TRIPLE CROWN CONTENDERS

Two possible routes stand out as obvious choices for inclusion in a UK Triple Crown but selecting a third – and there’ll have to be a third if the US Triple Crown model is to be followed – is bound to cause plenty of debate.
There doesn’t have to be three, of course – the number’s purely arbitrary – but the phrase Triple Crown has such a good ring to it… certainly far better than Double Crown or Quadruple Crown.
There’ll be even hotter debate – and perhaps even tears – over the definition of each route. Most of these suggested routes are neither defined nor waymarked as such on the ground and, dependent on the way you might choose to tackle them, distances could as much as double.
So here are a few suggested Triple Crown candidates with brief outlines. I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions; email john@outdoorsmanning.com .



Land’s End to John o’Groats – usually between 900 and 1600 miles
One of the two obvious inclusions. An undefined route though many will choose to link several existing National Trails including the South West Coast Path, the Pennine Way and the West Highland Way. Andrew McCloy’s book The Land’s End to John o’Groats Walk (Cordee) contains plenty of excellent route suggestions and planning advice.

Round Britain Coast Walk – between 4500 and 11,000 miles
The second obvious inclusion, the longest and the most demanding. Though not as frequently walked as the End-to-End, the Coastwalk has nevertheless seen plenty of footfall since John Merrill became the first to circumnavigate this island in 1978. As Andrew McCloy reports elsewhere, proposed legislation in England, coupled with existing access rights in Scotland and the planned Welsh coastline path, could open the way for a formal UK coastal trail though the distance could vary tremendously according to the criteria hikers set themselves. Would you include the shores of some of the isles, such as Anglesey, the Isle of Man, Arran and even Ireland? And where do you cross rivers and estuaries? At the first ferry? The first bridge? Above the mean waterline? Or should you be an ultra-purist and go to every river’s source? Which leaves you the with the dilemma of tributaries…

The Munros – 1600 miles
Our obsession with peak bagging – whether it’s the Wainwrights, the Corbetts, the Nuttalls or even the Marilyns – seems to know no bounds. It’s a uniquely British obsession and the Munros represent the bagger’s ultimate goal.
But how should a round of the Munros be done to qualify as one of the Triple Crown achievements? Individually, over a number of years as a series of day walks? Or in one long hike, as pioneered by Hamish Brown in 1974? The latter, being a long journey demanding a commitment of time and sustained effort, fits the bill far better than the former. But such a route is even less defined than suggestions One and Two, lacking not only a defined route – and little possibility of there ever being one continuous one – but also a defined start and end.

Linked Coast-to-Coasts
On a small island like ours a Triple Crown might do well to encompass up/down, round and across characteristics. The End-to-End and the Cape Wrath/Dover routes slice wonderful diagonals but could our two coast-to-coast trails – Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Route and the Southern Upland Way – be linked, using the proposed Coastal Path, to create a circular “across” option?
Points against this suggestion might be the retreading of Coastal Path ground and that it would be, in essence, simply a shorter version of that. Nice route, but a cop out!

The National Trails – 2970 miles (this week)
The Long Distance Walkers’ Association is contemplating setting up a National Trails register to record individual completions of each of the 19 official long distance routes in England, Scotland and Wales, to encourage an ultimate goal of completing them all. Certainly they’re all attainable, and with the longest being the South West Coast Path at mere 630 miles, most walkers would be able to knock them off in their leisure, making this perhaps the most attainable of the Triple Crown possibilities. But are these trails, individually, really in the big league? Better, perhaps, as a demanding but attainable challenge in its own right, with its own award.

E2 variant: Dover to Stranraer/Cape Wrath: around 1400 miles
Still little-known outside hiking circles this beautiful suggestion from the LDWA’s Paul Lawrence is of reasonable length and is already well-defined on footpaths. Many might like to extend this north to Cape Wrath, to create a south-east-to-north-west extremities route, nicely complementing and contrasting with the End-to-End. It also links, via ferries, into the rest of the trans-European E2, pointing the way for those who’ve
completed a UK Triple Crown to blaze a trail across the continent’s extensive E-Route and Grand Randonee hiking networks. Next stop Nice, anyone?

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UK Triple Crown