Land's End to John o' Groats

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Signpost at Land's End
Signpost at John o' Groats

Land's End to John o' Groats is the traversal of the whole length of the island of Great Britain between two extremities; in the southwest and northeast. The distance by road is 874 miles and takes most cyclists ten to fourteen days. The record for running the route is nine days. Off-road walkers typically walk 1,200 miles and take two or three months for the expedition. Two much-photographed signposts indicate the distance at each end.

  • Land's End is the extreme southwestward (but not southern or western) point of Great Britain, situated in western Cornwall at the end of the Penwith peninsula.
  • John o' Groats is the traditionally acknowledged extreme northern point of Great Britain, in northeastern Caithness. The actual northernmost point is at nearby Dunnet Head. The point that is actually farthest by road from Land's End is Duncansby Head, about 2 miles from John o' Groats.

(The straight-line distance from Land's End to John o' Groats is approximately 603 miles but such a route passes over a series of stretches of water in the Irish Sea.)

Methods

Expeditions from Land's End to John o' Groats have been undertaken using numerous forms of transport, and are often organised as charity fundraisers, sometimes involving celebrities.

Walking

The first recorded end-to-end walk (actually from John o' Groats to Land's End) was undertaken by the brothers John and Robert Naylor in 1871.[1] Since then the walk has been undertaken many times, more particularly since 1960, after a well-publicised road walk by Dr Barbara Moore. In 1960 the entrepreneur Billy Butlin organised a road walking race, which gave further impetus to the idea.

Since the 1960s, walkers have mostly chosen off-road routes, using the growing network of long-distance footpaths. A classic account is from 1966 by the travel writer John Hillaby.[2] Off-road walkers usually complete the journey in two to three months. There is a considerable choice of off-road routes, but all are much longer than the shortest road distance, usually 1,200 miles or more. The walk is still undertaken by road walkers, often doing the walk, like Sir Ian Botham, for charity, or as a "challenge walk". They typically take a month or even less.

Cycling

The first cyclists to travel from Land's End to John o' Groats were two policemen on pennyfathings, and their example was soon followed by many others, notably George Pilkington Mills, who cycled the route frequently in the 1880s and 1890s (and who held the time recoerd on six occasions).

The official Road Records Association record for rider on a conventional bicycle is 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, set by Gethin Butler in 2001.[3] The record for cycling from Land's End to John o' Groats is held by Andy Wilkinson, who completed the journey in 41 hours, 4 minutes and 22 seconds on a Windcheetah recumbent tricycle.[4]

A more typical cycling time is ten to fourteen days.

Ben Rockett, a postgraduate student from the University of Bath became on 27 August 2010 the record holder for cycling from Land's End to John O’Groats and back again in 5 days, 21 hours and 8 minutes.[5]

There have been several unicycle completions of the journey, with the fastest being by Mike Day and Michel Arets, who rode 901 miles (Land’s End to John o’ Groats) from 27 August to 10 September 1986 in 14 days, 12 hours and 41 minutes.[6]

The one-way distance is similar to that of 875 miles London–Edinburgh–London, the longest regular scheduled Audax cycle ride.

Wheelchair

The fastest time in a wheelchair was achieved in August 2009 by US Navy Pilot Rick Ryan: 8 days, 10 hours and 9 minutes.[7]

Running

The record time for a runner to complete the route, as reported by the Land's End John o' Groats Club, is nine days and two hours, by Andi Rivett.[8] In July 2008, Dan Driver became the first to run the route solo, meaning he carried all his equipment with him whilst he ran it. He completed the run in just over seventeen days.[9]

On 12 July 2009 British ultramarathon runner Kevin Carr successfully completed the first ever attempt to run the route off-road, becoming the first athlete to run the length of the United Kingdom as a Fell/Trail run. Like Driver, Carr ran unsupported and solo—a format commonly known amongst fell runners as a "Mountain Marathon". Carr ran the challenge as part of an event organised by Benumber1, an event that saw several top-level British athletes (mainly Olympians) completing the challenge. The event was designed to encourage school students to participate in sport and to realise the positive benefits of a healthy lifestyle, whilst raising significant funds for the British Heart Foundation. The run covered 1,254 miles over footpaths, bridleways, canal paths, river banks, National trails, fields, moorland and mountains. Over 80% of the route was off-road, the route resorting to tarmac only when necessary to link two trails, or where a trail passed through a village/town. The run took 6 weeks 3 days and 17 hours to complete (including three rest days). Factoring in the rest days, this run called for an average effort of just under 30 miles a day, every day, for more than six weeks.

Skateboard

The record time to complete the 980 mile journey on a skateboard is 21 days, achieved by Matt Elver, Charlie Mason and Lee Renshaw, who travelled around fifty miles per day in order to raise money for charity.[10]

Motoring

Motoring events between the two extremities have been held since the first decade of the 20th century, when the Auto-Cycle Union organised a series of runs for motorcycles. In 1911, Ivan B. Hart-Davies became the holder of the final Land's End to John o' Groats record for solo motorcycles. Riding his 3.5hp single-speed Triumph he covered the 886 miles in 29 hours 12 minutes. As his average speed exceeded the then maximum of 20mph further official record attempts were banned by the A. C. U.

The Motor Cycling Club (which had been running the London to Land's End Trial since 1908, still held today, at least in name) put on an annual Land's End to John o' Groats Run from 1923 to 1928 which included cars as well as motorcycles. These events were also known as the End to End. In 2006, BBC Television ran a series of three programmes called The Lost World of Friese-Greene covering Claude Friese-Greene's 1920s-era road trip from Land's End to John o' Groats. The trip had originally been filmed using the Biocolour process, developed by Claude's father William Friese-Greene and the film had degraded. The original print of Claude's film was subjected to computer enhancement by the British Film Institute to remove the flickering problem inherent in the Biocolour process.

In 1993, John Brown initiated the Land's End to John o' Groats Historic Reliability Trial, a race for vintage road vehicles.[11] The race is held each December and is a tough, three-day rally for old and classic cars, built between the 1920s and 1970s. The route takes a long 1,400-mile route, using remote upland roads of the western counties (during the night), the Pennines and on toward the Highlands. Medals are awarded in gold, silver and bronze categories.[12]

On 15–16 April 1997, Hugh Edeleanu drove the route in a JCB excavator in a time of 22 hours, 10 minutes and 30 seconds.[13]

Public transport

Richard Elloway

Richard Elloway of Somerset claims to be the first person to complete the journey from Land's End to John o' Groats and back free of charge by local buses, using free bus passes for people over 60. He completed the first leg of the trip in one week and six hours.[14] The entire journey was completed in two weeks, eight hours and thirty minutes.[15]

In 1954, Gertrude Leather travelled by seventeen local buses from Land's End to London, at a cost of £1 19s 6d (£1.97½), and the following year travelled from London to John o' Groats by 25 local buses at a cost of £4 5s 9½d (£4.29).[16]

The current fastest route on land public transport takes a timetabled 22 hours 45 minutes, departing Land's End car park at 14:35 on day 1 and arriving at John o' Groats ferry terminal car park at 13:20 on day 2. This involves a bus to Penzance, trains to Crewe to meet the London–Inverness sleeper train, then the following morning buses via Wick to John o' Groats, an ordinary one-way railway fare for the rail section of the journey cost £216.[17]

Hitchhiking

M. Clark and G. Beynon are the last hitchhikers recorded in the Guinness Book of Records for the Land's End to John O'Groats trip (17 hours 8 minutes).

Routes

There is no continuous long-distance path from Land's End to John o' Groats. There are long-distance paths for substantial sections of the route, and where they do not exist, walkers connect them by rights of way and minor roads. Most walkers broadly follow these routes:[18]

  • from Land's End to Exmoor by the South West Coast Path; or by a shorter inland route through Cornwall and Devon by minor roads and paths, the Two Castles Trail and the towpath of the Grand Western Canal
  • across Somerset by parts of the Macmillan Way West, the Samaritans Way South West or the Limestone Link
  • to the Peak District either by
    • an eastern route using the Cotswold Way, the Heart of England Way (or the Severn Way), the Staffordshire Way and the Limestone Way; or
    • a western route across the Severn Bridge then by the Offa's Dyke Path, the Maelor Way and the South Cheshire Way
  • to the Tweed valley by the Pennine Way
  • by St Cuthbert's Way and a section of the Southern Upland Way to the Pentland Hills, then by
    • a western route using the towpaths of the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal, then by the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way to Inverness; or
    • an eastern route across the Forth Road Bridge to Perth and Pitlochry, then by Glen Tilt and the Lairig Ghru to Speyside and the old Wade road to Inverness.
  • from Inverness to John o' Groats, there is no long distance footpath, so the route is mostly on roads with a few stretches of coast walking; to avoid road walking, some walkers head north west from the end of the West Highland Way at Fort William using parts of the Cape Wrath Trail, then head northeast through the Flow Country of Caithness. However, this route is through remote country and requires wild camping.

Youngest and oldest

The Land's End–John o' Groats Association presents the Jack Adams/Richard Elloway Trophy annually to the youngest person to have completed the journey other than as a passenger in a motor vehicle. To date the youngest recipient is Cameron Wickes, then aged 5, who completed the journey by bicycle over 49 days in July and August 2007.[19]

Reg Savill is oldest person to complete the journey on foot (although in the reverse direction from John O'Groats to Land's End), at the age of 74.[20]

Organisations

Two organisations support people undertaking the journey.

  • The Land's End–John o' Groats Association is a non-commercial organisation established in 1983 for "those who have completed the epic journey from Land’s End to John o' Groats, or vice versa, by any means in a single trip".[21]
  • The Land's End John o' Groats Club, which is sponsored by the company that operates facilities at Land's End and John o' Groats, the end points.[22] It holds an Annual Awards ceremony to select the most notable 'end-to-enders' each year.

References

  1. "Naylor, J. and R. (1916) ''From John O'Groats to Land's End'' on Project Gutenberg". Gutenberg.org. 2004-12-22. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/14415. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  2. Hillaby, J. (1966) Journey Through Britain Republished by Constable in 1995 ISBN 978-0094749900
  3. "Land's End to John O'Groats". Road Records Association. http://www.rra.org.uk/. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  4. The Official site of Andy Wilkinson and his Lands End to John O`Groats record attempt
  5. "Rockett speed for a cyclist!". Bath University. 2010-08-27. http://www.bath.ac.uk/news/2010/08/25/rockett-speed-for-a-cyclist/. Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  6. Faster, Stronger, Higher, Unicycling.org
  7. "Photos and Blogs". Ride for Remembrance. 2009-08-15. http://www.rideforremembrance.org/Photos.html. Retrieved 2009-09-21. "15 Aug. 2009; We did it! ... A new world record: Land's End to John o' Groats by hand-crank wheelchair in 8 days: 10 hours: 9 minutes: 10 seconds" 
  8. Land's End and John o' Groats Club. "Methods of Transport". http://www.endtoenders.co.uk/transport.php. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  9. www.therunner.org
  10. . http://www.orsumboards.co.uk. 
  11. "Who's Who at HERO: John Brown". HERO: Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation. 2006-12-27. http://www.hero.org.uk/artman2/publish/info/Who_s_who_at_HERO.shtml. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  12. "Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation Regulations & Eligibility". HERO: Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation. http://www.hero.org.uk/artman2/publish/techinfo/index.shtml. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  13. "yesterday was a ...". The Independent. 1997-05-17. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/yesterday-was-a-1261628.html. 
  14. BBC News (2008-10-04). "'Ultimate holiday' on a bus pass". http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/7340441.stm. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  15. Rebecca Hehir (Somerset County Gazette) (2008-04-16). "A pensioner's two-week bus journey". http://www.countygazette.co.uk/display.var.2201842.0.a_pensioners_twoweek_bus_journey.php. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  16. Leather, G. and Parke, J (1986) Home with the Heather Ian Allan ISBN 0711015503
  17. Transport Direct website Sample journeys checked 2011-01-04
  18. "Annotated list of walkers routes, with links to websites". Hockeylejog.co.uk. http://www.hockeylejog.co.uk/Links.htm#Otherwebsites. Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  19. "The Jack Adams - Richard Elloway Trophy". http://www.familyonabike.org/other%20info%20pages/awards.html. 
  20. "On the Buses". BBC. 2008-04-11. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/content/articles/2008/04/11/people_busholiday_feature.shtml. 
  21. "The Land's End – John o' Groats Association". http://landsend-johnogroats-assoc.com/. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  22. "The Land's End John o' Groats Club". http://www.endtoenders.co.uk/. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 

Further reading

Road walking
  • Smailes, B. (2004) John o' Groats to Land's End: the Official Challenge Guide Challenge Publications ISBN 1903568187
Offroad walking
  • Robinson, A. (2007) The End to End Trail: Land's End to John o' Groats on Foot Cicerone ISBN 9781852845124
  • McCloy, A. (2001) The Land's End to John o' Groats Walk Cordee ISBN 1871890594
  • Salter, M. (2006) Land's End to John o' Groats - a Thousand Mile Walking Route Folly Publications ISBN 9781871731712
Cycling
  • Smailes Brian (2009) Land's End to John o' Groats Cycle Guide - The Official Challenge Guide Challenge Publications ISBN 978-1-903568-59-0
  • Brown, Simon (1995) Land's End to John o' Groats Cycle Guide, Cicerone ISBN 9781852841881
  • Salter, P. (2002) Bike Britain: Cycling from Land's End to John o' Groats Epic New Zealand ISBN 0958225618

Outside links