Bibliography - Post-1912 Off-Road Walking Books
Off-road Journey Accounts
Cross Country by Theo Lang, Hodder & Stoughton, 1948
Theo Lang was a journalist and novelist who walked a
rambling route from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 1946,
just months after the end of the Second World War. He set off on March 17th and
finished just under five months later, having walked about 1500 of the 2200
miles he travelled. He wrote articles as
he went for the Sunday Chronicle, and later wrote them up into a book. The account is an entertaining one by a
professional writer, and has similarities to John Hillaby’s account (see
below): if you enjoyed that, then this is worth seeking out. Highly recommended.
Journey Through Britain by John Hillaby, Constable, 1968 (also Paladin
The book that must have inspired a thousand attempts at
walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats, or so I would
imagine: it certainly inspired me when I first read it in the early
seventies. John Hillaby walked from Land's
End to John O'Groats in the late 1960s, mainly avoiding walking on
roads, and wrote this extremely entertaining book about it. The only official long distance path at the
time was the Pennine Way,
which he incorporated into his route (more or less). He followed the northwest
coast from Land's End to Newquay, then struck inland and
across Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor, where he got seriously
lost in a bog. He then headed for Bristol,
where he was laid up with crippled calf muscles for a couple of days. He tried
to cross the original M4 bridge but found it hadn't been built yet (this is
true: read the book). He crossed on the
old ferry instead, then followed more or less the line of what later became the
Offa's Dyke path from Chepstow to Knighton. From there he made for Stoke-on-Trent
via the Long Mynd (stark naked) and Wenlock Edge, and on to Edale and the Pennine
Way. He then went via Jedburgh, Peebles and the Union
Canal to get between Glasgow and
Edinburgh, then via Stirling to join the line of what is
now the West Highland Way
at Crianlarich, following it to Fort William.
From Fort William
he headed off into the wilds of northwest Scotland,
getting lost from time to time. As far as Ullapool he mainly seems to have
followed tracks that are now described in the Scottish Rights of Way Society's
"Scottish Hill Tracks". This
is not surprising, since he credits Donald Moir with assisting him with route
planning in Scotland,
and Moir compiled “Scottish Hill Tracks” in the first place. Tracks north then the road along the north
coast got him to John O’Groats.
Turn Right at Land’s End by John Merrill, Oxford
Illustrated Press, 1979 (since reprinted)
John Merrill is probably the most prolific long distance
walker in Britain,
and this book is his account of the longest walk in Britain:
following the coast all the way round.
He set off on the 3rd
of January 1978, finished on 8th November, and estimated
the distance he walked at 6824 miles.
Naturally the walk included joining Land’s End to
John O’Groats, walking 3800 miles between the two. Oh yes, and he also walked Land’s
End to John O’Groats three months earlier for a warm-up. This walk qualifies for a “don’t try this at
home” warning, and you wouldn’t have thought it would have had many repeats,
although at least three further accounts have been written of similar walks
since. His walk necessarily kept to low
ground, apart from detours inland to climb the three peaks of Snowdon,
Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. This was also the definitive “long cut” route,
since any way of making the journey shorter was cheating, again giving the walk
a different motivational feel to it.
After a mere 3300 miles his foot fractured due to the constant hard
walking, and he was laid up for a few weeks while it mended: all I can say is
“I’m not surprised”. The book itself is
readable without being great literature: but who am I to judge? I enjoyed reading it, although unlike many
accounts of long distance walks it didn’t make me want to go out immediately
and do it myself. The walk was obviously
very hard both mentally and physically, and included a lot of unavoidable road
walking and urban and industrial areas.
It is well worth reading for his approach to preparation and his experience
of how to cope with very long walks.
Where else are you going to get statistically valid estimates of the
life expectancy of boots and socks for instance? Recommended.
Hamish’s Groat’s End Walk by Hamish Brown, Victor Gollancz, 1981, also
This is Hamish Brown’s account of his 1979 walk from John
O’Groats to Land’s End with his Shetland collie
Storm. The route was an indirect one,
taking in mountains in Scotland
(to complete his sixth round of Munros), England,
Wales and Ireland,
and the trip took about five months to complete. He generally kept to the mountains where he
could, camping wild a lot and making up for this by staying in comfortable
hotels from time to time: a good way to travel I think. The book is a very readable account and I
found it difficult to put down: I have to recommend it strongly as excellent
pre-walk mental preparation. There is
also plenty of practical information in the book: it has a very good section on
what he took and why, and an extensive bibliography. Recommended.
The Great Backpacking Adventure by Chris Townsend, Oxford
Illustrated Press, 1987
Chris Townsend is these days a journalist and writes
reviews for The Great Outdoors among other things. He has done many long walks, and in this book
he gives an account of a number of them.
In 1978 he walked from Land’s End to John
O’Groats while John Merrill was working his way round the coast. The book includes a 40 page chapter on this
walk: an off-road route keeping to the hills.
It is an entertaining read, and the book in general gives insight into
the need for the right mental approach to long walks. Recommended.
Three Degrees West by Stephen Sankey, John Donald, 1990
Not quite End to End: Stephen Sankey and his collie Meg
walked from the south coast near Lyme Regis to Westray in the Orkneys, keeping
as close as they could to the line of longditude three degrees west of
Greenwich. The book is a straightforward
account of their journey, with plenty of photographs. This preceded Nicholas Crane’s better-known
account “Two Degrees West” by nine years.
Crane’s book is excellent, but is outside the scope of this bibliography
as it excludes Scotland.
A Grandparents’ Guide from Land’s End to John
O’Groats by Eileen & Herbert Witherington, WANDE Publications, 1993
An entertaining account of a walk done in 1991 by a
retired couple who didn’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be able to do it,
so they did. They walked relatively
short distances each day and travelled light, with no camping: B&B all the
way, and a lot of the book is about the B&Bs they stayed in. They generally avoided difficult walking
conditions and ended up doing quite a lot of road walking. This is the book to read if you want to know
how to get from End to End without getting tired or lost and have plenty of
time to do it. Their walk was at the
opposite end of the extreme/easy spectrum to John Merrill and Hamish Brown.
Spring Rolls and Coconuts by Peter Lucas, published privately, c.1993
A well-written and
highly entertaining account of the author's Land's End to John O'Groats
walk in 1992. He backpacked most of the way, losing essential
items at a rate of around one per day, as far as I can make out.
One of the best reads on this list. Recommended.
And The Road Below by John Westley, Meridian Books, 1994
This is a straightforward diary account of the author’s
1990-1991 walk around the coastline of Britain
and Ireland. He walked 9469 miles, starting in London
on 5 August 1990, finishing
on 20 September 1991, doing
a lot of fundraising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society on the way.
Two Feet Four Paws by Spud Talbot Ponsonby, Summersdale, 1996
This is another account of a sponsored walk round the
coast of Britain,
this time by one woman and her dog, supported by friends and a dodgy
campervan. It’s a readable account that
grew on me as I read it. The dog chases
everything that moves, and the only time it seems to stop raining is when it
snows. The inside of the campervan is
generally damp and disintegrating, which seems highly appropriate considering
the author was walking to raise money for the homeless.
The Sea On Our Left by Shally Hunt, Summersdale, 1997
Does everyone who walks round the coast of Britain
write a book about it? Here’s the
fourth, and it is a well-written and entertaining book. Richard and Shally Hunt walked the coast in
1995, covering 4300 miles, and it nearly cost them their marriage. Recommended.
One Woman’s Walk by Shirley Rippin, Shirley Rippin / Logaston Press, 1998
I really enjoyed this one.
It is a well-written and relaxed account by an experienced walker: the
route includes the Pennine Way
and the West Highland Way. Recommended.
Midges. Maps & Muesli by Helen Krasner, Garth Publications, 1998
A well-written and entertaining account of a 5000-mile
Land's End to John O'Groats - A Dream Came True by Pauline Freeman, published privately,1998
A brief account of Pauline and Michael Freeman's walk in 1997.
One Pair of Boots by Tony Hobbs, Logaston Press, 2000
An account of the author’s walk from Land’s End
to John O’Groats in 1997, this is well worth reading. He set out to follow one of Andrew McCloy’s
routes, having done minimal preparation, buying guidebooks and maps as he went
along. The book is full of things like
his account of squeezing pus out of his toes and a list of every pint of beer
comsumed on the trip (285 pints of 83 varieties). Therapeutic reading for anyone who tends to overplan
their life. Recommended.
A Walk for Jim by Sally Thomas, published privately, 2001
A moving and readable account of Sally Thomas’s walk from Land’s
End to John O’Groats in aid of leukaemia research: her son had
died of the disease shortly before her walk.
Her route was largely off-road and avoided hilly country. It’s a route worth considering if you don’t
want to climb many hills. Recommended.
No Fixed Abode - A Long Walk to the Dome by Douglas Legg, Colby Press, 2002
An account of a
5000-mile coastal walk that in many respects bore more resemblance to
the journeys of an old-fashioned "man of the road" than a modern long
distance walk. Recommended.
Land’s End to John O’Groats – In Fifteen Years! by Alan Plowright, Moorfield Press, 2002
This is a curiously disjointed account of a walk from End
to End, since the author made the journey in sections, starting with the Pennine
Way and ending with Land’s End
to Exeter. The book starts at Land’s End
and ends at John O’Groats, resulting in a peculiar lack of continuity as the
story jumps back and forwards in time.
Heading North on a By-Pass by Ron Smith, published privately, 2002
Having suffered a
heart attack and undergone by-pass surgery, Ron Smith cycled from
Land's End to Derby, then walked the rest of the way to John O'Groats.
In case you thinking you're starting to see a pattern here, I can
confirm that yes, we are all nutters. On the other hand we probably
live longer than people who don't tackle an End to End.
A Journey of Soles by Kathy Trimmer, Hayloft Publishing, 2003
Kathy and her husband Ken walked south to north using
footpaths, minor roads and canal towpaths, accompanied for much of the way by
their Labrador, Ranger.
A typical example of a charity walk account.
Follow the Spring North by Christine Roche, Trafford Publishing, 2004
account of a backpacking End to End walk, following a route that had
been well-researched. Worth reading for some of the route suggestions.
Although this is an account of a walk rather than a guidebook, there is
enough information about the route to be able to follow it accurately
most of the way. Recommended.
The Sea Ahead by Shally Hunt, Summersdale, 2005
The first half of this
book is about Shally and her husband Richard's walk from Dover to Cape
Wrath, and the second half covers Bruges to Nice.
Keep Right On to the End of the Road by Kath Jones, Vanguard Press, 2006
diary account of a Land's End to John O'Groats charity walk, partly on
roads and partly not. It includes numerous references to the late
Scottish entertainer Jimmy Logan.
When I Walk I Bounce by Mark Moxon, Exposure Publishing, 2007
A highly entertaining
account of a walk largely following Andrew McCloy's route. It is
well-written and made me laugh out loud from time to time, which was a first for
an End to End book. He manages to express very well what it actually
feels like to be undertaking such a long trek - the highs, the lows,
the insecurities, the euphoria. He doesn't like moors though.
Shake Well Before Use by Tom Isaacs, Cure Parkinsons Press, 2007
A coastal walk by a
relatively young Parkinson's disease sufferer. This is a
well-written book, and Tom Isaacs has done a masterful job of making
clear how challenging living with Parkinson's is. His
single-minded persistence with the walk is impressive as well.
End to End by Steve Blease, The Book Guild, 2008
An account of a walk
on country lanes and off-road routes that in the main avoids the hills,
the author preferring easier options to improve his chances of getting to John
O'Groats in one piece. B&B all the way, and his rucksack still weighed 25
lbs despite taking few clothes. By the time I got to the end I still didn't know how he managed to fill that sack.
Land’s End to John O’Groats by Andrew McCloy, Hodder
& Stoughton, 1994, also Coronet paperback
An excellent book in which the author outlines three
different off-road walking routes. This
is a guidebook rather than an account of his journeys and is a recommended read
for anyone planning to walk off-road from Land’s End to
John O’Groats. It doesn’t give a lot of
detail of the routes, so you would still need to do a lot of planning or
improvising to follow one of them. The
End to End Trail coincides in part with two of the routes. Recommended.
The Land’s End to John O’Groats Walk by Andrew
McCloy, Cordee, 2002
This is a more detailed description of one of the three
routes (the “Central Route”)
outlined in his earlier book. It is
still not a detailed route description though: to follow the route described
will require detailed planning with maps for the sections not covered by
Land's End to John O'Groats: A Thousand Mile Walking Route by Mike Salter, Folly Publications, 2007
This is a guide that
packs a lot into its 76 pages. The route descriptions are clear, and
the route described can easily be followed on an OS map. As for the
route itself, it follows a similar route to the End to End Trail as far
as the Wye valley (although it avoids Exmoor), then cuts across
northeast to pass close by Wolverhampton, on canal towpaths a lot of
the way. It then heads north to the Peak District and takes its own
route up the Pennines to the Scottish border, only following the
Pennine Way for brief stretches. He tends to avoid the higher moors,
although he does take in Cross Fell, the highest point on the Pennine
Way. From the Scottish border to Fort William the route is similar to
that of the End to End Trail, then it follows the Great Glen as far as
Fort Augustus. From here he has found what looks like a good
cross-country route to Lairg: wild but not as "out there" as the End to
End Trail's route further to the west. From Lairg to Kinbrace the route
is similar to the End to End Trail again, then it heads up the road to
Forsinain and east on forestry and estate roads to meet the River
Thurso and follow minor roads to John O'Groats. There is also an
alternative route leaving the main one near Edinburgh to head north via
Kinross, Pitlochry, the Lairig Ghru, Inverness and up the east coast.
This alternative is mostly on roads after Inverness. Highly
recommended: plenty of alternative options to the End to End Trail
which should help you plan your trip.
The End to End Trail: Land's End to John O'Groats by Andy Robinson, Cicerone, 2007
My book, so I'm not
going to express an opinion about how absolutely essential is it,
obviously. Available from all good bookshops.
Page last updated 11 December 2008