“Day four began like every other day of the trek so far. We woke up, poked our head out of our tent to check the weather - looked good - we fired up the stove, gobbled down a hot bowl of porridge and set off. After 10 minutes, typically for Scotland, everything changed. It began raining heavily. We had to march through bog for hours. All our energy was being used up simply trying to put one foot in front of the other. Then, just when we thought the path was a few meters away, we arrived at a river crossing. The river was so swollen by the rain, that it was impossible to cross. The only way to go was back. It was only day 4/16 of our Cape Wrath Trail. Was this already the end?”
This year, 3Bears Porridge fuelled Scottish adventurer and photographer, Eddie Fitzpatrick and his dad, as they took on the epic Cape Wrath Trail. Known to be Britain’s toughest long-distance walk, the trek stretches 240 miles through boggy, challenging terrain, crossing through some of Scotland’s most beautiful and remote landscapes. Many would ask why? Here, Eddie tells us all about the challenges he faced and why the weather, midges and most challenging days - where they came close to throwing in the towel - were all worth it. They say every adventure begins with a bowl of porridge, Eddie’s certainly did. Read on to find out more or watch Eddie's Vlogs over on Youtube.
“Since I started long-distance walking, the Cape Wrath Trail was always in the back of my mind.”, says Eddie, who had already completed walks like the West Highland Way (twice), the East Highland Way, the Skye Trail, the Speyside Way, and the Great Glen Way.
“There’s no official route so it really is up to you to plan your journey and navigate. It’s not like any of the other walks I’ve done before and that was the main attraction. You’re just there yourself in the most remote parts of Scotland. I never really thought I would be able to complete it though. Then, lockdown came around and put a stop to most things, in terms of getting out into the hills, adventuring, holidays, travelling, all things like that, and this just put me in a place where, working from home and being in the house made me really miss that aspect of nature, the outdoors and everything that was my passion and what I loved. So, basically, it was a casual conversation, a little bit of a joke with my dad, talking about the trail and saying how epic it would be to go and walk the trail and then we just set a date and said, “Right, we’re going to walk the Cape Wrath Trail”, and at that point, there was no turning back. We were going for it.”
Eddie’s goal was to complete the trail in 16 days, from Fort William to the Cape Wrath Lighthouse. On route, there are very little places to stop and refuel, so Eddie and his dad had to carry almost all their food, clothing and equipment on their backs.
“Packing and preparing for something like this is a mission in itself. The key thing for all these long-distance walks is the weight of your bag. Remember, you have to carry this thing every day for 16 days - that’s a lot! So, you want to keep it as light as possible, but at the same time, you don’t want to forget anything that could result in you having to abandon your trek. For me this was a midge net (we got eaten alive), and food. Nutrition is key! Obviously when you’re walking for so long, you need fuel and lot’s of it. But you don’t want to take too much because obviously that’s added weight that you have to carry. It’s like a riddle you have to solve.
For breakfast, we went for porridge. Simply because it’s easy to pack, simple to make and a quick source of energy to start your day. With 3Bears porridge, it allowed us to have many different options in terms of flavour and taste without having to carry extra toppings or ingredients in our bags. That also meant that we didn’t need to spend more time thinking and preparing and packing. We could just choose the flavour we wanted every day and get it served up quickly. With plain porridge, it’s really easy to get sick of it as well, especially if you’re eating the same thing every day. We carried a gas stove with us because it’s also the lightest option for cooking. It allowed us to prepare the porridge every morning very quickly.
For lunch and dinner, again, we went with the lightest option so had ready noodles for most lunches and then freeze-dried meals for dinner. A lot of the weight in your bag comes from the food, so for us, our bag consisted of 4-5kg of just food for half the journey.”
The difficulty of the trail really proved itself early on, when after just four days of walking, the pair already came close to calling it a day and turning back.
“The toughest day of the trek was day four. The weather was so bad when we started walking that we almost had to turn back. Just imagine … we were coming down into a valley and every river was also coming into the same valley, so obviously it was also very wet. We managed to cross a few rivers but then a couple of hundred meters down, we reached a river which was uncrossable. This was an emergency and a huge shock for both of us. We had to stop and reassess the situation. We couldn’t cross anywhere. We had walked back up the river to see if there was any other place where we could cross but it was just completely impossible. At this point we decided to climb back up so we could continue but this put us on a different path. At this point we were cold, wet and hungry. So, we took a time out, had some food and tried to warm up. Once we had some fuel and energy, we could think a bit more clearly and try to figure out an escape plan. At this point, the thought crossed my mind that we would have to abort the Cape Wrath Trail. Day four and we’re already calling it a day. This was so disappointing. Since we couldn’t go anywhere, we decided to set up camp and sleep on it. Luckily, when we woke up the next day, the rain had stopped through the night and although the rivers were still very overflown, we were then able to get across and it was just lucky enough that we did as we were able to get back on track.”
The highlight came for Eddie on day 16 when his feet sunk into the sand at the beautiful Sandwood bay, just 8 miles from Cape Wrath Lighthouse.
“This was the highlight. Once you’ve reached Sandwood Bay, you’ve then got eight miles to the Cape Wrath Lighthouse, which is the end of the trail. I had dreamed about reaching Sandwood Bay for a long time, so not only was it the fact that it’s Scotland’s best beach, it was also that thought and feeling of knowing that tomorrow you would finish the Cape Wrath Trail. That’s just a feeling of pure joy. You know you’ve been through that challenge, you know that you’ve completed every step of the trail to that point and you know that from then on, the adrenaline would carry you over those last eight miles. So although we hadn’t reached the finish line just yet, in my head, the journey was over. As soon as I stepped foot on the beach, I forgot all the pain and the tough times and the tiredness. I just felt so much accomplishment. We had got there. And the best part was that we had glorious weather when we hit the beach and so we just took that chance to sit and watch sunset, me and my dad, and just take it all in. It was just that moment of being able to have a conversation - no midges - just us, taking in this incredible view just knowing what we had behind us and that at this point we had walked 232 miles.”
Congratulations to Eddie and his dad for such an incredible achievement. Life is all about adventure and At 3Bears, we’re proud to fuel ones like these. Take it from Eddie, if you’re planning a trek, a hike or any kind of adventure in Scotland, don’t forget to pack a midge net, your waterproofs and that all-important supply of 3Bears Porridge.
Every adventure begins with a bowl of porridge. Share your adventures with us using #PorridgeStories and tagging @3Bears_uk. Gobble up and go get em.