The challenge to walk from the Mull of Galloway to Cape Wrath is not one for the easily overcome.
But one man has accepted just that challenge and now 33-year old Joe Norman (or Cotton Joe as he is known to his friends), from North Carolina in the USA, has taken time out of his job as a wildreness instructor with disadvantaged children to walk the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).
Before coming this summer to the UK he had already walked the trail in Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Foundland and Labrador – a total of 1484 miles.
The Northern Ireland section of the International Appalachian Trail was opened at the end of August this year and Cotton Joe was the first to hike the full length of the trail which runs from Slieve League in Donegal to Larne. During his trek, Joe had some time out to attend the AGM of the IAT which took place last month in Balloch (the first time it has been held in Europe).
After spending a few days in Belfast, Joe crossed to Cairnryan on 30 September with a view to walking the Scottish Section of the IAT starting at the Mull of Galloway and ending at Cape Wrath, 464 miles in all.
Arriving on the ferry from Belfast he stayed overnight in Stranraer and the following morning Rotarian Tom Stevenson took him to Mull.
Tom accompanied Joe as far as New England Bay and Joe was fascinated to learn about local history from the information boards which were funded by Stranraer and District Local History Trust.
After camping in the Sandhead area overnight, Joe continued on the trail to Stranraer and then on to the Loch Ryan Coastal Path and the Ayrshire Coastal Path. With Scotland at the same latitude as Labrador, Joe was amazed to find palm trees growing in the grounds of Culzean Castle, thanks to the Gulf Stream.
Approaching Ayr, he detoured to visit the birthplace thatched cottage of Robert Burns and stand on the 600 year-old Auld Brig o Doon before following the Clyde Coastal Path over the Erskine Bridge arriving at Milngavie on 12 October.
After completing the route from the Mull to Milngavie, known as the Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail, Joe took a couple of days out to enjoy Glasgow before continuing on the West Highland Way reaching Fort William on 20 October.
He will take a break in Fort William before starting the Cape Wrath Trail which goes through some of the wildest and remotest countryside in Scotland.
Project Manager for the Mull of Galloway Trail, Tom Stevenson said: “It is great to see that membership of the IAT and being one of Scotland’s Great Trails is paying off bringing more visitors to this area including long distance walkers like David Albon and Cotton Joe. This major project for the Rotary Club of Stranraer is certainly benefiting local businesses and has made all the efforts of the club members and friends well worthwhile. When I represented the Mull of Galloway Trail at the IAT AGM in Balloch I was able to illustrate the attractions of this beautiful part of Scotland and the delegates were keen to take back leaflets to their home countries including Ireland, England, Norway, Canada and the USA”
The main source of funding for the trail which was opened in August last year was a grant from LEADER with in kind contributions coming from the local Council and the Rotary Club. Grants were also received from Awards for All, Te Robertson Trust and Stranraer and District Local History Trust.