About this blog

Just having a bit of fun here, posting about walks and other stuff. I need to get out more.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

TGO Challenge 2011 Trip Report. Acharacle to Stonehaven.

Due to an act of stupidity I have managed to delete a blogpost on the 2011 Challenge after weeks of struggling to put together an interesting and entertaining trip report.
If truth be told, it was neither of the above, which is probably why it had taken so long.
Far too much detail of wet and windy days, miserable recollections of hill days missed, mourning the loss of a mobile phone and generally loosing the will to live.
So, rather than put myself (and any readers) through the pain of  it all over again, I have decided to just tell the story of the walk in bullet point fashion with lots of photographs, instead of boring and not very well written text.
So here goes...

The journey to my sign out point at Acharacle involved 2 trains, 2 ferry's, 2 buses and an overnight stop in Tobermory with fellow Challenger, Caburn (Caburns website) .
I took the 12.20 Glasgow to Oban train and hopped on a ferry over to Mull
Leaving Oban on the ferry to Mull
Tobermory was great, enjoyed award winning fish and chips on the sea front and a few pints of local ale with Caburn before turning in for the night. Me in a B&B and Caburn in one of his famous stealth camps beside the sea.
We met up again the following morning for a lovely early morning ferry ride from Tobermory back to the mainland at Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular.
View from Tobermory ferry terminal
A bus operated by Shiel Buses (Link to Shiel Buses website) awaits the ferry and transferred Caburn to Acharacle, whilst I got off at Laga Bay where I would start my Coast to Coast walk.

Day 1
Laga Bay to Resipole Campsite

View from Laga Bay
Headed straight up to Ben Laga, a rugged little hill with stunning views all around.

Looking West from Ben Laga
Followed an old drove road from Loch Laga to eventually sign out in Acharacle at 1pm.
Walked along the road to Salen where I enjoyed a lazy lunch at the Salen Hotel, (Salen Hotel link) before strolling along the road to the campsite at Resipole.

Distance 21km Ascent 780m

Day 2
Resipole Campsite to Glen Scaddle

It was raining when I packed up, so followed my FWA along the road to Strontian, calling in at the Nature hide overlooking Garbh Eilean on the way.

Garbh Eilean observation hide
Following lunch in the cafe at Strontian, I walked through the beautiful Ariundle Oak woods.
The weather was holding off for now so I decided to take in the Corbett, Sgurr Dhomhnuill which is the highest point in the area.
Looking towards Glen Gour from the ridge to Sgurr Dhomhnuill
Approaching Sgurr Dhomhnuill
The Ardgour Hills
Taking shelter at the summit of Sgurr Dhomhnuill
In Glenn Scaddle chased along by frequent squally showers
Camp by the River Scaddle
Distance 30km Ascent 1250m

Day 3
Glen Scaddle to Corran Bunkhouse

Rained most of the night and was continuing to do so as I left my campsite.The river level had risen quite considerably and the walk to meet the A861 was a boggy affair.
Swollen River Scaddle
Called in for lunch at the Inn at Ardgour to try to dry out my phone, which I had, in another act of stupidity (there's a trend developing), dropped in a puddle beside the road.
Caught the ferry across the Corran Narrows and decided to end the day here at the bunkhouse, which I recommend. (Corran Bunkhouse)
Distance 14km Ascent 150m

Day 4
Corran Bunkhouse to Kinlochleven
Pissed it down all day. Took the kop-out option and walked to Kinlochleven along the road. Today was not a highlight of the walk.
Stayed in the Blackwater Hostel, which is OK I suppose.

Sheltered bay on Loch Leven
Distance 21km Ascent 490m

Day 5
Kinlochleven to Loch Ossian

Gave up hopes of the Mamores when I saw the low cloud and instead walked to Blackwater Reservoir where I picked up the path to Loch Chiarain and had lunch in the splendid bothy there.
The afternoon walk was via Loch Treig and Corrour Station (Venison Burger and strong ale) to Loch Ossian.
Camped about halfway along the North side of the Loch sheltered in the trees.
Blackwater Dam
Loch Ossian camp
Distance 30km Ascent 850m

Day 6
Loch Ossian to Dalwhinney

Rain and strong winds virtually all night, lazy start hoping in vain that conditions would ease.
Trudged past the Shooting Lodge and picked up and then lost the path beside the Uisge Labhair. Eventually I came upon a blue Karrimore tent flapping in the wind beside the river. The inhabitant of the tent was none other than Mike "the pie man" Knipe, who was taking a year off from the Challenge having completed his 10th crossing the previous year. Mike just couldn't stay away though and was hunkered down here offering hot drinks to any passing Challengers. Very welcome it was too, as was the conversation and usual humour offered up by master blogger Mike. (Mike Knipes Blog)
Whilst chatting to Mike, it stopped raining and the sun briefly made an appearance, short lived though and the rain would soon return with a vengeance as I pushed on up and over the Bealach Dubh to Culra bothy for a late lunch. Tempted to stay the night here but decided to push on to Dalwhinney to see if I could catch up with other Challengers.
Water Water Everywhere

Bealach Dubh
Ben Alder
Arrived at the filling station in Dalwhinney, soaked through and knackered. I was met by half a dozen Challengers, some of whom I knew, including Skippy, Terry Leyland and my Tobermory buddy, Caburn. They had hatched a plan for a night out in Newtonmore as Dalwhinney has nothing to offer in terms of nightlife since the Hotel closed down a couple of years ago.
I had half an hour to pitch the tent as a mini bus had been booked to transfer us all to Newtonmore for a meet up with the Challengers staying there.
A great night ensued in the Glen Hotel (The Glen Hotel, Newtonmore) where I met friends old and new.
Newtonmore Gathering
Distance 33km Ascent 720m

Day 7
Dalwhinney to Glen Feshie

Slept like a baby and was last to pack up and leave the campsite behind the hotel.
Spurred on by the first blue sky since day 2, I made good progress on the track to Loch Cuaich, following a brief rest I decided to take in Meall Chuaich, my first Munro of the trip.
Forded the River Tromie which was knee deep and freezing cold then picked up the familiar route over to Glen Feshie. Another River crossing over the Feshie ended a good day's walking.
Camped by the bothy as I have done on 2 previous Challenges.

Rest stop at the locked bothy
A Munro at last!
Lochan an t-Sluic
Distance  30km Ascent 1100m

Day 8
Glen Feshie to Linn of Dee

It rained in the night, and above about 600m it snowed in the night.
Stayed in the tent hoping the rain would ease, which on this occasion it did.
Decided to head up on to the Glen Feshie hills and see how conditions were up there. If it was bad I could always come back down the way I went up as I was now ahead of schedule so no need to rush.
Beautiful Glen Feshie.

The Eastern Cairngorms from Mullach Clach a' Bhlair

On Moine Mhor before the cloud blew in and snow started falling

Bail out descent via the River Eidart.

Geldie burn, bright but breezy
Nice pitch in the trees just short of Linn of Dee
A tough but very enjoyable day.

Distance 36km Ascent 900m

Day 9
Linn of Dee to Braemar Campsite

Early start, walked through the grounds of Mar Lodge to join the road into Braemar, where a full Scottish breakfast had my name on it.
Ambled up to the campsite and booked a pitch for 2 nights.

The River Dee from Victoria Bridge
The rest of the day is a bit sketchy but went something like this....
  • Shower
  • Washing clothes
  • Sleep
  • Hungry Highlander
  • Fife Arms
  • Socialising
  • Moorfield Hotel
  • More socialising
  • Bingo Wings
  • Pissed as a fart.
  • Stagger back to campsite in the rain.
For all the solitude that the Challenge offers, you just can't beat a good old Saturday night Challenge knees up in Braemar.

Distance 12km Ascent 200m

Day 10
Braemar Campsite to...Braemar Campsite

Woke up feeling rather sprightly...considering.
The weather forecast for the next couple of days was pretty awful, threatening very high winds and yet more rain, so I decided to make the best of the calm before the storm and bagged the Corbett, Morven, which stands proud over this part of Deeside.
A good decision as I enjoved a nice mornings walk ,with great views all around.

Looking down to Braemar

Loch Callater and the Lochnagar Hills

Looking back over the landscape I had walked through

Had a short nap back at the tent and then joined the rather more refined Sunday crowd in the Fife for a bit more socialising.

Distance 13.5km Ascent 600m

Day 11
Braemar Campsite to Ballater

The day of the storm.
I was off route at this stage and the only option I had was a low level walk to Ballater where I had pre-booked accomodation at Habitat Hostel, a parcel and replacement mobile phone were waiting for me there.
The camp ground was all but deserted when I set off walking with David, first time challenger and fellow Yokshireman.
We walked together as far as Connachat Cottage in pretty poor weather, where David left me to head on towards Gelder Shiel.
The wind was really picking up now and the walk was a pretty dire affair, apart from seeing Roe Deer and Red Squirrels in the Balmoral Forest.
Arrived in Ballater mid afternoon with the storm in full force. Two large trees had blown down on the campsite, and the site was closed on safety grounds. Challengers intending to pitch there had been accommodated in a utility room behind the camp site reception, hotel rooms and B&B's in the town were full to bursting as Challenge walkers abandoned high level routes and re-routed into Ballater seeking shelter from the storm.

Distance 29km Ascent 400m

Day 12
Ballater to Feughside Inn

Last night in the pub, I decided I'd had enough of the rough stuff and hatched a plan to walk to the coast in  two days, staying low level.
There was interest from some other Challengers and it turned out that I would walk the final two days as part of a group.
Following breakfast, I set off on the cycle route out of Ballater along with David Poole, Ray Johnson. John Enoch and Dave Wishart.

Challengers on the cycle track to Aboyne

Welcome pint in Aboyne with Ray Johnson, Judith Barnes Dave Wishart, Dave Poole and John Enoch

Crossing the Dee
It was great to walk in company, and the miles passed by quickly with good humour and conversation. We eventually crossed the Dee at Aboyne and followed a B road to the campsite behind the Feughside Inn.
Enjoyed a meal and a few pints in the pub and met a few other Challengers in there.

Distance 33km Ascent 300m

Day 13
Feughside Inn  to Stonehaven

We left the campsite at about 08.30 for another long walk out to the East coast, which took us through the village of Strachan to pick up a track through the Fetteresso Forest.
Some dubious group navigation involving 2 maps and various GPS devices eventually saw us emerge from the Forest at Mergie for the final few miles of lane walking to Stonehaven.
We stopped of at a tea room in the garden centre just outside town to meet up with Dave Skipp who had waited for us to arrive so that he could finish his 10th Challenge with us on Stonehaven Beach.
Time for the usual celebrations, involving handshakes, back slapping and a bottle of whiskey on the beach.
Once the contents of the bottle had been consumed, we walked through town to the campsite and pitched our tents.

On Stonehaven Beach
Distance 31km Ascent 500m

And there you have it...Another Challenge completed, my 5th and by far the toughest in terms of the weather conditions.
It was a walk of two contrasting half's with the first week spent almost entirely walking alone in pretty  dreadful weather and the second week being a much more sociable affair culminating in a great final couple of days walking with friends to the beach at Stonehaven.


  1. In the circumstance (ie jolly crap weather) you didn't do too badly, eh Dave? More a social walk once Braemar reached (mine's always a social after Braemar!)

    Some nice pictures in there too. Cheers, Dave.

  2. The social aspect of the Challenge transformed what had been a pretty miserable experience into something that I can now look back on with good memories rather than bad. Part of the beauty of the event is that you can drop in or out of the sociable side as the mood takes you. Not the grand, high level route I had planned but there's always next time for that....or the time after that.

  3. My problem with Braemar is that I get so sociable I have difficulty standing up!

    I describe the Challenge as a solitary social event.

    A nice report Dave - see you next year (if we're lucky)?


  4. A very good description John.
    Thanks for the nice comments, and you too Alan.
    I plan on taking a year off next year, but hope to be back in 2013.

  5. Hello Dave, thanks for posting this, I enjoyed reading it, good photos.
    David from Huddersfield

  6. Hi Dave, good to hear from you!
    Glad you liked the report and photos.
    The walk out from Braemar was pretty miserable wasn't it?
    I felt sorry for the first timers last year, the weather is not always that bad during the Challenge...honest.
    Hope it's not put you off and that you have applied again for next year?

  7. Aye, the walk out from Braemar was pretty miserable, though the going did get better through the Ballochbuie Forest after Invercauld Bridge I remember.
    The weather certainly hasn't put me off and my application for 2012 is in, only 7 weeks or so to wait to find out whether I make it in the draw, not that I'm counting the days (think I'm becoming a TGO Challenge addict!)

  8. Nice one Dave, I had a feeling you would be back... good luck with the application and the route planning, see you on TGOC 2013!

  9. Enjoyed the read and the photos. Hoping to be on the 2012 TGOC