Skip over navigation

the Watershed Epic

The Watershed - Where Is It?

The Watershed of Scotland is a line that separates east from west; that divides those river catchment areas which drain towards the North Sea on the one hand, and those which flow west into the Atlantic Ocean on the other. It’s a line that meanders from Peel Fell on the English border all the way to the top at Duncansby Head, near John O` Groats – over twelve hundred kilometers, through almost every kind of terrain; hill and mountain, field, bog and forest. The Watershed follows the high ground, and offers wide vistas down almost every major river valley, across moor and loch, towards towns and communities, into the heartlands of Scotland

This is a story, which will unfold along a random sort of line, formed by the many forces of nature. The movement of continents, and heaving of the earth`s crust, volcano and fire, the vast weight and grinding power of ice a mile thick, and the surge or tickle of water over many millennia established the current shape of this land called Scotland. The route is defined, not by convenience, but by nature alone.

But if nature created it, man has put his mark on it, and this will be as much a part of the story as geography and a description of the landscape through which the Watershed passes. The rolling border hills with their patchwork of commercial forest and sheep country, through Lanarkshire and the more industrial character of the central belt, the Watershed eventually gives way to more mountainous terrain. The Trossachs provide a splendid introit to the litany of great crags and bens, which run up through Perthshire and the Highlands. Sometimes the route is well inland, but for much of the way it hugs close to the West Coast and some of the remotest places in the land. Finally, it swings east though, through the `flow country` of Caithness and finishes within sight of Orkney.

This is important, because the definition of the Watershed has been taken from Groome`s ` Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland` 1886, and starts (or finishes) at Duncansby Head. Thus everything on the one side of the Watershed line empties into the Atlantic Ocean, including the relatively short stretch along the north coast. And every bog, burn or river on the other side eventually pours its contents into the North Sea.

So the location of the Watershed has been created entirely by natural forces, and the route has been defined by reference to Groome. Everything else about the journey along it will be determined by a variety of less certain factors. Thoroughness in planning the walk, physical fitness, the weather, rendezvous arrangements, navigation, and the quality of equipment will all contribute the success of the venture. Support from friends, family and colleagues will all play a part, and the ability to fit each section round work commitments will be critical.

Beyond all of that, what is certain is that the walk will take in some magnificent country and provide memorable experiences. The appearance of a `brokken spectre` on day one just before the start on Peel Fell came as a token of good fortune for all that lies ahead.

There will be days of splendid solitude, and moments of struggle with a full pack. The joy of meeting up with friends who will provide logistical support along the way will be milestones in an otherwise solo venture. The weather and all of the other variables may conspire at times to weaken my resolve, but the Watershed itself with all of its vistas and variety, richness and reward, will hopefully give all of the inspiration required.

This website will provide a log of the unfolding story over the next eight months or so. It will be updated on a monthly basis.