Mapping Trail Routes

I thought mapping trail routes would be boring and exhausting, but it’s been more fun than I anticipated.

I am a logical person but I am not “into” analyzing a route and figuring out how far we should hike, where we should eat or where we’ll sleep for the night. That was until we started looking more into where we’d be, pictures and everything.

It sounds silly. We already know where we’re going and we know how beautiful it is, but that still did not make the idea of mapping trail routes any more glamorous.

For the Pennine Way, we bought the Pennine Way by Stuart Greig. It is a spectacular detailed guide of the Pennine Way including accommodation, places to eat, breweries, fauna and flora along trail, and intricate maps of each day of the route with mileage.

Since the Scottish National Trail (SNT) is not as established as the Pennine Way by almost 50 years, there is not a guide book as thorough as what we found by Greig. So, Jeremy asked if I could put together a PDF of what we need: an outline of our route for the Scottish National Trail.

Walkhighlands is an amazingly helpful online guide of all the national walks and hikes Scotland has to offer as well as accommodation and eateries in each place we’ll be going through. This is a great tool if you have internet on trail, but we most likely will not. So, I am literally copying and pasting the information from Walkhighlands in a way that is most useful to us as we hike. Our idea is to create a PDF file we can access on a device we carry without having to find WiFi.

Cameron McNeish, the original trailblazer of the SNT, and other contributors to Walkhighlands, created a guide for hikers from all across the globe to navigate the ancient and enchanting countryside of Scotland. And we are grateful.

However, without internet access, we’ll need a hard copy. With weight will be something we are keenly aware, we decided to make our own material from a pre-existing resource.

I know it sounds tedious and there may be another way to go about this, but to have a comparable guide to what we have for the Pennine Way requires some nitty gritty work.

I believe once we get there and start using the guides, we’ll be super grateful we thought to compile them.

Here’s an overview of what I’m putting together:

Below is a screenshot of how WalkHighlands has formatted their online hiking guides.

On the left, you can see locations of the section and an overview of what is available there. On the right, you can see basic statistics like distance.

mapping trail routes

Further down the page, it outlines different stages of the trail (I found this really cool and invaluable). Also, the pictures are pretty.

I believe this part will be exceptionally helpful as we navigate our way through multiple small towns and dirt paths in Scotland. I have read that it is easy to get lost along this trail. You go through a lot of areas that look the same. There are also different trails you can take along the way, which could take us through unnecessary detours if we aren’t careful. Plus, when we reach the Highland areas, there won’t be anyone or anything for miles. Map reading skills are essential for this part, and having descriptions of the areas on top of that will only better serve us as we hike.

mapping trail routes

Toward the bottom of the trail description is a route profile. This graph shows trail difficulty, or gradient of difficulty, in regard to altitude, which is helpful in planning the day to day.

mapping trail routes

Difficulty of each part of the trail is also depicted as one to five boots.

mapping trail routes

To give you an example of how this relates to the hike, if we see that the gradient for the day is more than three boots, we may decide to not walk as far for that day. Plain and simple.

On the other hand, when we don’t know the difficulty of a particular part of the trail it makes it hard to plan the distance we hike that day. This can result in fatigue or lack of resources as we go along.

Ex 1

mapping trail routes

Ex 2

mapping trail routes

Once I am done, I’ll save the Word document as a PDF. Then, we will download the PDF to whatever device we choose to take (probably a tablet). That way, whenever we find ourselves caught between a rock and a hard place (maybe literally) we’ll have a detailed guide to show us the right direction.

As of now, we would really like to get to the Isle of Skye. We’ll most likely not be back to Scotland for the indefinite future, so now would be the time.

mapping trail routes

We’ve been reading about the accessibility of the area for those on foot, and we’re excited to tack it onto the list. Skye also has its own 79 mile trail and we’re seriously thinking of completing that route as well. After 804 miles, what’s another 80?

If we decide to walk over there, I’ll write a post about that trip and how we plan to get to and from there. HINT: It is much easier to get over there than I thought.


Scotland is the homeland of Jeremy’s namesake, and most of my family is originally from northwestern Europe, namely England and Ireland. So, the UK has a special place in the ancestral part of who we are. Needless to say, this trip is about more than getting away and seeing beautiful sights; it’s a desire to intimately experience our native homelands together.

BONUS:

I heard this song for the first time the other day, thanks to my husband who knows the words by heart (or so he says) and it is the best thing ever. Enjoy.

NOTE: This song may be inappropriate for you, but I think you’ll laugh a little.


I hope this post has inspired you to think of a place you have always wanted to go. Where would that be? What would you do? Would you go with someone or by yourself? We want to know!

If you are in need of consolidated information like what we are making, let us know. I’d be happy to send it to you. If you would like to check out information for the Scottish National Trail or other trails around Scotland, please visit Walkhighlands.