Onward and upward

Well … not quite this upward, but onward for sure.

Roger has given me great feedback on my original route plan, so although it is essentially the same, pretty common route, there are some smart changes and clarifications. It’s a really good walk, I think, taking in some of the highlights of the Scottish hills, but one of the things I’m most looking forward to is meeting and getting to know new and interesting people. (In a way, this blog has already begun that process…I feel as if I’ve already developed a small network of wonderfully generous new friends among those of you who stop by to have a look, comment, or send an email.)

The modified route plan is an even more social one than my original, adding Saturday night at Braemar. I’m a much happier walker when I’m chatting along with someone than I am when I’m slogging away on my own, and I’m a happier camper, as it were, when the conversation can continue over supper and a nip of something warming.

Have a look, and if it looks as if we might cross paths or walk a few miles together, let me know. (The links are primarily for family and other American readers who aren’t steeped in the features of the way.)

Day 1: Inverie to camp near Sourlies Bothy, after a drink or two at The Old Forge.

Day 2: Sourlies Bothy to camp near Kinbreak Bothy, through Glen Dessary and up the path near Glendessary Lodge, along the Alt Na Faine burn. I’m really looking forward to this foray into Knoydart. I hope the weather is good. My one concern about the Challenge is navigating in open country in low visibility, something I’ve simply had little experience with.

Day 3: Kinbreak Bothy to Tomdoun Hotel. I’m shooting for a hotel this early in the walk because Day 3 is always the toughest for me, and I’ll need a comfortable tub in which to bathe in self pity. “Luxury in Wild Splendour” was irresistible.

Day 4: Tomdoun to commercial campground at Fort Augustus by way of the paths through the forest south of Loch Garry, then at Invergarry up the Great Glen Cycle Path to the Caledonian Canal/Great Glen Way. I’m actually looking forward to what others have called an unpleasant slog up the canal. I’ve never seen it, I like looking at locks…and I’ll have a loaded iPod to consult if things get desperate.

Day 5: Fort Augustus to camp at Garva Bridge over the Corrieyairack Pass. A classic crossing, and I’m interested in the history and modern reality of Wade’s road and bridges.

Day 6: Garva Bridge to hotel or commercial campsite at Kingussie by way of a stop for drinks at the Monadhliath Hotel in Laggan, then Phones, the Luibleathann Bothy, and the Milehouse of Nuide (what sort of prig could resist the Milehouse of Nuide?). This is a long-mileage day and sounds to me like partly grind and partly attractive moor walk, with a few cheery pints thrown in at brunch.

Day 7: Kingussie to camp just past the Cairngorm Club Footbridge, by way of Inshriach Forest, Feshiebridge, and Rothiemurchus Forest. A flat, easy day (if I don’t get lost in the woods), heading for tomorrow’s appointment with the Grey Man.

Day 8: Cairngorm Club Footbridge to camp just past Derry Lodge, by way of the Lairig Ghru. Hoping for a good weather forecast from Kingussie on so I don’t need to implement the Foul Weather Alternative through Glen Feshie and miss this classic Scottish walk.

Day 9: A short day from Derry Lodge to the Braemar Youth Hostel, by way of Mar Lodge, Victoria Bridge (“probably the most photographed and most often painted bridge in Scotland”), and the Tomintoul viewpoint overlooking the town. I was going to spend only a few hours in Braemar, then head up the hill to Lochhallater Lodge, but Roger suggests I wouldn’t want to miss the fun on Saturday night, and, of course, he’s right.

(Days 7-9 FWA: From Kingussie through Glen Feshie, to camp past Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy to White Bridge to Braemar if the weather makes the Lairig Ghru iffy.)

Day 10: An even shorter day than yesterday: Braemar to camp near Lochcallater Lodge, a spot and a scene I don’t want to miss.

Day 11: Lochcallater Lodge to bunkhouse at Clova, over Jock’s Road. Hoping I don’t need to implement a second FWA plan.

Day 12: Clova to camp on the sports field at Tarfside. I’m very much looking forward to the “rolling home” social aspect of these last three days.

(Days 11-12 FWA: If the weather makes Jock’s Road too daunting, Lochcallater to Shielin of Mark, by way of Glas Allt Shiel and Spittal of Glenmuick, and on to Tarfside.)

Day 13: Tarfside to Edzell, then on to camp at North Water Bridge. I’m really looking forward to wandering easily down the pretty paths and lanes over the last few days, in company with the many others who will be doing the same thing. As I wrote to Roger, for family nickname reasons, I’m interested in several locations near Edzell: “Tillydovie” (NO 557 695), “Tillytoghills” (626 719), and “Tillyarblet” (521 672). Roger, who clearly knows everything without being a know-it-all, tells me that “Tilly” is an anglicized form of the Gaelic “tulach,” meaning a small hill. So it’s likely these are simply farms or very small clusters that may not even have a sign or nameboard. But if I can figure out a way to borrow a bike at Edzell, I’m hoping to do a quick tour. Or maybe I’ll take a taxi back out from Montrose.

Day 14: North Water Bridge to St. Cyrus (celebratory Nuide dip in the North Sea?), and bus to party and camp at Montrose.


Onward and upward — 4 Comments

  1. Hi Mark
    We’ve just reviewed your route and it should be challenging and satisfying. We have done much of it in past years (not all at once!). It seems we will not be likely to cross paths- we will be in Braemar and Tarfside though not on the same days as you- but will surely catch up with you at the festivities in Montrose.
    We have enjoyed your blog…
    All the best
    Lou and Phyllis

  2. Afternoon!

    A splendid jaunt – one or two of the days look to be quite long, but certainly ‘do-able’ with an early start and a sustaining lunchtime snifter.

    Lord Elpus and I will be following your alcohol intake closely to ensure you don’t over imbibe from Braemar onwards. We could help you with the stuff you can’t manage.

    Looking forward to bumping into you!

  3. Nallo Lady and I should catch you up at Tarfside, unless you start from Lochcallater Lodge after our 9.30 ‘caramel shortbresd’ stop there!
    Have a great crossing – it looks an excellent route.

  4. Hi Mark,

    It looks like we should bump into each other frequently, as our routes are virtually identical (even the FWAs), although I will be taking a rest day on Sunday in Braemar before tackling Jock’s Road. I’m a Challenge first-timer too, so perhaps we have been drawn to a classic route and guided by the kind advice of similar vetters. Not long until we meet on the boat from Mallaig! Best regards, Jules E

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