If I was to do it again, what would I do differently? It’s a question that quite a few people have asked.
On the subject of the route, I’m quite definite as to what I would do differently, based on experience.
We used Land’s End as our starting point and John O’Groats as our end point because that’s what people do. It’s the established points that everyone recognises as being a journey through the length of Britain.
Because I also wanted to visit Lizard (and Dunnet) it meant that we headed south from Land’s End and then cut up through the middle of Cornwall and Devon.
The reality of that route was that there was too much walking on tarmac, along little lanes (lovely lanes, admittedly, but they are roads no matter how lovely they are). For a week or so we spent more time than not on tarmac. There just weren’t enough footpaths running north-south in the right areas of those counties.
So, if I was to be planning this walk afresh, I would ignore the conventional LEJOG start and end points – although I would still visit all of the same extreme points. The walk would be from Lizard to John O’Groats via Land’s End and Dunnet. That route would have allowed us to have taken the coast path north and avoided many miles of tarmac. It’s a subtle difference, but it would have made for a happier underfoot experience in Week 2 (although my leg muscles and lungs may not have thanked me for the ascent and descent on that coast path!).
Linked to route, is the subject of shoes. I set out with two different pairs of trail-runners (only because I didn’t have sufficient faith in either pair individually). Until the week before we went I had intended to take one pair of trail-runners and one pair of road-runners. I can’t remember why I changed my mind, but it was a mistake.
If I was to walk the same route again, with all of that tarmac in Cornwall and Devon, then I would most definitely take a pair of road-runners and a pair of trail-runners. The benefit of bounciness underfoot would have made up for the extra weight in the pack for the week or so of roads.
I’m happy to say that beyond the first couple of weeks I was more than happy with the route* (bar that 2km track in Rannoch Forest – but that could be easily have been avoided had we known what we were to be faced with). I was also happy with my boot selection, but that’s a subject for another day and another post.
(*Just to clarify: I wasn’t unhappy with the route in those first couple of weeks; it had an awful lot to recommend it and I’m not sorry that we took that line, even though hindsight tells me that a different way would have been preferable. Another person who doesn’t have such an aversion to tarmac would find it a delight.)