Britain’s 44 mile walk where you won’t cross a road – What’s involved?

It is often said that no matter where you are in the Britain, you’re never any further  than 7 miles away from the nearest road. I have often poured over maps to see where the longest walk would be without encountering a road. My conclusions were either from Glen Shiel to Glen Carron or across the Cairngorms.

A certain newspaper, that will remain nameless, recently reported that Ordnance Survey has revealed that the longest walk in the UK without crossing a road is a 44 mile stretch across the Cairngorm National Park. I couldn’t find much more information on this, so I decided to investigate the route on my digital mapping software to see what exactly is involved.

cairngorm map

The article suggests starting the hike from Cock Bridge. I have worked from west to east instead as there is negligible difference in total ascent. I drew the straight line from the Pass of Drumocther (NN630763) to Cock Bridge (NJ256092). The line as the crow flies is 70.55 kilometres long (43.83 miles).

So where exactly would this hike take you? The article states you would have to climb the 11th highest mountain in the UK, Beinn a’Bhuird, but there is much more than just one mountain to climb.

Within 4 kilometres from starting the hike, your first obstacle would be to climb the Munro, A’Bhuidheanach Bheag (936m), from here you would cross a featureless plateau eventually dropping down before ascending the remote Corbett, An Dun (827m).

SAM_6750
An Dun (left)

Deep into the Gaick Forest the route continues up onto another plateau skirting just north of another remote Corbett, this time Leathad an Taobhain (912m). After several ups and downs you’d find yourself just south of Glen Feshie, roughly 27 kilometres into the hike.

Reaching the Cairngorm mountains, the route continues by skirting 3 kilometres south of the Munro, Mullach Clach a’Bhlair, crossing the river Eidart, there is a bridge 3 kilometres down stream if the difficult to cross in spate conditions. Thankfully the line conveniently takes you almost to the col between the Munros Monadh Mor and Beinn Bhrotain.

The route skirts 1km south of Corrour bothy, an ideal stopover for the night if you haven’t already stopped of course as this would be roughly 40 kilometres on the clock with around 3,050 metres of ascent!

Cairngorns_Cairn-Toul-131
Devil’s Point on the way to Corrour Bothy

Your next obstacle is the Munro Carn a’Mhaim (1,037m) and over towards another Munro, Derry Cairngorm, which you’ll skirt 1 kilometre south of the summit. The route continues down into Glen Derry, where you would start ascending immediately up and over the featureless and boggy Moine Bhealaidh, continuing on to the summit of Beinn A’Bhuird (1,197m) the highest point of the route and 52 kilometres into the hike.

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Beinn a’Bhuird

The route takes you over the crags at Garbh Choire, it would be much safer to summit the next Munro Ben Avon (1,171m), from here you descend into Glen Builg finally passing the massive bulk of the Ben Avon massif.

From Glen Builg the end of the route is in sight with just over 8 kilometres to go to Cock Bridge taking you over more gentle rolling hills and down to Corgarff Castle, site of a 16th century massacre and then into the settlement of Cock Bridge.

If you make it to Cock Bridge you would have covered 70.55 kilometres and 5,636 metres of ascent. Of course this would be covering a straight line as the crow flies which would be almost impossible to do. The distance covered could easily creep up towards 80 or even 90 kilometres.

There is no doubt that the route takes you into stunning and remote parts of Scotland. It is a serious and committed hike with lots of pathless rough terrain, taking you across featureless rounded hills where your navigation skills would have to be spot on.

The news article suggests this is a 3 day hike, it really depends on how fit and experienced you are, but it would be more realistic to do over  4 days. With overnight stops near Glen Feshie, Corrour Bothy and a high camp on Beinn a’Bhuid if weather permitted.

As you do not cross any roads or pass through towns or villages, you’d have to carry a heavy camping pack with all your food. Water sources however are plentiful.

This route would offer a lot of solitude, with a good chance of not encountering other humans until you reached busier parts of the national park, particularly Corrour bothy which can be busy.

If I was to hike this route, I would alter the route to take advantage of paths and tracks across the national park, I do have a route to mind that I hope to reveal in Spring 2019.

Cheers

Robin

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19 thoughts on “Britain’s 44 mile walk where you won’t cross a road – What’s involved?

  1. Interesting idea. The distance probably wouldn’t bother me when I get fit again but the amount of ascent might nowadays (vastly reduced lungs). But the carrying would KILL me!

      1. Wes

        Nice one. Any info much appreciated. Me and a small group looking to do this towards the end of the year. Thanks

  2. Lovely post with a good bit of research involved. You are quite spot on about how stunning the landscapes along the route are and the solitude this area provides.

  3. Just looking at the map attached it would seem that ending at Colnabalchin would be slightly longer or, am I missing the point somewhere.

  4. Martin Rye

    Tomintoul start and then over the tops to Ben Macdui. The South to the Tilt. Over some of the Beinn A Ghlo summits and then south over Ben Vrackie and into Pitlochry. Over 45 miles plus and no road crossed.

    Also can you clarify your 7 miles from a road statement.? Public access road ? If that was the case then you should re-measure, as Carn an Fhidhleir summit to any public road head is further than 7 miles.

    1. I had a a similar route in mind starting in Tomintoul and finishing on Ben Vrackie. I’m wondering if OS have took into account private roads as there is a decent road from Tomintoul to down near Linn of Avon.
      The 7 miles from a road theory came from OS too.

      1. Martin Rye

        Private roads abound more and more in the hills. But the Cairngorms still offers the remote hills, and I reckon I will do such a walk once the TGO Challenge is out of the way. Enjoy planning your route. I will update my comment in the future on what my route came out at.

  5. James Urquhart

    Sounds like my kind of trip. Though I wonder if Beauly to Auchtertyre (near Kyle of Lochalsh) or Carrbridge to Spean Bridge might be longer, both of which I’ve done albeit slightly different routes that did meet tarmac sooner but could have been avoided. I’d have to work out the distances though.

    1. This writing this article, the OS have released their own story on it. I reckon the OS boffins will be spot on. But I thought Pitlochry to Tomintoul or something like your Beauly suggestion. 🤔

  6. James Urquhart

    My intrigue got the better of me and I found that my Beauly suggestion isn’t longer. Neither is Pitlochry to Tomintoul. But I’m pretty sure Stronaba (north of Spean Bridge) to Slochd (NW of Carrbridge) is longer. Unless there’s a new tarmacked track that’s not on my maps which would account for OS not considering it.

    The thing with the OS “longest walk” though, is that their line is as the crow flies so it should be considered the longest flight distance between roads. There are there are longer walks to be done except they would have deviate slightly from a perfectly straight line to avoid a bit of road. Yet you’d still be travelling in a general straight A to B line. And inevitably a route overland isn’t a mathematically precise straight line. Interesting all the same though!

    1. There’s lots of new wind turbines and development in that area that there may well be new tarmac roads. I also thought a straight line over the Fannichs and into Fisherfield and out at Poolewe. It is a crow flies straight line. I’m tempted to give it a go. 🤔

      1. James Urquhart

        Aye, I think you could be spot on about windfarm roads. Although they don’t tend to be tarmacked. I guess they’re as good as roads though 😦

        I’ve walked that very walk a couple years back! Started in Garve, walked through a new windfarm development then on to Fannaichs, Fisherfield, Poolewe where first road is. I then headed south from Gairloch through Torridon to catch a train home at Strathcarron. Was a great route. Well worth doing.

      2. They’re not tarmacked yet, but almost as wide as a two way road with compressed stones. It’s really been industrialised. 😔

        That sounds like a cracking route mate.

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