Walking around Great Britain

Claire Allens walk around the coastline of Great Britain

By Kenny Stocker

Claire Allens big walk around the coastline of Great Britain

Back in July 2023 we offered some support to Claire Allen as she prepared to walk around the coastline of Great Britain. Popping into our Edinburgh store she equipped herself with some base layers, leggings, a red fleecy jacket and a pillow. Little luxuries matter!

Now over six months in Claire is making great progress, having passed our store in Bristol to pick up a waterproof to protect herself against the spring showers. Over to Claire to update us on her progress...

Walking around Great Britain

On 8th August 2023, I set out from John O Groats to walk the coast of Great Britain.

I’d lived in the same city, doing the same kind of work for nearly twenty years. I wanted a shake-up, a change of scene, and to do something to feel proud of. It didn’t take long to decide what that could look like – I’d read Elise Downing’s book ‘Coasting’ – her story of running the Great British coastline in just 10 months – and saw Christian Lewis interviewed by Ben Fogle about his multi-year coastal odyssey which included adopting a dog and having a baby.

This was perfect. It was a neat and tidy loop - that started and finished in the same place. It meant I didn’t have to fly anywhere and was close enough to friends and family for them to come and join for a day or two. Plus I love England (and Wales and Scotland) I packed in my job, rented out my house and scheduled my date for departure.

My plans were loose – walk every day, camp for as long as the weather allowed. I won’t lie, I don’t love camping. Even after investing in a decent sleeping bag and mat, I sleep badly. Add to that high winds, winter temperatures and driving rain and I quickly become a tired and emotional mess.

Walking around Britain

But unlike the South, last Summer saw Scotland experience its best weather in years. For the first couple of months, it was sunny, warm and filled with spectacular views. Starting where I did Groats meant following the newly established John O Groats trail – a 150 mile path that leads to Inverness. I camped most nights – with the occasional stay in a hostel or with friends of friends. From there I picked up the Aberdeenshire Coastal Path, the Fife Coastal trail, Berwickshire Coast path and so on. Once I’d crossed the border, signs for the England Coast Path began to appear – the brand new round England trail which connects existing coastal paths to form one continuous way, and which is due to be completed this year.

I’ve walked through Northumberland with its castles and beaches, the North Yorkshire national park and the vast, open, agricultural expanse that is Lincolnshire. Then pretty (but flat) Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex with its never-ending estuaries and Kent. I’ve travelled along the South Coast – E&W Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and then the glorious South West Coast Path – all 630 miles of it.

Claires walk around Great Britain

Along the way I’ve seen dolphins, seals and some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. I’ve made new friends, been on the receiving end of overwhelming kindness and hospitality and raised more than £11,000 for homelessness charities. I’ve also walked through every one of storms A-J, picked up suspected Lymes Disease – treated quickly and effectively by Newcastle’s NHS, and chased away a hungry fox but not before he’d ripped open my tent to get at some cheese. That was the end of camping for 2023. Once the clocks change and the rain stops, I’ll resurrect the tent but right now, I’m happy and grateful to have been looked after by friends, contacts and in some cases, complete strangers as well as dozens of B&Bs, pubs and hotels who’ve sponsored me with a bed for the night.

On 7th February, I turned the corner at Lands End and started heading north. Now in Bristol, it’s been beyond brilliant to spend a couple of days with friends before tackling the mammoth Wales Coast Path. It’s been hard to be away from my family for such a long stretch – I miss them (as well as peanut butter on toast), but worth the wrench to see everything the West coast has to offer, raise more money for homelessness, and eventually reach the finish line.

Follow Claire on Instagram @clairesgreatbritishwalk. You can also support Claire from her JustGiving page.

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