Not so long ago, Charlotte Brook didn’t even own walking boots. But the former waitress has spent the last two years hiking 18 miles a day with her boyfriend.
Charlotte, 25, had been working in a restaurant in Strachur, Scotland, in May 2019 when a friend introduced her to Daniel McNeil.
At the time, veteran Daniel, 27, was two months into an intense fitness challenge, aiming to hike across the entire coast of the UK to raise money for charity.
The pair quickly fell in love Charlotte quit her job to join him on the epic walk, sleeping in tents and garden sheds as they go.
The pair are midway through completing the 16,000-mile trek to raise £100,000 for Armed Forces charity SSAFA. They’re now in Portland, Dorset, after two years on the road.
Daniel started his journey in his hometown of Dumfries, Scotland, before picking up Charlotte on the way and its expected to take another year for them to complete the trip.
The pair have travelled the east coast of Scotland and England sofa surfing, camping and staying in garden sheds as well as picking up work as pot washers and taking care of sheep along the way.
Charlotte describes the way her relationship started as ‘unique,’ but says she has no regrets about quitting her job.
Charlotte said: ‘I was living in Strahcur so when Dan came over the water to Dunoon, which is the nearest town, he pitched his tent and was kicked off because it was private land.
‘He went to a friend’s house and she messaged me saying her friend was trekking Britain and he needed advice.
‘I had an instinctive feeling that I needed to meet him. I didn’t know how old he was or what he looked like.
‘I messaged him offering to take him on a tour. I wanted to know why he was walking around the country.’
She added: ‘One afternoon together turned into four days together. We had a lot in common.
‘After that we spoke to each other every day. Dan was walking and I went to join him on a few islands for a week at a time. Then he asked when I was joining him. I left my job in November and everything fell into place just as it should.
‘We were in a relationship and I wanted the adventure and to take the opportunity while I could. I was ready for the next thing.
‘It wasn’t your average meeting on Tinder and going out for dinner. It was a bit surreal.
‘He didn’t expect to meet a partner especially so soon. I wasn’t really looking for it but it fell into place.
‘It was quite magical. There were quite a lot of little things, if they didn’t happen as they did, we wouldn’t have met. Its quite a unique relationship but it works.’
Charlotte says the furthest she’d walked before meeting Daniel was five miles and family and friends thought she was ‘mad’ when she announced her plans to walk the coast of the UK.
Charlotte said: ‘I didn’t mind walking, I wasn’t a walker or a hiker. I didn’t own hiking boots or a bag.
‘I’d travelled before so I’m adventurous and I had jobs where I was always on my feet. It didn’t take a long time to get used to the walking aspect but it was carrying the weight.
‘We camp most of the times but we’re offered accommodation. We’ve slept in everything from someone’s spare room, sofas or a shed or garage.
‘It’s going great. We’re pretty laid back, calm people. We have disagreements but we don’t argue. We communicate well. It’s great. It’s the adventure of a lifetime.’
Though it was winter when Charlotte joined Daniel, 25-year-old didn’t listen to naysayers when she told them of her plans, adding: ‘If I didn’t do it, I would have regretted it.
‘I knew if it didn’t turn out ok, I could go back home, I didn’t have much to lose.’
Daniel joined the army when he was 16 and was medically discharged five years later after he was diagnosed with an auto immune disease.
The couple have raised more than £15,000 for the charity as Charlotte says it ‘saved Daniel’s life’.
Charlotte said: ‘Daniel’s life hit a downward spiral. The charity came into help and turned his life around.
‘His life started getting better then lockdown happened so he went backwards a bit.
‘At the start of 2021 he decided he needed to get away so he came up with the idea to walk around the country for SSAFA to give back to the charity that saved his life.’
The pair plan to end the journey in Dumfries where Daniel’s hike began and hope to celebrate with all the people who have helped with accommodation along the way.
Charlotte said: ‘We’ve met a lot of kind people on the way. The wildlife and scenery is amazing but the people are one of the best things about it.
‘It highlights the good there is in humanity so hopefully most of the people we’ve met will be at the finish line and we can celebrate them.’
Daniel said: ‘The walk is going great. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. The public have been incredibly kind and supportive. It’s put my faith back into humanity.
‘I never expected to meet a partner on the way. I started the journey to get away from people and to be in my own solitude but I was open to the idea of someone joining me for a walk for maybe a day or two.
‘I would’ve never have guessed it would turn into something as special as this.
‘The simple reason I asked Charlotte to join me is because I fell in love with her. After spending some time together on some islands over the summer, I raised the idea of if she’d like to join me for the walk.
‘A lot of her friends at the time were asking Charlotte when she was going to join me which may have influenced the idea to have her join the walk.’
You can donate to Charlotte and Daniel’s Just Giving page here: https://justgiving.com/fundraising/danwalksuk