Keith chalks up 595 miles on Ulster Way

QUEEN'S student Keith Brownrigg has just completed one of his lifetime goals - walking the 595-mile Ulster Way.

The 23-year-old started walking on June 17 - with a little guidance from Paddy Dillon's book on the Ulster Way - and, apart from taking three days out over the Twelfth period, finished on July 25.

The Helen's Bay man kept an online blog on his five-week walking adventure.

He said he had a "long summer ahead of me and I wanted to do something with my time".

The third-year architecture student had planned to walk the landmark Land's End to John O'Groats route but decided he would rather tackle something "closer to home and also half the length".

"I just thought if it all falls on its head then I will be closer to home," said Keith, who raised money for the RNLI lifeboat charity during his trek.

"For the first 10 days I was on my own and staying in a tent at night. Then friends came and joined me on different points along the way.

"I started around the Giant's Causeway and finished in the same vicinity. I wanted to start and to end somewhere scenic.

"It was hard to meet people other than in the pub at night.

"One night, after I had walked 25 miles that day, it was lashing out of the heavens and a couple of boys offered me somewhere to stay in their house in Caledon.

"And if you get the chance to stay in a spare bed on a night like that, it is pretty hard to turn down."

During his adventure Keith shed one-and-a-half stone - and a pair of walking boots.

"I was not offered many lifts along the route," he said.

"There was a big difference between people in rural and urban areas. When I was walking through wee villages everyone was interested in me.

"People seemed more relaxed and were willing to spend more time with you. There was not the same rush."

For Keith, the most outstanding part of the walk was "the beauty along the north coast".

"I started on the north coast and returned there. There is some iconic coastline and it is just gorgeous.

"I was relatively fit before I went on this and was pretty sure I was capable of doing this. I was walking around eight hours every day and totally wore out one pair of walking boots after 300 miles. Then I got another pair and I am still going in them.

"Another thing I found out is that Gortex does not keep you dry in the conditions I was walking in.

"I have been asked if I would do it again and, you know, I would. Walking is something I really enjoy and there is nowhere you can't go on two feet."

Now that his expedition is over, Keith says he feels "at a loss what to do with my time".

"It felt funny. After five weeks of walking there was some relief, but I was also sad that it was coming to an end."

But Keith has been well and truly bitten by the walking bug - and says he now has the confidence to tackle the Land's End to John O'Groats route as his challenge for next summer.