Newsletter vol. 1 no. 1

Hello all,
I’m writing to those who have expressed an interest, or already played a part, in efforts to develop a walking route from Inverness to John o’Groats. This is to update you on progress and lay out a few upcoming plans.
Forwarding and Mailing list:
I’m developing an email list for those interested in this project. For those of you forwarded this by your group secretary, I don’t feel I can ask the secretaries to forward to the entire group after this email, so if you are interested, please contact me to be placed on the email list. But for now, would secretaries please forward to your members?
Summary of project:
The idea is to create and promote a walkable route from Inverness to John o”Groats, mostly along the stunning coast, to be useful for everything from local coastal walks to completing the Land’s End to John o’Groats journey. As such, the route begins and ends each stage where food and accommodation is generally available. As currently conceived, the first 4 day-stages, from Inverness to Dornoch, are mostly on quiet back lanes and existing footpaths. The remaining 10 stages are mostly off-road along shorelines and cliff tops. It is these 10 stages that require work to eliminate or mitigate man-made obstacles, mostly barbed wire fences and stone walls topped with barbed wire. There are also some areas with natural obstacles such as vegetation that could use improvement.
Report of recent walk:
In August-October this year, in two separate trips to the Highlands, I walked the route for the second time, and was joined by several individuals. Sinclair Dunnett of the Inverness Ramblers, as well as two of his friends, joined me and kept me well-entertained for several stages between Brora and Wick. David Oliver, chair of the Caithness-based Hillwalkers Anonymous, joined me for a walk (and very good discussion) from Skirza Head to Duncansby Head.
In the process, I re-checked and improved my written directions for completing the walk. I also created GPX files for the entire walk that will facilitate map-making and online presentation of the route. These will be included in the book as well as web site. (I will happily send these to anyone interested at this stage.) In numbers, I counted 67 barbed wire fences (including a few walls topped with barbed wire), 37 fences without barbed wire, and 58 gates (open, unlocked, locked, or tangled in twine or wire, I lumped all together, about half of them had to be climbed over). It’s an updated total of 144.6 miles of walking.
I had discussions with many individuals, some of whom represent local groups or authorities that have an interest in walking in the area. These include Inverness Ramblers, the Great Glen Walking Club, Sutherland Walkers Group, Caithness Waybaggers, Caithness Hillwalkers Anonymous, Highland Rangers, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Highland Council Access Officers. I had a particularly good discussion with Matt Dent, Highland Access Officer and Bruce Field, chair of SWG, sitting with maps in Bruce’s lovely sun room.
I was also generously given “logistical support,” including rides to walks starts and ends, meals, and overnight stays by Pete Hodgson, Islay and Catherine MacLeod, Sinclair Dunnett, and David and Rena Oliver. I am very very grateful for your help and hospitality.
I stayed at three B&Bs along the way, and I would highly recommend all of them: Netherton Farm in Culbokie (Black Isle), Rhives House in Golspie, and Thrumster House near Wick.
I am much encouraged by both the walking and the talking from these trips. I believe there is a concrete way forward that involves finite, tangible steps that can be begun immediately.
Next Steps:
– On the ground:
– Investigate best practices for tubular covers for barbed wire, and stiles.
– Schedule volunteer workdays for installing covers and stiles
– Plan some organised walks along the route (several already or in the works)
– Jay returns to the Highlands for several weeks in February
– Administrative:
– Create email list and expand to include all interested, including local businesses
– Investigate how to register as a charity “Friends of John o’Groats Trail” or similar
– Look into sources of funding to pay for web site and trail improvement materials
– Online:
– Develop web site (Temporary one now at
– Start looking at social media such as Facebook, blogging and twitter
How you can help:
Everything listed above takes time and your assistance and expertise will be much appreciated. Please don’t be afraid of stepping on my toes, just get stuck in. Anything that encourages people to walk this route, either by making the walk easier or letting people know about it, is helping. In particular:
– Pass me email addresses of those interested. They can always remove themselves simply by asking.
– Or take over the newsletter altogether?
– Expertise about web development, Twitter or Facebook
– Know of a good Highland web development company?
– Knowledge about making stiles or good ways to cover barbed wire, or have experience trail-building, or other practical skills.
– Ideas or experience in applying for funding from public or charitable sources
– Know businesses that would be interested in increased coastal tourism, or know of any local groups that would be interested.
Name and route:
I am very open to all suggestions and guidance. As a big example, the name John o’Groats Trail is just one idea what this trail could be called. Let me know what you think. The route is inevitably going to evolve over time, and the current route is only a guess at what works, for now. I am very dependent on local knowledge to improve it.
Organised walks:
I am pleased to announce that there will be a number of organised walks along the planned route over the next year. If you are interested, please contact the listed walking group or myself.
Dunbeath to Berriedale: 7 Feb 2016, Caithness Waybaggers (based in Wick)
Helmsdale to Berriedale: 21 Feb 2016, Hillwalkers Anonymous (based in Wick)
Scotsburn Wood/Morangie Forest (near Tain): February 2016, submitted to Great Glen Walking Club
Whaligoe to Hempriggs (near Castle of Old Wick): Summer 2016, pending submission to Ramblers Inverness
Lybster to Whaligoe: Summer 2016, pending submission to Ramblers Inverness
Web site:
We have a web site! It’s just a little temporary thing I put together yesterday. The address is
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you or seeing you soon!
All the best,