Phil told me. “But, I think more importantly, the overseas traveller will be interested in the culture, the history, the overall ‘experience’. So one thought in crafting a UKTC might be to highlight those differences.
“For example, I could see a UKTC that has a leg each in Wales, England, Scotland, or at least takes in all those areas in some combination. From my limited experiences in 2002, my reading and hearing about hiking the UK, the trails that I am personally interested in doing some day would include the West Highland Way, the TGO Challenge, Offa’s Dyke, Hadrian’s Wall, Pennine Way (okay, yes, I could easily see myself just rolling that into a Lands End-John o’Groats) and the Pembrokeshire Coast. Of course, if there were other options, then I might start imagining…”
The lure of the US Triple Crown challenge is something that, once tasted, never goes away. Ask Matt “Squeaky” Hazley, of Surrey, whose first hiking experience was on the Appalachian Trail in 2003. Two years later he returned to the States and ruffled several bald eagle feathers by knocking off the entire Triple Crown in an unheard of, and previously thought impossible 240 days.
Phil Hough agrees with Squeaky that the Triple Crown is a temptation that can’t be resisted. “I think the general idea – that there are these three recognised, known trails out there in the US – has a ‘pull’ on myself and others,” he said. “There is a part of me that feels like I have ‘unfinished business’ until I complete the CDT. There are other trails that I would like to hike but somehow doing any of these before doing the CDT would feel like I was avoiding the obvious, the next important challenge. The Triple Crown recognition just magnifies this feeling.”
So what about a similar challenge in the UK? Something to light a fire in the belly of every bobble-hatted rambler who ever laced up a pair of Hillmasters, something to entice more to try their hand (or foot) at an activity that already delights and enriches thousands of lives.
A demanding UK hiking challenge along the lines of the Triple Crown could significantly raise the profile of both backpacking as an activity and of the UK’s long distance trail network. That in turn could add significant weight to calls for greater funding for path and trail maintenance as well as providing fresh leverage for the ongoing campaigns for increased access, or freedom to roam as some like to call it.
The Long Distance Walkers’ Association shares the belief that a challenge like a UK Triple Crown would be a worthy goal. Paul Lawrence, who handles the association’s trails information work, told me: “The LDWA welcomes the idea of a high-level open ‘achievement award’ trail-walking of this kind as an aspirational objective, encouraging people to walk the UK’s premier long distance routes.”
TGO will be talking to the LDWA, the governing body for long distance walking in the UK,
in the coming months, to see whether a register and an annual award ceremony might be established.
“The LDWA already records the achievements of hillwalkers who complete the major UK peak lists – like the Wainwrights – through its long-standing Hillwalkers’ Register,” said Paul. “We’re already in process of consulting members on a National Trails Register to which this sort of UKTCA could possibly be linked as a benchmark public award.”
Choosing three trails suitable for a UK Triple Crown will not be an easy task – a few options are briefly considered in a link at the foot of this article – but the necessary debate might last some time. As our longest
waymarked National Trail is currently the South West Coast Path’s 630 miles, however, the qualifying routes will, by necessity of the order of a multi-month odyssey, be less well-defined than their US siblings.
“These routes are less defined than the three US routes,” Paul Lawrence told me. “Some people do the LEJoG mainly on roads, and any full coastal route also involves a lot of road walking. The Dover-Stranraer variant of the E2 in the UK might be an alternative as it is defined on footpaths and is about 1400 miles.
“A third route is the hard one and that’s one we really need to get readers’ views on. Ideally you need a well-known route. Wainwright’s Coast-to-Coast is an obvious one, and it is well-known internationally, but relative to the others it’s very short and you can even do it with tour and baggage transfer companies so it’s not a really demanding route.”
“Including the Ulster Way [570 miles] in Northern Ireland might be a way of making it a truly UK-wide challenge but that has had access and maintenance issues and it might not still be promoted as a complete route.”
For Phil Hough, a UK Triple Crown would need to be made up of trails that “fit together to fill in the blanks in big dreamers”.
“They would, individually as well as collectively, capture some people’s imagination and not let go of it until they were hiked. They would somehow flow together – there would be enough commonality, yet enough diversity, that there would be a “need” after doing one, to move on and do the next. Sorry if that’s vague, but the nature of dreaming is not well defined.

Dare to hike a dream continued...

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UK Triple Crown