Trailblazer

Magic on your doorstep

Will Copestake, Ullapool, Scotland

“The thing is to pursue great moments passionately – but slowly,” says adventurer Will Copestake, 28. “You never know when something magical is going to occur, so you’ve got to give yourself time. The biggest thrills you get on a trip are sometimes the most unexpected.”

Will’s own adventures prove the point. His 364-day solo navigation of Scotland, which involved a full sea journey around its coast by kayak, then a continuous solo ascent up all 282 Munros, saw him being voted as 2015 UK Adventurer of the Year. But it wasn’t obvious achievements that brought him the most pleasure.

“It was the moments that took me by surprise that remain the most memorable”

“I was brought up in Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland, so I was biased and thought that all the most spectacular moments on my solo journey would be on that side of the country,” he says. “But I was wrong. The west was great, but it was the moments that took me by surprise that remain the most memorable. Kayaking through amazing stacks near John O’Groats, and totally magnificent coastline along the east I didn’t know about. It opened my mind to my own country.” Will learnt to kayak, and navigate hills, while growing up – “I had the sea at the end of my garden and the hills on the other side” – and undertook a long trek in New Zealand before university, where he honed his trekking skills. After traversing Iceland with a friend as a student, he got his Scotland circumnavigation idea.

“There’s real value in doing a big project or expedition on your doorstep”

“There’s real value in doing a big project or expedition on your doorstep, and learning more about your own country,” he says. “Scotland’s coast was its original highway for our industry, and I wanted to tap into that culture. The Munros supplied the mountain element.” Will now runs his own expeditions, taking groups of different standards on kayak and walking trips. “That has increased the feelgood factor, too,” he says. “I’ve always taken personal satisfaction on trips. It’s great to reach the top of a mountain. But seeing that reflected on the face of someone else, that you’ve helped to reach their goal… sometimes that feels even better.”

Photography by Nicholas White