The Scottish Watershed separates the drainage and river systems that flow east into the North Sea from those that flow west into the Atlantic. The map above shows its route from the English Border to the North of Scotland at Duncansby Head (near the more famous John O’ Groats).
Or, as Peter Wright (one of the only people to have walked it) puts it:
Now imagine that you are a raindrop about to land on Scotland. Where you finally end up, will follow very simply, from where you touch down in the landscape – for by bog, burn and river you will make a watery journey to either the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea. There is a clear line, a demarcation that has now been drawn on the map, which is the simple divide between which of these you are bound for- that line is the Watershed of Scotland.
He’s gone on to dub the Watershed a Ribbon of Wildness and the ‘backbone of Scotland.’
Now, if you look closely at the map above, you may notice that the Watershed avoids virtually all of Scotland’s major population centres. For those of you visiting from outside the UK (or from South of the Border), Scotland covers roughly 1/3rd of the land area of the island of Great Britain, but has less than 10% of the population.
This makes Scotland far more wild than either England or Wales. Combine this wildness with the fact that the Watershed is over 1,100km (680 miles) long and has an average elevation of 450m (1,476ft) over 44 Munros and you begin to see why so few people have completed the route.
Dave Hewitt was the first to complete the Cape Wrath route in 1987, and Peter Wright was the first to complete the Duncansby Head route in 2005. Colin Meek become the first person to run the whole route in 2012, opting for the Duncansby Head option.
You can learn more about the Watershed from the following sources:
- Peter Wright’s websites: The Watershed Epic and the more recent Ribbon of Wildness, plus follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
- Peter Wright’s 3 books about the Watershed: Ribbon of Wildness: Discovering the Watershed of Scotland, Walking with Wildness: Experiencing the Watershed of Scotland & Nature’s Peace: A Celebration of Scotland’s Watershed
- Dave Hewitt’s book Walking the Watershed
Update 14/01/15: Seems we can add Chris Townsend as a 7th person to have completed the trek.
Would you like to walk Scotland’s Watershed? Why or why not? Leave a comment below: