the Glyderau, which was thankfully in the shade.

As I descended to the Pen Y Pass cut off from the Glyders I was in good spirits, downed a cold Sprite and headed off up Crib Goch. I ran the next section with Phila, an Australian girl who was on her second attempt of the race and one of my tent buddies. We got across Crib Goch in good time, somewhat frustrated by the slow pace of some of those struggling with the scrambling.

We then took a diversion on a traverse route to the Pyg track, having realised the final summit of the ridge wasn’t a control point anymore. It’s debatable whether this was quicker as we still ended up on tricky ground, loose scree and boulders, before we got on the Pyg track. We beat the final cut off at the top of the Pyg track and soldiered on to Snowdon summit.

From here, across to Lliwedd I started to feel really sick with heat exhaustion. By the time I got to the end of the ridge and the final descent to camp I was almost vomiting.

The final descent to camp was by torchlight. Having reccied this bit of the route I was happy with finding the way down.

It was a surprise to see my friend Emily on the bridge before camp. So much so I burst into tears and garbled a hello to her. Phila had dived in the river to cool while I chatted. Knowing I had time before the end of the day cut off I didn’t seem stressed to get to camp quickly.

Once at camp I was saved by my tent mate Isi who got me food and sorted my bed, while I cooled and cleaned in the river and tried to eat chips. I was so exhausted I knew I needed to eat but the dry chips were like trying to eat sand and I couldn’t get them down.

And so started my week of night time river dips and late campsite arrivals.

I had a fairly organised camp routine each night which started with cooling in the river to bring my core temperature down and clean my feet. Then eat food and get in bed. Day 1 was a shock to the system and I was incredibly grateful for Isi’s support in camp.

Day 2 : 59km and 3400m

That’s not what worried me, the distance I could get through.

I had reccied sections of this bit of the race, across the Moelwyns and from Maentwrog to the Rhinogs, and I knew that the cut offs would be difficult without the added challenge of the heat.

Setting off at 6am I raced up Cnicht trying to keep up with everyone. This was ok but I discovered my shorts were too short for the ass slide required down the other side in order to keep to the required pace. Ouch. The grazed bum cheeks would smart for a while.

From here I caught up with Cath, one of my tent mates. She had a good pace and good conversation, and so running across the Moelwyns with her was great. After a quick break at the first cut off for a water top up and another surprise visit from my friend Emily, a clothing dunk in water buckets, we headed off.

In the sunshine and clear skies the slog from Maentwrog to the car park cut off at the Rhinogs wasn’t too bad. I’d reccied it in the rain and the good visibility definitely improved the speed on this section.

I managed to arrive at the second cut off just below the Rhinogs in time, and grateful of the bonus 30 mins break we’d been allocated due to the heat. It seemed too many people dropped out on day one and too many rescued that we’d be allocated a 30 minute break period each day at one of the cut offs. Tired from the pace in the heat I wasted an additional 20 minutes here trying to get food in and cool down.

The pace across the Rhinogs seemed more achieveable and I knew to keep to the guide time would be easier having reccied this section and found myself with plenty of time. But the intense heat was affecting my ability to eat during the day, so I was running on little fuel.

Off the mountains I hit the road for what was a very irritating run along tarmac and tracks to reach camp. By the time I arrived in camp in the dark at around 9.30pm, I was knackered and starving.

Once at camp I dived in the river to cool down, ate as much food as possible before crawling into bed for 5 and half hours sleep. Pasta tonight was easy to eat and tasted great after a day of eating very little.

Day 3: 70km and 3400m

Another morning waking at 4.15am. There’s 8 of us in the huge tent and 3 of us are still going for a dragon. But those still going for the Hatchling reduced course are up early too as they still have to abide by cut offs. So there’s 8 of us shuffling around by torch light. I spend about an hour taping my feet which have started to get destroyed, mostly maceration from sweating and not resting, and a few blisters.

I then pack my sleeping bag and mat, and then dress (it’s a clean T-shirt day) and put in my contact lenses. I’ve got 4 stuff sacks labelled for ‘just in camp’, ‘bed’, ‘clothes’ and ‘morning’ so I know what I need and when.

Packed up I waddle over to the food tent for breakfast – at this point hash browns are all I am eating in the morning but I get lots. I handed in my bags and get a kit check and I’m off at 6am. (A little grumble to myself that I still have to carry a 300g warm layer when by lunchtime I’m dying of heat exhaustion).

70km today and 3400m of ascent, though I’m telling myself once I’ve got over Cadair Idris I’ve done the uphill for the day. Not true, but helped motivate me in the morning.

By the time I reach the first cut off I’m doing ok but it’s hot and there’s no breeze. After a dunk in the river I carry on, not long after leaving the cut off an elite runner bails out from heat exhaustion and returns to the water point. The weather is taking out lots of people.

The route continues on tracks up to hill tops that are annoyingly steep, there’s not a lot of water on the route and what there is I’m definitely cooling myself in. The out and back to the final summit felt tedious in the heat. At the top I share some of my water with another runner who’s run out. On the way down I pass about 30 people on their way up. Later I wonder if they made the second cut off in time.

It’s then a series of forest tracks down to Machynlleth the town famed for the place dragons can top up on delights from the shops before they rest at the cut off. I arrive on the edge of town with 50 mins to get to the cut off on the other side – in a panic I head straight for the support point. No can of coke for me.

After another allocated 30 mins of break time I cooled and ate the salty olives I packed in my drop bag (the only snack working for me) and an ice lolly from one of the other runners, and head off.

More moorland paths and tracks that take forever and require endless dips in rivers to keep cool.

The last ascent of Pumlumon Fawr tested me mentally. A runner panicked about being out in the dark and not knowing where they were. So instead of taking a short cut trod up a banking to get up the mountain, I led the way on the given route, but this slowed me, and uphill is where I’m strongest.

So I arrived at the summit later than I could have been and irritated, and knowing I was now one of the last three on the hill.

I left them at the summit as it was a clear track down and arrived at camp about 9.30pm. Melted ice cream was a free treat at the finish line and much appreciated, so I sat and had a whinge with one of the staff. Was helping people holding me up?

Every night arriving in camp I was told by someone as I arrived to ‘get a jacket on as it’s cold’. But cooking from the sun and sweaty, my priority list had changed. Cool and wash in river, dry feet, then eat food. While breakfast was a struggle I never found tea to be. I’d even have seconds if I was allowed (and there was any left given I arrived at camp so late).

Then wet wipe myself to try to clean off the sweat, and then bed. Remember to take out contact lenses now welded to my eyes and try not to wake up my sleeping tent mates. I’m grateful to my tent mates for blowing up my sleeping mat for me. Baking from the sun I don’t need a sleeping bag as I finally crawl into bed at 11pm.

Rinse and repeat.

Day 4: Middle earth aka mid Wales – 69 km and 2300m

4.15am alarm and I’m now functioning on autopilot. Tape feet, put in contact lenses, dress, pack kit, get breakfast, hand in kit bag and go for 6am. It’s a good job I’m organised and not a faffer.

Today the 69km route followed moorland boggy paths and a steep forest descent to forest tracks, and then more moorland boggy trods. And tarmac. I hated the tarmac.

I spent the morning thinking both that it was a lot like home but also, these were hill tops I never wanted to have to visit again.

At the final trig point on an obscure rock outcrop I was caught up by Carmine and his accordion. Look up Outdoorspirit1 on IG for the most crazy person to do the race this year. Chatting to him lifted my energy levels as we headed down into Elan village.

At Elan support point as Carmine played music, I opted for a change of shoes as well as socks as it was mostly hard trails and road from here. This also meant retaping my feet. It was taking me ages and in the end a medic took over a job I was doing badly. I spent 50 minutes there, but it was worth it to get my feet taped properly.

From here the route was endless tracks and roads past reservoirs I fantasised about swimming in. My highlight of the day was the farm trough with the pipe I could stick my head under.

The final road into camp lasted forever as I arrived again in the dark to repeat the night ritual of cooling off in the river, eat food, sort feet and go to bed.

Pleased I’d got through the day I went to bed nervous. Day 5 was the one I was dreading.

DBR day 5: 70km and 3200m

I gave myself one rule when I set off on the Dragons Back Race – I wouldn’t stop unless someone told me I had to. There’d be no quitting. Day 5 was the day that tested my resolve for that.

I knew it was going to be hard – heat, sunshine and no breeze, a morning of tarmac and hard trails with a hard first cut off time.

Leaving at 6am I started well and made it to Usk Reservoir ahead of time. Having reccied the next section I knew it was a lot of uphills and unclear paths but I had confidence getting to the first water point cut off would be ok. If nothing else the scorching sunshine meant visibility was great.

After a dousing in water the checkpoint I trudged up the next hill.

Somewhere between Fan Nedd and lying in the river before heading up Fan Llia, my eternal optimism left me. I had up to this point in the week been positive and motivated. I had a little slip of paper with the advised times for each control, so I knew if I was on pace for the cut offs and this had kept me focused and motivated.

I don’t know if it was the constant heat or lack of food I was able to consume in the day, but I got very stressed reaching the second cut off before Pen y Fan.

We’d been allocated 30 mins of break at both cut offs today due to the heat but it wasn’t clear what time the second cut off now was. Runners were all saying different times. Panicked that it was still 6pm and I was running out of time, I called my husband Jared who could only see online that it was 6pm as none of the allocated break times had been updated on the public map. I whinged that I wasn’t going to make it and hung up and pushed on feeling a bit defeated.

I pushed hard to get across to Fan Fawr summit and hurtled down to the underpass control to reach the second cut off at their Storey Arms Carpark. I was of course irritated to find it was actually 6.30pm and collapsed in a heap feeling sick. Vocally irritated and I still feel sorry for having a go at Stuart on the rescue team for it not being clear. Its not like it was his fault I’d clearly not been able to remember.

Throughout the week I’d had regular texts from my friends Sharon and Emily and my husband Jared which had until now just been a nice way of keeping in touch with folk and a grip on reality. On day 5 these were a really strong motivator and kept me going and positive.

I left before 30 mins was up which was good as while the paths were more obvious across Corn Du and Pen y Fan, the route was far longer than just the main summits – including a long slog across to the obscure summit of Carn Pica.

I had been travelling with Jess at this point and as we reached the final summit control at Carn Pica we realised we really needed to pick up the pace to make the camp site cut off. We were both very irritated by the runner sat in the dark ringing base to say he couldn’t find the control and asking us questions when we wanted to push on.

I guess our pace wasn’t fast, but having done nearly 70km at that point I was definitely pushing hard and as we hurtled down the hillside, through the boulderly bog down at the river to reach the road – I was definitely panicking. At one point on the unclear path in the dark woods we lost the main route and ended up on a trod too high. Refusing to waste time back tracking I urged Jess to stick to the trod and on hearing a gate below us we bash down through the trees to hit the road.

When we hit tarmac I decided I had to really go for it even if I was knackered and I managed to keep pace with another runner ahead and made it into camp with under 15 minutes to the cut off. Feeling sick and broken. I’m not sure how I managed a sprint after 15+ hours out running. I might have been broken but I was really f**king grateful. I never wanted to have to do day 5 ever again and that had kept me moving.

I’m immensely grateful to my tent mates for their patience as I stumbled around the tent in the dark – requiring at least 5 times to be told to eat the curry in the box I’d been given as I arrived at camp and to forget about the apple I was holding. Eventually I crawled into bed at midnight. I was too tired to consider that I was now going to finish the race.

Day 6: finally reaching Cardiff

69km to do today and some sneaky hills giving 1300m of ascent.

Despite knowing the pace required today was effectively a normal walking speed I left at 6am in the hope that a jogging pace might get me to Cardiff in daylight.

The slower required pace also meant I got to raid the Coop after Merthyr Tydfil – 2 lollies, a bottle of ice tea and a box of pineapple. You’ve no idea how happy I was to be able to buy treats.

Full of nicer tasting fluid than my electrolytes and happy about ice lollies I made it up the next hill and down to the water point. I didn’t wait long as there was mention of more shops in Nelson so I pressed on and got 2 solero lollies as I passed through town. (Yes I ate one and then immediately went in the next shop for another).

The next hill was a scorcher with no shade and endless tarmac – so when I arrived at the final cut off very early to the sight of a local runner delivering hundreds of ice lollies – I got stuck in. Smashing my personal best I ate another 5 lollies before finally leaving for the long winding path to Cardiff.

The last 5 km seemed to take forever – the park near the castle felt huge and I was definitely trotting slowly by then.

The sense of relief crossing the finish line was immense and I burst out crying at seeing Jared stood there too. I was grateful to have made it in daylight and in time for the presentations too.

And now its over

It’s taken a while to sink in that I’ve completed the Dragon’s Back Race. While I know I trained for it, it was a massive leap up for me compared to anything I’d done before.

I’m hugely grateful to the people I met during the race, especially the girls I shared my tent with, the support crew who were amazing at keeping spirits high and keeping us all cool, and all my friends and family who’d been cheering me on – though I hadn’t realised till after I’d finished.

After the initial presentations of the dragons and hatching statues, the winners were presented and then my name was called out for being the ultimate dragon. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I had been aware by day 3 that I was consistently the slowest person on the course each day but hadn’t really cared. I was finishing each day and for me that was all that mattered. I didn’t have any clue this was something worthy of a special trophy.

I confessed to Shane as he presented me with the statue, that I was embarrassed. I was effectively last so why did I get a big statue? He simply said that I had spent the most amount of time out on the course and had the least amount of recovery and that was worth rewarding.

I don’t know about that. I was just grateful to have finished and achieved my goal.

I learnt a lot through the experience.

I’m more determined that I thought I was and much more resilient than I ever knew.

A nutrition plan can fall apart in different weather conditions, battered feet recover relatively quickly and are possible to keep running on even if swollen and painful, and there’s nothing like a cold bath in a hotel at the end of the day.

Tackling the Kirklees Way

The Kirklees Way circles the borough providing a 73 mile/ 118km challenge which takes in some of the areas rugged trails and industrial scenery, along with plenty of farmland, moorland and woodlands.

I undertook this route over three days, but 4-6 days is more realistic.

I should add that like many named routes in the area, the Kirklees Way might be a marked trail on the map, but a lot of the route isn’t well signposted and can be quite overgrown (especially at the height of summer). Some of the stiles and gates are also in poor condition. Map reading is definitely required!

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The 6 Trigs Circular

Stuck at home during the Covid-19 Lockdown I decided there had to be challenges I’d not done before right on my doorstep. Staring at an OS map it occurred to me my home in Marsden was surrounded by Trig points at some pretty good locations – and so the 6 Trigs circular was born!

The 6 Trigs Circular – 39 km /24 miles

Starting in Marsden village, the joy of this route is that it is possible to do as much or as little of it as you like. The route circles the Marsden area on mostly well marked trails with some good alternative paths to shorten the route.

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Tackling the Colne Valley Circular

I first walked the Colne Valley Circular when I moved to Kirklees 11 years ago. All I recall of that time was the mud, failing to find the route properly above Slaithwaite and more mud.

Trapped at home over Easter I decided to run the route one afternoon and figure out if it really was as bad as I remembered.

The Route

Firstly, if you’re keen to walk (or indeed run) the Colne Valley Way you absolutely must have a map. This is a route which is NOT well signposted and at various points it actually feels like you’re being prevented from progress. Persevere though, as the route has some hidden treasures along the way.

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Running Hadrian’s Wall

Firstly, I’m not an ultra runner and have only run a marathon distance once. So it was with this knowledge that I cautiously planned to run Hadrian’s Wall Long Distance Path. I set myself the challenge to complete the route over 4 days (and one evening) and while that is easy for walking, I wanted to be able to run as much of the route as possible which would make it a challenge.

If you’re going to complete this route I recommend West to East as the wind will be behind you encouraging you on. For some reason more people seemed to walk it the other way. Its definitely possible to de entirely on public transport, as Carlisle and Newcastle are on main line stations, with good buses and metro service at either end to get you to the start/finish.

Finally, get yourself the Hadrian’s Wall Passport from either the Fort in Newcastle or Carlisle Tourist information, so you can collect your route stamps along the way. Its a nice memento of your journey!

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Walking the St Cuthbert’s Way

Opened in 1996 St Cuthbert’s Way is usually tackledin 4 – 6 days and to be honest that’s a really good idea. Over the course of three very long days Sharon, Ted and I tackled the route and discovered that pilgrimages don’t always have to be religious.

The route

The St Cuthbert’s Way winds for 100km from the market town of Melrose in the Scottish Borders, to Lindisfarne Island on the North Sea coast. It crosses through the Cheviot hills in the Northumberland National Park, takes in Roman roads and endless woodlands, riverbanks and open moorland. 

The route starts in Melrose, where St Cuthbert started his religious life in 650AD and ends in on Holy Island, at Lindisfarne Priory, his eventual resting place.


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Chunks of the Cleveland Way

I rarely go to the beach. Even abroad I’m not that bothered but certainly in the UK I wouldn’t go – its not that the coast isn’t beautiful but it doesn’t drive my need for adventure in the same way as a hike through fields or up mountains would.

However, I’ve been dog sitting for a friend and thought a trip to the beach would be a nice change. Via a hill I’ve not been up before, of course! Which provided a great chance to do chunks of the Cleveland Way national trail a 110 mile route around the North and East edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

First stop was Roseberry Topping just outside Middlesborough. It is only 320m high but is still a steep climb. Caused by a geological fault and a mining collapse it is a distinctive hillside and a major landmark on the trail. It is also very popular being so close to Middlesborough. Which Ted thought was fantastic as there was lots of other dogs to say hello to.

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GR20 – days 11-13 – the end is in sight!

The last 3 days of the GR20 seemed to whizz by. That said it was still a mental challenge; the weather was scorching hot and become hotter as we lost altitude each day, my ankle started to complain about walking and we were starting to play the food game too early in the morning (what do you hope we’re getting for dinner tonight? I really hope its a huge salad with cheese and a massive chocolate dessert. No I really fancy ice cream, a huge bowl with chocolate sauce – you get the picture).

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