It’s hard to believe, but we have just discovered that Saddle Mountain Hostel is on the Appalachian Trail. To be exact, we are on the Scottish leg of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).
The main AT is probably the most famous long distance walk in the USA. It runs 2,190 miles northwards from Georgia to Maine. It follows the line of the Appalachian mountain range along the eastern edge of the continent. In the late 1990s an extension of the route north into Canada was created. It follows the continuation of the same mountain range. It was named the International Appalachian Trail.
How does this relate to Scotland? Running a hostel, we have to plan well ahead for our holidays as this affects when the hostel is open for business through the year. We have recently been thinking about our 2019 holiday and have been looking at an autumn trip to Newfoundland in Canada. The trip would involve us doing some local hikes in the mountains along the western edge of the island. We discovered that many of the most interesting hikes take in sections of the IAT. When doing some route research we saw a reference to the IAT having been extended into Europe. Not only that, but there were references to it now covering Scotland.
We were intrigued and had to find out more. It turns out that geologically both the Appalachian range and some western European mountain ranges were once part of the Central Pangean Mountains, created when the super continent Pangea was formed many millions of years ago. When Pangea broke up parts of the range ended up on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
Beginning with the West Highland Way in 2010, various trail organisations in Europe were accepted into the IAT family. The result is that it now runs principally from Ireland northwards into Scotland and then north through Norway. Many other countries also host IAT legs.
In Scotland, the exact route starts in the Mull of Galloway. It follows the Firth o Clyde Rotary Trail to Glasgow then the West Highland Way to Fort William. It then changes to the Cape Wrath Trail/Great Glen Way until it reaches our own Invergarry. Finally, it continues on the Cape Wrath Trail all the way to its end.
As big fans of long distance trekking, we were already proud that Saddle Mountain Hostel sits on the nexus of multiple trails. We believe that it is the only hostel in Scotland on the routes of the Great Glen Way, the Cape Wrath Trail and the Scottish National Trail. We now have another long distance trail to add to the mix. Hopefully the IAT is a new challenge which endurance walkers will want to tick off. We look forward to greeting out first IAT through hiker.
Meantime, we’ll put on “Dueling Banjos” by Flatt and Scruggs and dance a jig in honour of our sitting on the Appalachian Trail.