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Scotland’s long-distance trails – and some impressive FKTs

Mark Beaumont sets a new cycling record on the NC500. Credit: Markus Stitz

Have you heard of an FKT? It stands for Fastest Known Time. Athletes, whether runners or cyclists, record FKTs for various routes and trails across the world. Usually it is a famous or iconic route, such as the West Highland Way, North Coast 500 or John Muir Way in Scotland.

Scotland is famous for great walking and cycling routes.

FKTs - for those who want to set the fastest times

FKTs have actually been around for many years but recording official FKTs is quite a new trend, which started to take off during the Covid pandemic. Without races to enter, athletes started racing times for various challenges.

A website called Fastest Known Time is where many “on foot” FKTs are recorded and in 2020 alone more than 3000 times were submitted. This represented almost a 400 per cent rise year on year.

A search on-line also reveals many cycling FKTs, too, including some very impressive times for classic Scottish trail and road routes. There is also a cycling FKT website for the UK although there are few classic Scottish routes on this, or they have not been updated.

There are usually fastest times for “supported”, “self-supported” and “unsupported” records.

Supported means that other people can help with factors such as carrying spare equipment, food and water. Self-supported means you don't have a support team, but you don't carry everything you need from the start as you will resupply yourself along the trail. To do an FKT unsupported, you must do so with no external support of any kind.

But slower can be best, too

Of course, not everyone wants to go as fast as they can on a long-distance trail. There are plenty of reasons to take your time and really immerse yourself in a route like the West Highland Way.

Tens of thousands of walkers and cyclists head to Scotland annually to enjoy hiking or cycling the WHW, the John Muir Way and the NC500, among many other great Scottish trails.

It’s a great idea to have your luggage transferred while walking or cycling in Scotland because it allows you to enjoy the experience even more and without having to worry about the weight of your overnight kit.

FKTs on the Scottish trails and routes

Whether you fancy having a go at setting a new FKT, or perhaps you would simply like to know how fast some people can run or ride several of Scotland’s trails, read on.

Mark Beaumont rides a record time on the NC500 this year. Credit: Markus Stitz.

NC500 FKTs

The North Coast 500 (NC500) is a route of just over 500 miles – 516 miles – of stunning scenery in north-west Scotland. It starts and finishes in the city of Inverness and follows a circuit, either clockwise or anticlockwise, through regions such as Ross & Cromarty, Wester Ross and Sutherland.

There are several records. Luke Ivory holds the supported running record of five days, 23 hours and forty minutes set in July 2021.

A self-supported record was set in May, 2022, by Lee Butters. He took 12 days, nine hours and 38 minutes.

The cycling FKTs are held by Mark Beaumont, who set his new record in September 2022 in 28 hours 35 minutes. He beat Robbie Mitchell’s previous record by half an hour.

The female record for the N500 is held by cyclists Christina Mackenzie. Her time of 36 hours 39 minutes recorded by the Road Record Association (RRA) in May 2022.

James Stewart runs an FKT on the John Muir Way.

John Muir Way FKTs

The John Muir Way is a 134-mile coast-to-coast walking and cycling trail from Helensburgh to Dunbar.

The FKTs include a supported run by James Stewart in 31 hours, 53 minutes and 22 seconds in July 2020.

A self-supported FKT was set by Kristian Dela Cour in December 2019 in one day, five hours and 29 minutes. In February 202, Kristian set another record unsupported record for the same route of one day, seven hours and 36 minutes.

In 2015, Gary Tompsett and John Houlihan recorded a FKT on the John Muir Way on mountain bikes. They finished the route in 10 hours 35 minutes. They followed the JMW cycling route.

Pawel Cymbalista sets an unsupported running record on the WHW.

West Highland Way FKTs

The West Highland is Scotland’s original long-distance trail and has attracted both runners and cyclists to set FKTs. It stretches 96 miles from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands.

There is an annual running race and the records for that are 13:41:08 by Rob Sinclair (2017; supported) and 17:16:20 set by Lucy Colquhoun (2007; supported).

In August 2021, Connor Swift set a new cycling FKT in 8:32:28. Kerry MacPhee holds the female cycling record for the WHW of 11 hours 46 minutes.

How to walk or cycle the Scottish trails

If you want to discuss any plans or ideas you have for walking, running or cycling the West Highland Way, John Mjuir Way or NC500 you can give Highland Transfers a call. We can help with luggage transfer between your overnight accommodations and we have a wealth of other information at our fingertips.

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