New Year, new walking challenges

Buchaille Etive Mor

Start 2014 as you mean to go on with a new walking goal. But which one will you choose?

Photograph: Macs Adventure

Generally speaking, there are three types of walkers. There are those walkers who, after the inevitable excesses of the festive season, can’t wait to tie the laces of their boots and set off on a new adventure. They will already have a new challenge lined up and before you can say the word Munro, they are off to walk one of these fabulous Scottish mountains.

Then there are the walkers who enjoy a hike or two but lack the motivation to get out and embrace new challenges. They might be stuck in a rut of walking the same old route – and need a new goal to get them back outdoors and enjoying the countryside.

The third group are the newbie walkers. It could be that their New Year’s resolution is to walk more and to become fitter and healthier in 2014. These walkers will be looking for ideas to get them off the sofa and out of the front door.

Six walking challenge ideas for 2014

We bring you six great ideas for enjoying a new walking challenge in 2014. Each of these ideas can be adapted to suit your walking type.

Go long distance: Scotland boasts a huge stable of long-distance walking trails. From the original, the 96-mile West Highland Way to the newer 82-mile East Highland Way, Scotland’s Great Trails offer 1,700 miles of routes to walk.  You could plan to walk one of these routes over a few consecutive days or a week, or walk a section each time you have a day free. Your goal could be to tick off one or more of these long distance walking trails in sections over the year.

Munro bagging: There are 282 Scottish mountains with a recorded summit of more than 3,000ft (914m). These are known as the Munros, after the original compiler of the list, Sir Hugh Munro. It takes many walkers many years to bag a full round of the Munros and some people never finish the round, but they do enjoy the goal of walking a different Munro every time they have a day to spare.

The Munros, which are geographically spread across Scotland from the most southerly, Ben Lomond, in central Scotland to the most northerly, Ben Hope in Sutherland, offer dozens of days of walking challenges.

One realistic goal, especially if you are a walking newcomer or looking for hiking motivation, could be to tick off 10 Munros over one year. Start with some of the easier Munros as listed list on the website of Munro extremist and guide Steve Fallon.

Bag the Corbetts and other Scottish hills: As well as the Munros, there are lists of smaller mountains and hills called Corbetts, Donalds and Grahams. You could become an Alternative Hills Bagger. Why not look for 10 hills within easy driving distance of your home and aim to bag these over a set period of time? Remember that it’s good to have an achievable goal to focus on.

Coast to coast: There are several trails that follow a route from one coast of Scotland to the other. The Scottish Coast to Coast Trail heads 130 miles from Oban, in Argyll, to St Andrews, in Fife. Then there’s the “classic route” from Perth to Fort William.

Meanwhile, the John Muir Way is being extended and upgraded to become the John Muir Trail, charting a route from Muir’s birthplace in Dunbar, East Lothian, to Helensburgh, in Argyll. It is due to be fully open in April 2014.

Sign up for a walking event: A walking challenge event offers a great goal for becoming walking fit. There are walk-only events, such as the Caledonian Challenge and also events that combine walking with another activity. The Highland Cross is a 20-mile walk and a 30-mile bike ride. There’s also the annual Maggie’s Monster Bike and Hike event.

Pick a walking theme: How about walking the ancient drovers’ trails, including the 64-mile Cateran Trail in Angus and Perthshire, or one of the pilgrimage routes, such as St Cuthbert’s Way in the Borders? You could walk this route as part of a St Cuthbert’s Way self-guided holiday. The Border Abbeys Way links four historic abbeys on one fabulous walking route. Combining a walk with a historical interest could be exactly the motivation you are looking for to get out and enjoy more of Scotland’s great outdoors in 2014.

Please do tell us about your walking challenges for 2014.

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