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Highlander Lake District | 10 Things To Know About The First UK Event

Yes, that's right. The global backpacking event finally has a UK leg and it’s in none other than the glorious Lake District National Park.

HIGHLANDER, in case you’re not already familiar with it, challenges hikers to take on a 50km hike over three days or a 100km hike over five days. At each HIGHLANDER event, a fully mapped route is provided, hikers are provided with food and water, safety teams are on hand and the organisers also take care of luggage transportation.

Founded in Croatia in 2017, the series has expanded to Egypt, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates, the States and now, finally, the UK, with the inaugural event set to be held on the 5th of July 2023.

Last June, I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the kind-of dress rehearsal for next year’s event. Here’s how it went and everything you need to know about HIGHLANDER adventures.

It’s Definitely Not a Race

Speaking to the HIGHLANDER team during the hike, it’s clear that they want this to appeal to people who aren’t so keen on the idea of taking part in an event that involves competition against others. HIGHLANDER, they say, is all about enjoying time outdoors. If there’s any challenge involved, it’s against yourself.

The Route Goes For Maximum Views

It’s hilly, in other words. We only walked a two-day segment but there was a surprising amount of ascent involved. OK, they could’ve planned a route that sticks solely to the valleys, but that wouldn’t have been as fun, would it? The views we got really were jaw-dropping.

It’s a Great Way to See The Lake District

Backpacking through any place is such a good way to get to know and understand an area and the lay of the land within it and this route will take you through a big old chunk of the national park. You’ll visit popular places like Great Langdale and Borrowdale, see stunning sights like Ullswater and Aira Force waterfall, and you’ll bag a fair few Wainwright Fells, including Fairfield, High Raise and Steel Fell.

The Route Was Created by an Expert On the Area

During the hike, I got to chat with Josh O’Boyle, the route’s creator. He has a vast knowledge of the trails of Lakeland and it’s clear that he knows how to plan a good route within the area too. Josh is a qualified Mountain Leader from Yorkshire who, as he explained to me, spends a lot of time in the fells – and he’s also an event planner by trade.

It’s as Sociable as You Want it To Be

I do a lot of my long-distance walking alone as I like the time to think and I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that, even though there were lots of other people taking part, I was still able to have some headspace during this hike.

It was still a sociable hike though and I really enjoyed that element of it too – getting to meet new people and having that feeling that you’re all in it together. There are opportunities for solitude and for conviviality; you can take what you want from it.

They’re Strict On Leaving No Trace and Environmental Responsibility

Sending a large group of people on the same route is inevitably going to have some consequences for the environment, and it was good to see that the HIGHLANDER team are very conscious of this. They don’t just promote the principles of Leave No Trace but also encourage everyone to pick up any litter that they see on the trail and they have the strict rule that what you pack in, you must pack out.

Self Navigation is Still Required

Unlike many of those charity fundraising hikes, HIGHLANDER hikes all require self-navigation. You don’t need expert-level skills but understanding the basics of map reading will still be pretty important, especially if the weather ends up a bit dodgy.

It’s Not Wild Camping But It’s Pretty Close To It

While many of HIGHLANDER’s events involve proper wild camping, that’s a bit tricky when it comes to the Lake District where you’re not technically allowed to pitch wherever you like. Fortunately, the camping experience is, at least from what I saw, almost as close to wild camping as you can get without actually wild camping.

On my one night on the challenge, we stayed in a farmer’s field set within the stunning Langdale valley – no electricity hook ups, concrete shower blocks and what not, but you’re not having to do your business in a hole in the ground either!

The Food is Good!

One of the hardest parts of backpacking is making sure you’re well fed and watered and that trade-off between nutrition and pack weight. Fortunately, with HIGHLANDER the issue of that balancing act is removed because each day of the trek they’ll supply all the food and water you’ll need. And do you know what? From what I saw, the food is going to be pretty good. We were given an array of different recipes of dehydrated meals to try out and some really tasty energy bars too. It was nice to go backpacking and, for once, not feel like I’m slowly starving myself.

It Opens Up a World of Opportunity

Having really enjoyed my taste of HIGHLANDER in the Lake District, I’ve since been thinking about which overseas HIGHLANDER events I’d like to try. The format should be really appealing for anyone who’s into adventure travel and it also takes away a lot of the aches and strains of trip planning that you’d normally have to deal with.

I’ve never been to Croatia and I’m now seriously considering their Velebit event. All I’ll need to do is sign up to the event, book flights and that’s pretty much it – I’ll be able to explore a new part of the world without really having to worry about much else.

Entry for the Lake District event is already open. Head on over to highlanderadventure.com to find out more and to sign up.

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