The TGO Challenge is an annual backpacking event in which participants walk from the west coast of Scotland to the east.
It is very much NOT a competition or a running event. There are no prizes or medals and you will be a participant not a contestant. Everyone gets the same certificate and T-shirt at the end and there is no special kudos in fast or high crossings.
Not really. . . The West Highland Way, Speyside Way, Southern Upland Way and other waymarked Scottish trails follows a defined route, passes through many villages and small towns, and you’ll find a bed and a beer most nights if you want one. Not so on the TGO Challenge. It is much more like the Cape Wrath trail – you will need to plan your own route, will generally not have waymarks to follow, encounter unbridged burns and at least some pathless terrain.
It takes place every May in the two weeks running up to the English Spring bank holiday. TGOC23 runs from 11th-26th May with participants having a maximum of 15 days to cross.
Both – you can hike solo or in a group of up to four.
400 paid entries plus a small number of people associated with the Event and its sponsors are offered places with the aim of 330-350 participants setting off from the West Coast.
If it is oversubscribed a draw is held for places. Those with suitable experience who are unlucky will be guaranteed entry the next time they apply.
That’s up to you – there are 14 starting places on the West Coast – click here to see them, and you can end your walk anywhere between Fraserburgh and Arbroath on the East Coast. You can plan a route through the glens or, if you have sufficient experience, take to the summits and ridges or do a bit of both. You can of course take inspiration from previous Challengers blogs and accounts but please don’t copy an entire route. The vetting team offers comment and advice to help you make it safe and achievable. At the end of the day, though, it’s your own bespoke route!
Most routes cover between 290-340km (180 and 210 miles). Most participants for between 20 and 25km (12 – 15 miles).
The Event is for experienced backpackers with skills including the ability and confidence to use a tent, cook in the wilds, navigate with map and compass, and protect themselves from bad weather. You need a reasonable level of fitness and stamina to walk every day for a fortnight carrying you kit on your back, but you do not need to be a super fit mountain woman or man to participate. Many joint replacements, pacemakers and other medical devices have made it across Scotland on the TGO Challenge! A good degree of mental resilience and self-sufficiency is just as important as physical fitness.
Entry will open via this website – usually in mid-September and closing in mid-October.
The fee for the 2023 will be £95. Those with deferred places from the Covid affected years of 2020/21 will either not pay at all or have a 50% reduction depending on when they deferred.
The TGO Challenge is intended to be a backpacking event so a tent or other suitable shelter is considered essential. Even those planning a B&B based route should carry some form of shelter in case they are unable to reach their overnight destination. Wild camping is at the heart of the Event most of us need a bit of comfort now and again too. Challengers use campsites, bothies, Hostelling Scotland and independent hostels, B&Bs and hotels. It is entirely up to you where you stay.
Almost – the Scottish Outdoor Access Code permits responsible wild camping away from cultivated areas, dwellings and roadsides.
No – not every night but it is difficult to plan a route without at least some nights of wild camping. Many Challengers will use a campsite, hostel, B&B or hotel every 3-4 days for a bit of comfort and an often much-needed shower or bath. It is possible to plan a route that gives you a bed each night, but this will commit you to some long days and you will miss out on one of the aspects of the Event that makes it so special.
Yes, as often as is necessary. There’s no need to carry 14 days’ supplies (three days’ food is a good bet, depending on your route). Many small Highland towns and villages welcome Challengers with open arms. Using their shops and food providers helps boost the local economy and keep these facilities going for locals and visitors. Some may have limited opening hours so check before you leave. If supplies aren’t likely to be available, you can send resupply parcels to accommodation providers with their prior agreement.
No – support of any kind is discouraged. Friends or family may visit, and it is reasonable that they bring a supply box that you would have otherwise posted but it would be against the spirit of the Event if they transported gear or dropped supplies to you on a regular basis. The Challenge is a test of your skill and independence and it is intended to be a self-sufficient trip.
The Event is open to anyone aged 18 or over. There is no upper age limit but older participants or those with long term conditions should consult with their doctor or specialists before setting out. The Challenge’s oldest participant was 91!
You can walk with up to 3 teammates. Unofficial crossings with participants are a no-no though your friends are welcome to tag along for a day or two.
Walking a different route each year through Scotland’s amazing scenery, battling the elements, the camaraderie and the moments of solitude all contribute to 50% of first timers coming back for again. Why not come and find out!