This article has been updated on November 11th 2018
Check out this line.
This, my friends, is the Bryson Line. Named by and after Bill Bryson. In 2016, I came up with the idea to walk the line south to north – from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath.
Walking The Bryson Line
Many people have walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats along the End to End Trail, and surely many people more have heard about it – one of those subjects people talk about on birthday parties (“My cousin’s neighbour, John, is one of those nutters to hike the End to End Trail”).
Anglo-American author Bill Bryson came up with another end-to-end itinerary: a straight line from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath. In his book The Road to Little Dribbling, he christened it “The Bryson Line” and stated that he wants it to become ‘generally known’ as such.
Toward the end of the book, he says that he might not be the first person to touch both ends of The Bryson Line (this is true: Paul Theroux has done it before him in The Kingdom by the Sea), but certainly the first one to do so and knowing it.
Yet there is one minor detail: he has touched both ends, but has not travelled between them as his book consists of many small trips to places all over England, Wales and Scotland – Mr. Bryson travels to Cape Wrath on a night train out of London in the last chapter.
The Bryson Line, therefore, was still pristine, untouched, and I set out on May 1st 2018 to walk it, from Bognor Regis to Cape Wrath, covering every linear inch of British soil. I wanted to have a little adventure in a civilised country and write an entertaining book about it.
Not the only one walking The Bryson Line
As it turned out, a group of American expats had also decided to walk the Bryson Line. Yes, funnily enough, the same idea had been conceived on opposite sides of the North Sea, but with a slight alteration in its approach: they walked the equivalent of the Line’s length (569 miles). Another difference was that they did it to raise money for charity and they had Mr. Bryson himself on board. Still, being in the same boat, I reached out three times on Twitter, but there never came a response. A bit of a shame, especially because they walked north to south at the same time I walked south to north.
The adventures along the way
I had some really cool adventures along the way. One of them was a possible encounter with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on an empty country lane. I can’t say for certain that it was them (there was no security and I certainly didn’t want to disturb their peace), and if it wasn’t them, they were perfect lookalikes driving an Audi (like the British royals do).
I also slept one night in a four-poster bed only to sleep the next night on a wooden bench in a dark playground – the contrast couldn’t have been bigger. But then this walk was full of contrasts in terms of accommodation. In Britain, there are places to stay in every little town. I stayed at pubs, luxury hotels, campgrounds, hostels, guesthouses.
And the encounters really made this walk worthwhile. I enjoyed hearing from Brexiteers why they wanted to leave the EU. In the north of England I was mesmerised by the genuine friendliness of the people. The three Angolan geology students in Durness (near Cape Wrath) were the only three black boys in the village and felt, they told me, stared at. I tried to engage with as many people as possible, which was a hard thing to do on a long, lonely walk.
I went home two days after reaching Cape Wrath on July 15th and started writing the book. It’s not easy to write a book in your second language. English is an acquired language – my native tongue is Dutch. Thank goodness I have a great editor in the US who can handle my writing and make it shine.
A book requires choices – the story needs to flow. One thing I had to consider was that this book is de facto based on The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson. I didn’t want to attempt to write like him because that’s what people might expect. No. Instead, I wanted In Britain: The Long Path To Cape Wrath to be a smooth walking story, a look at the UK through Dutch eyes.
I went through hundreds of Google searches to ensure that nobody else had walked the entire Bryson Line before. Nobody had claimed to have done it before me. I’ll claim it then. Somebody has to.
The book about my walk, In Britain: The Long Path To Cape Wrath, is available worldwide in several formats. I’ve listed all versions below; each version is a link.