Karen Penny: Hiker to complete record-setting 11,000 -mile walk around British and Irish coastline with Shetland finish

Karen Penny is nearing the end of a three-year hike in an attempt to walk the 11,000-mile coastline of the UK and Ireland to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Karen Penny is on track to become to become the first woman to walk the UK's coastline in its entirety. Picture: Contributed

Penny, 55, from Swansea, is due to finish her journey in Shetland on 21 September to mark World Alzheimer’s Day.

If she succeeds, she will be the first woman to walk the entire coastline of the UK and Ireland.

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To date, she has raised over £94,000, and is close to meeting her fundraising target of £100,000.

Penny is just three weeks from completing her remarkable three-year long journey.

She said: “I can’t believe I’ve even been walking this long. It’s been such an amazing experience to be out in the wild, in the middle of nowhere.”

Throughout her journey, she has visited schools, care homes and dementia charities.

She was also invited to visit Pittodrie Stadium by Aberdeen Football Club, which works closely with Alzheimer Scotland and gave her a team shirt to wear on her travels.

She has camped out in people’s gardens and once slept on the floor of Campbeltown Fire Station.

Penny sung the praises of the Scots she has met on her journey and said: “The help I’ve had in Scotland has been absolutely unbelievable, particularly from people on the islands, where people look out for you. People have just wanted to help in any way, shape or form they can.

“It’s the kindness of people that I’ll always remember from this trip."

In 2017, she walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK, but wanted to do more to increase awareness of the condition, so decided to set herself a larger challenge - walking the nearly 11,000 miles around the coastline of the UK and Ireland.

Penny’s husband’s late parents both had dementia.

Her mother-in-law Alma passed away fairly soon after her diagnosis, while her father-in-law lived with the condition for several years before his death.

She described her father-in-law, Kingsley Faulkner, as a “very proud” man, and said the condition, which made him unable to feed himself, was “terribly undignifying”.

In the last four years of his life, her father-in-law did not recognise Penny or her husband.

Penny said: “My husband found it very difficult, because he felt like he lost his dad when he was given the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.”

When her father-in-law eventually died, she said: “It was like losing him twice."

Penny hopes her walk will help raise the profile of Alzheimer’s and secure more funding for research into the condition for which there currently is no cure.

She said: “I’ve met thousands and thousands of people as I’ve walked around Britain, and virtually every single person I’ve met knows somebody who lives with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and they don’t understand why it doesn’t get the funding that it really needs from the central government.”

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