With the smell of the North Sea in my nostrils, I feel a long way from central London, where my journey began amid the tangier aroma of delivery driver diesel. My plan was to go in search of the old road between London and Edinburgh: the one that had served the mail coaches, witnessed marching soldiers and highway robbery, and had an ancient and evocative name: the Great North Road.
Over the last 300-odd miles I’d been pretty faithful to the old road – or at least as faithful as you can be while avoiding dual carriageways and speeding drivers. The key is to find stretches where the new has been built next to the old, rather than on top of it: an orphaned mile or so at Tempsford in Bedfordshire, Stilton in Cambridgeshire or Cromwell in Nottinghamshire. On these forgotten high streets I find it remarkably easy to visualise a time when the mail coach was the king of the road – the horses’ hooves clattering and the guard blowing his horn.
UK-based outdoor and clothing equipment brand Montane and Wired for Adventure teamed up to put together a short list of the most remote places to visit in Europe.
Ushguli – Georgia
While there’s some debate as to whether Georgia resides in Europe or Asia, we simply had to include this small settlement. A collection of tiny villages located at the foot of Shkhara mountain (5,193m), Ushguli sits at 2,100m above sea level and is therefore one of the highest inhabited settlements on the continent, but it’s also one of the most remote. »
Hoy, Orkney – Scotland
Although Hoy is the second largest island in the Orkney archipelago, a small clutch of islands off the coast of Scotland, it’s still tiny by most standards. Despite covering just 55 square miles and housing around 400 people, this diminutive island draws intrepid travellers to its shores with the lure of adventure at the edge of the UK. »
Kirkenes – Norway
Tucked away in the far north-eastern corner of Norway, the small town of Kirkenes lies at the very edge of mainland Europe. Just a few miles from Norway’s only land border with Russia, and 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the area is transformed into an icy wilderness during winter. And it’s this time of year that is best to visit, when travellers can observe two unique natural phenomenon. »
Standing all alone in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands are undoubtedly one of the most remote places in Europe. Made up of 18 major islands and countless smaller ones, the Faroes’ closest neighbours are Scotland and Iceland, both located over 200 miles from its shores. »
Alastair Humphreys and filmmaker Tem set off from the city to summit Suilven, a remote mountain in the Scottish Highlands, with the aid of Brompton’s Explore Edition, small folding bicycles, and inflatable canoes.