In May 2015 I made my third successful TGO crossing, starting at Lochailort and finishing at Stonehaven 13 days later. My route, as with previous years, was low level with no major obstacles, or so I thought at the start!
The bar at Lochailort Inn on the evening before the start was full of old and new friends. We were there until closing time, discussing routes and where we might meet each other in the next two weeks.
For the first two days Mike and Anthony had the same route so we walked together. On the shore of Loch Beoraid we were unable to find a path, just animal trails. The ground was very boggy and rough which made for very unpleasant walking. The weather for the first two days was very good.
We crossed the Ruighe Breac around 7pm and camped soon after. This was a long and tiring day.
After lunch at Corryhully Bothy I walked to Glen Cuirean and camped at Glen Pean. The next morning the weather was kind, and allowed me to cook breakfast, pack-up the tent and cross the river before the heavens opened. Walking Loch Arakaig was very wet with a strong wind. However my waterproof jacket, trousers and pack cover preformed as the manufacturers claimed they would!
After 2 days of rain with some snow and hail the Eagle Pub and Inn at South Laggan Locks was a very welcome stop. It was one of those days when you pray they are open as you get closer.They cater to wet and tired walkers.
I stayed the night in a nearby bunkhouse, my first bed for 3 nights. We returned to The Eagle for dinner and refreshment.
The climb throught the forest from South Laggan was on a progressively wet day. I walked with Liz & Alexandra for most of the day. At the top was a deer fence. We were in light cloud as we crossed the ridge and there was some thunder. I did not see any lightning but was glad when we started to descend. We were the highest point in the area- with metal hiking poles and climbing over a 3 meter metal fence! (don’t tell Challenge Control this, it will only make them worry!)
We met several other challengers at River Turret where the plan was to cross the river. This was not possible, due to the heavy rain over the past 2 days, even to the most adventurous challenger.
There was no other option but to climb 300 meters, walk along the ridge and down the other side of the valley. I then continued along River Roy, pass the Falls of Roy, to the bothy at Luib Chollal.
I was now a bit behind schedule. I had a bed booked at the Newtonmore Hostel the following night. Next morning Russell and I left at 7.30 am and walked 40 Km to Newtonmore, getting there after 7pm.
We stopped for a refuel on Ice Cream, tea and home made cookies at the Laggan Stores and Coffee Bothy. It is run by a couple that home school their children. If these children are example of what home schooling can produce then all children should go that route.
The bunkhouse at Newtonmore is run by Sue & Ali and their husbands. After a shower and a cup of tea I had a venison steak and a few pints of ale.
The next day was a slow walk to Ruighiteachain Bothy, stopping at Kingussie, to talk to some Duke of Edinburgh guides who had misplaced their group, and enjoy the many views.
Bothy: A small hut in the hills of Scotland consisting of 1 door and usually 2 windows, a fire place, a table and a few chairs. It is not locked and has no running water or electricity. It is used as a refuge for hill walkers.
We were presented with cups of tea by Lindsey as we arrived. He is the self-appointed custodian of the Bothy. A role he does very well.
We sat around the wood-burning stove talking. I noticed a small 2-burner gas stove that had a grill and oven and thought it unusual but did not dwell on it for too long. There were also several bags on the table.
A Welshman who was riding his mountain bike around Scotland was also present. After tea we went outside and chopped wood for the fire. I was the wheel barrow driver.
Once we had enough firewood we returned and started to prepare dinner. I had lamb stew with potatoes – well that was what was on the package! Lindsey was cooking a more substantial meal on the stove.
The wood stove was burning providing warmth. A kettle was on top keeping water hot. Life is good.
Suddenly the door burst opened and two ladies stumbled in. They sat on the floor with out taking off their packs. The custodian quickly revived them with cups of tea. They were soon smiling again.
Sarah and Laraine were on the challenge. They are two very fit and adventurous ladies. They used the Challenge as a practice for a major event that they have planned. Today they decided to take on the role of explorers and survey some alternate routes to Ruigh-aiteachain. It appears that at least one of these routes went in circles for a long time. But they kept their heads on and found the Bothy.
They quickly joined in the several conversations that were taking place.
Lindsey put on his coat and hat and asked if any one had a Swiss Army Knife. No one from Switzerland was present. He left and soon returned with a bottle of wine. A corkscrew was found and the bottle opened. He brought out wine glasses and apologised that some of us would have to make do with whisky glasses.
Soon after Fiona and Shona walked in. They were on their own mountain bike adventure. One of the bikes broke and they stashed both and continued on foot. They are very resourceful ladies.
At some point the custodian supplied another bottle of wine. Single Malt Whisky and Barbados Rum was also sipped.
The 3 bikers were discussing how to fix the broken bike and decided that a few cable ties would do the job. Lindsey reached into a bag and produced the required cable ties.
When dinner was over, Lindsey asked if any one would like coffee. Not Instant, but we had a choice of Brazil or Blue Mountain.
Some one asked me the time and I said “just after eight”. Our host reached in another bag and produced a box of After Eight Dark Mint dinner chocolates, which he passed around.
Fiona and Shona had ginger wine, which was very good. There was a lot of laughter. Every one was happy and well fed.
As a night-cap Lindsey offered Port. We sat sipping this and enjoying the fellowship that can only occur in events like this.
As it got dark the conversation slowly died. The campers went to their tents and the rest of us rolled out the sleeping bags and had a good nights sleep.
Next morning as I was preparing my oats and Milo I overheard The Custodian ask someone if they wanted their toast made with white or brown bread!
The walk along the Feshie and the Geldie Burn was good with some rain and high wind by the time I camped at White Bridge. Next morning it was a short stroll into Braemar, with a stop at Mar Lodge for tea and cookies.
Braemar was hive of challengers and we made good use of the various restaurants, pubs and pharmacy to get supplies. I camped at the camp site with many others.
After Braemar the route was Balmoral, Ballater and through the Fetteresso Forest to the coast. The last few days were a bit of a anti-climax as compared to the unspoilt country of the first ten. Next time I will have to pay more attention to my route for the final few days to avoid roads, but not the social events!
My last camp was in the Fetteresso Forest with Jeff, Humphrey and Andy. In the morning the camp woke to the smell of Humphrey frying bacon. Orders from the other tents for brown toast and eggs were given but not acknowledged. A fitting last night to a very enjoyable two weeks.
After a short walk, with Andy and Humphrey giving directions, through a maze of new forest tracks to accommodate the wind farm project we were in Stonehaven. These wind farms are a blight on a otherwise beautiful country. It is not only the turbines but the other infrastructure like roads, transmission lines and transformer stations that visually pollute the landscape.
At the end of a long TGO walk what is needed is an ice cream from E. Giulianotti – Stonehaven’s vintage Sweet Shop who make their our own “to die for” artisan ice cream, sorbet and frozen yoghurt.
Some other TGO2015 blogs: