North by Northwest 800 Challenge
But the North by Northwest 800 Challenge (NNW800) is not a race and there is no prescribed route. Nor is it focused on endurance, strength or Bear Grylls-style wilderness survival - in fact, it is open to walkers, motorcyclists, vintage car enthusiasts, mountain or road bikers, horse riders, skaters and anyone in between.
Instead, the challenge encourages participants to use the experience to document their journey in a short film or photo essay and create a unique, cross-section portrait of England and Scotland.
Learn something new and share your discoveries
Iain hopes that participants will choose to focus on a theme or topic close to their hearts. “How about looking at attitudes towards issues like climate change, sustainability, green energy, population growth or community?” he writes on the NNW800 website. “Alternatively, you could think of a sweepingly-open philosophical question to ask everyone you meet to answer in a single sentence.”
Based in Hertfordshire, Iain originally conceived the Hastings-Cape Wrath challenge as a personal cycling expedition in 2013. He planned to explore attitudes towards climate change across the country. “I arranged to visit all sorts of wind farms, exploratory fracking sites, nuclear and conventional power stations,” he says. “Then my appendix burst while on a training ride, life got in the way for a while and the trip didn’t happen.”
But the concept stayed with him. “It seemed like an idea with proverbial ‘legs’ and I was keen not to let it go to waste,” Iain explains. So, he added a page to his adventure news website and launched the challenge quietly in January this year. “Feedback from the adventure travel community has been very positive so far,” he says. “I’ve had a few people get in touch already to say they’re thinking about doing it.”
The way is straight, but not narrow
Having said that, Iain acknowledges that there will be a few notable detours on the way from the English Channel to the northwestern tip of mainland Britain, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the North Sea. Most participants won’t fancy swimming 22 kilometres (17 miles) across the Firth of Forth, nor diving into the River Thames or the other rivers, inlets and lochs that intersect the route. He also imagines that most people will do the challenge in April-May or August-October, “to avoid any high summer temperatures and the worst of the Highland midges.”
So, next time you stand up by Hastings Castle on a fresh morning, why not turn your face north by northwest and, with the sun on your back, take the first step towards Scotland?