Books about walking in Scotland tend to fall into one of two groups. One the one hand, there are the books that seek to bring a fresh or updated perspective to subjects that have been covered, sometimes many times, in the past. As new generations of hillwalkers and climbers emerge, there will always be a market for a new take on the West Highland Way, or on the Munros.
"The Cape Wrath Trail" by Iain Harper belongs to a second group of books about walking. These are written by people in search of the path less travelled. The idea of a Cape Wrath Trail has been discussed for the better part of two decades, but Iain Harper has succeeded in producing what will undoubtedly become the definitive guide: the book that will in future always be referred to by anyone thinking of walking the route or, indeed, of producing their own take on it.
The Cape Wrath Trail is generally regarded as the toughest backpacking route in the UK. It covers some 200 miles from south to north, starting in Fort William and ending at Cape Wrath, the most north westerly point in mainland Britain: and walking it normally takes about three weeks. En route it crosses some of the most remote and challenging landscapes in Scotland, and demands of anyone attempting it an ability to navigate without waymarks (there are none) and an ability to plan a route that makes the most of a sparse scattering of serviced accommodation and bothies.
Iain Harper's excellent book starts with some background about the origins of the walk, and then has an introduction setting out the things that anyone thinking of attempting the walk really ought to know, from geology, natural history and accommodation to emergencies, river crossings (a real hazard on an informal route like this one), ticks and midges. Though we'd be tempted to suggest that anyone who doesn't yet know about midges should find out about them on the West Highland Way before embarking on this much more challenging journey! The largest part of the book looks at route options (and there are a number of alternatives available), with helpfully detailed maps, clear descriptions and some nice photography. Appendixes at the back add further useful information into the mix, including accommodation and other services en route.