I tried to load a video of Dog Falls on my last posting but Open Live Writer wasn’t playing – I couldn’t even edit that posting.
I tried to embed the video but gave up….for now.
No room at the inn – the Kintail Lodge bunkhouse was fully booked so I put my tent up by the sea shore in front of the hotel. The weather was so wonderfully warm, hot even, that I sunbathed for over an hour, reading the newspaper and listened to wonderful Radio 4 on the radio-type wireless. The alternative was to go into the pub and drink dirty beer.
Denis was travelling up on the late bus due in at around 8pm, leaving me plenty of time to eat, grab a fast pint and catch up with other Challengers. It was particularly good to see Russ Mannion, LegEnd and true gentleman.
An after-hours mess around with the camera & tripod, taken around midnight:
At 9am prompt, we left Shiel Bridge at around 10am in the good company of Tim from Little Lever near Bolton.
Looking back to the west. Part of a convoy carrying enormously long rotor-blades for one of Scotland’s many windfarms. It’s only when you see these blades close-up that you realise just big the actually are.
Denis, Tim & Doctor Oliver
A few minutes after gawping at the ginormous rotor blades and our little party was heading gently eastwards, we came across Doctor Oliver - walking WEST, towards the coast. This would have probably around 10.15am.
Doctor Oliver was on the Challenge and had started from Dornie. Heaven knows how he got from Dornie to Shiel Bridge in that short time – especially considering the 9am start on the first day. Probably best not to ask.
Doctor Oliver was also doing the Cape Wrath Trail. Like I said, probably best not to ask.
Denis had done very little backpacking over the last couple of years so he wanted an easy route, hence the Shiel Bridge start. The Affric-Kintail trail was the most straightforward way of getting to Dromnadrochit on the western shore of Loch Ness, so that dictated our route.
Glen Licht House, a locked bothy in Gleann Lichd
Our first couple of miles was on tarmac, then Land Rover Track…then well-defined footpaths. Glen Lichd House (above) was our lunch stop. It has had some serious renovations carried out in recent times: new roof, lots of pointing etc. It was locked although there’s a small lean-to shelter that offers emergency accommodation.
Crossing the waterfall at Allt Grannda
Denis is was streaking ahead, his snazzy trainers / trail shoes were doing the trick.
Alltbeithe SYHA seemed a sensible destination for the day, not for accommodation but for a nice place to pitch our tents for our first Challenge wild camp. We’d also be fairly sure of meeting more Challengers at the hostel.
We were made very welcome by the hostel’s warden, Hanna. Hanna plied us with tea and wonderful lentil soup served with her own gorgeous bread rolls. So gorgeous were these bread rolls that I asked Hanna for the recipe. Danes are famous for their breads, I’m sure the recipe will work for me.
A jovial evening in the hostel followed, lots of telling of tales & jokes, pleasant conversation and remembering old friends – some of who are sadly no longer with us.
The night was very cold – our tents were ice-covered by 10.30pm. I was glad of my warm clothing.
Next morning, after a decent breakfast of porridge with dried fruit, we bade our farewells to the gathered Challengers and to Hanna, our host.
Challengers preparing to leave Alltbeithe SYHA. Hanna, the warden, is 2nd L.
Denis & Tim
Denis promised a good pitch for the next night, a grassy glade around Affric Lodge. Well it was a grassy glade a few years ago, now it was a lumpy and unwelcoming patch of ground, quite unsuitable for camping. A couple of miles further on, on the north side of Loch Beinn a’ Mheadhoin at NN215241, the site below presented itself:
It was a brilliant pitch, dry, (fairly!) flat, and with a supply of clean water – nothing not to like. Tim’s mate (Andy?) had been ticking off some tops, he joined us around 8pm – quite knackered.
Tim was using a small pack, 38 litres maybe. Amongst other things, he was carrying half a dozen eggs and a bag of onions. Oh, and around 500ml of whisky….which he and Denis proceeded to demolish during the evening. Both Tim and Denis slept quite well that night.
Next morning we set off for Cannich, an easy walk on minor roads. We trundled along merrily, passing the spectacular Dog Falls. I’d seen Dog Falls on the map but had always missed it, simply because of it’s location. I’d been missing a treat, the spectacle of all that water crashing down was breath-taking. I tried to post a video here without success…so here’s a photograph instead:
The pitch for the night was Cannich Campsite, one we’d used on previous Challenges. It offers everything a Challenger needs: a sheltered location, decent showers, laundry facilities, an on-site cafe, and the Slaters Arms around the corner.
L > R: Alan S, Denis, Phil, Croydon, Gerry (hidden behind Croydon) and Rob, after dinner and lots of lovely Cairngorm Trade Winds
Next morning, after a breakfast in the tent followed by a breakfast in the camp-site cafe (a chap needs a couple of breakfasts somethimes) we once again resumed our eastward course.
I’ve twice tried to pick up the Land Rover Track that runs between Cannich and Drumnadrochit, I failed miserably on both occassions. This was because I tried to find the track by going to Bearnock first – a BIG mistake. This time Denis and I just followed the Affric – Kintail Trail footpath signs. We found the track, it was just so easy.
An ice-cream stop was called – given the hot weather this was a good call. We’d just received a text message from Gordon the Boat. Although we’d been booked onto the 5pm crossing of Loch Ness, Gordon wanted us to cross at 4pm. This entailed arriving at Temple Pier at 3.45pm. This was going to be a real rush, especially as we needed to buy supplies in Drum. We’d also promised ourselves a quick pint – but clearly that wasn’t going to happen now.
We raced into town, bought what supplies we could, and legged it to the pier, arriving just after 3.45pm. We were a bit miffed to find that we had to wait until 4.55pm for our crossing. Gordon the Boat had asked everyone to go early, instead of a 4pm sailing he went at 3.30pm. Oh well.
Crossing Loch Ness
Urquhart Castle from Gordon’s boat.
Gordon’s boat is fitted with all manner of electrickery – GPS, echo-sounder / sonar, all to seek out the illusive Nessie. This, I think, conclusively proves that there’s something strange going on in Loch Ness:
Camping at Ault na’ Goire has become something of a tradition. Alex & Janet Sutherland have been looking after Challengers for a good few years now, allowing them to camp in there rather extensive ‘back garden’ and even feeding them. What stars!
A very pleasant evening followed – lots of good conversation, laughs, and enormous helpings of Janet’s dinner. And pudding. And there may have been a few beers damaged in the course of the proceedings.
At (one of) the Sutherland’s dinner tables: L > R: Rob, Croydon, Chris, Mick (why’s he always smiling?) and, er,….I’ve forgotten his name. Whoops.
….and at the other dinner table
One of Alex’s garden sheds
An enormous breakfast provided by Janet slowed our departure even more than usual. It was good that we had a generally easy day ahead.
Denis & Janet….she’s the one on the Right
Bidding a fond farewell to Janet (Alex had already left to cut peat with his mate Gordon, not that Gordon, a different Gordon) we hit the unforgiving tarmac that would take us to Dunmagass Mains where Gayle & Colin were waiting to provide us with yet more refreshment.
We were still enjoying dry and sunny weather, something of a record for me in Scotland. The record broke as we approached Colin. I had moments to drop my pack and wrap it in it’s waterproof cover befor the heavens opened. Luckily they only opened a bit. By the time Colin & Gayle had lavished tea and cake on us the rain had eased considerably.
Donning waterproofs was unavoidable now. We were about to climb up into the Mighty Monadliath and search out Glen Mazeran and our camp spot for the night – the weather could do anything, it was certainly much colder now.
A second lunch was called for at the rebuilt shooting hut at the end of the LRT that follows Allt Mor. We probably stayed for about an hour, enough time to make hot drinks and warming soup. And in my case, a cheese butty too.
The rebuilt shooting hut
Referring back the the video clip earlier in this post, I spotted this skeleton, no doubt preserved for centuries in the peat that’s so common in the area.
Surely this is yet more conclusive evidence of the existence of Nessie, for here were the remains of what is surely a baby Nessie that roamed the high ground above Loch Ness before it had the chance to get to the water. Sad innit?
The top of Glen Mazeran
We’d considered camping fairly high but suitable spots were few and far between. We ended up descending a fair way before we came upon a lovely flat grassy spot adjacent to the LRT. A stream flowed close by, we needed nothing more.
Our pitch in Glen Mazeran, Denis rehydrating with Irn Bru.
The view from my tent
A warm night followed and we both slept well, Denis because of his Irn Bru, me because of a mug of hot chocolate. I know how to live.
A slightly earlier start today. We were up and away by around 9.30am, but not before we had a long chat with the lady shepherd who was patrolling the area in her Land Rover. We’d left no trace of course, consequently we felt quite good that we were demonstrating responsible wild camping to this guardian of the glen.
Off we jolly well went, down to Glen Mazeran Lodge. Challengers are asked to avoid passing in front of the Lodge itself so as not to intrude on the privacy of it’s residents. Not unreasonable of course…..but we made a complete and utter cods of avoiding the building, succeeding in marching right past its grand front. Fortunately there was nobody at home. Actually, whenever I’ve passed the Lodge (previously passing by the rear) there never been anyone at home.
By taking the track we did, the wrong track, we ended up at a locked gate. Good eh? We managed to scale the gate before anyone spotted us – not that were are many folk around to spot us. Following the River Findhorn for a couple of km we then turned south to climb yet again, this time to the top of Carn Dubh, but not before another tea stop and a bite to eat were called for at the Wendy House on the way to the top.
Outside the Wendy Hut
Denis was convinced of the ease of which we’d find our way to Red Bothy. I wasn’t. I was right. The climb to the top was straightforward enough, the difficult bit was to navigate our way to the LRT that would lead us to the bothy. Thick mist made the job more difficult. We aimed for a watercourse which would (should?) take us in the right direction. Eventually we located the watercourse which Denis followed whilst I tried to locate the LRT.
We got separated. Oh dear. The mist got thicker. Oh dear, dear. I was happy in that I’d told Denis to stick to the watercouse – it would deliver him to the bothy. I found the track…..but couldn’t find Denis.
Oh dear, dear, dear.
Anyroadup, there’s another Wendy House on the LRT. When I got there I dropped my kit and set off down the river that I KNEW Denis would be following…..except that he wasn’t. As it happened he’d located the track and was following it. Alls well….etc.
We arrived at Red Bothy at just before 7pm. The were a few folk in the bothy and a few tents pitched in the area – all Challengers I assumed.
Denis was going to camp by the bothy whilst I headed up the Burma Road to Aviemore, arriving at 10pm, a bit tired, hungry and thirsty. A fast (and very good) chicken tikka in Aviemore’s Royal Indian Restaurant sorted the hunger thing. A pint of Deuchars in the Bridge Inn sorted the thirst thing out. A bed in the Bridge Inn bunkhouse sorted the tiredness thing out. Sorted.
A good night’s sleep followed.
And then I went home.
Mary, Denis’s wonderful wife, (both stars of the small screen) delivered us to the end of the Pipe Track, a pleasant route that follows the pipeline that feeds Glasgow with it’s supply of H2O from Loch Katrine.
The pub jukebox was playing ‘Hey Jude’. We craved cold lager, we’d already walked over 50 yards and we were both determined to remain hydrated throughout the walk to come.
We’d earlier had a brief chat with J.D. who just happened to be toddling off to buy his daily newspaper – and maybe a bottle of milk. Or something. He takes hydration seriously too. Obviously.
Then we walked, laughed, chatted, laughed some more…and then we found a distillery. We’d been forbidden from entering but Denis, clearly a closet Boy Scout, was suitably prepared.
An anonymous <koff> Challenger in familiar surroundings
Continuing north we came to a pub. Well it could be considered rude not to…..
Denis chatting with John, another sometime TGO Challenger. I met up with John on last year’s Challenge whilst walking with Beryl on a cold and snowy Lochnagar. John goes ultra-lightweight: his waterproof gloves were Marigolds and his waterproof leg-protection was a sort of skirt made from Sil-Nylon. It worked for him!
One for AlanR
Balmaha, gateway to Loch Lomond (apologies to the late, great Peter Sellers)
We walked as far as Drymen where there was a pub. Denis’s daughter came to meet us and drive us back to Denis’s house – where Mary had prepared a wonderful meal. After a gallon of tea and a damned good chinwag and more laughs it was time for bed. My hosts couldn’t have done more to make me feel at home – my very grateful thanks!
Next morning Mary delivered us back to Drymen where we continued our foray northwards. The pubs were still shut so we just started walking….and recalling our Challenge memories and laughs.
AlanR recently wrote on his blog ‘The good thing about the Challenge is the assistance you get from other challengers’. I think he hit the nail on the head. There’s far more to it of course, but assistance is freely given to those in trouble with no expectation of reward – it’s what happens in the hills of course. The ample reward is the knowledge that you’ve done good.
Denis (with his Irn Bru) at Sallochy Campsite
Sallochy Campsite is run by Forestry Commission Scotland. At a fiver a night it’s a good deal. Although there’s not a shower block, the composting toilet is, er, convenient, and clean water is available.
Evidence of the area’s volcanic past
Brilliant pitch at NN325162, overlooking Loch Lomond
The Cenotaph, Crianlarich
St Fillan Priory Burial Ground, and Kirkton Farm. Ben More (?) in the background
Cooling my overheated feet in the River Ba
Bridge over the River Ba, NN277483
I’d previously received a text message from Gayle asking if I was going to be at Kingshouse – which I was. This was A Good Thing, Mick, Gayle and Colin were also planning to be there. I was delighted to be invited for dinner in Colin. Gayle had conjoured up a rather fine Shepherd’s Pie. It was a bit nice. After dinner we wandered over to the much-maligned Kingshouse (I’ve always experienced good ale and pleasant staff on my previous visits) where quantities of beer (TT Landlord seeing as you asked) may have been consumed.
Before bed I had a mess around with my camera, set on a mini tripod:
Buachaille Etive Mor at 11.30pm
Kingshouse by night
The following morning Mick & Gayle again invited into Colin’s interior – to enjoy an egg & bacon butty washed down withe finest Yorkshire Tea. Thanks for your kindness - I could get used to this!
Clach Leathad (?) from Kingshouse
The view from Colin’s side window
Colin, and if you look carefully you may spot Mick & Gayle lurking in the shade
Pass of Glencoe….Scotchland’s answer to High Cup Nick
En route to Kinlochleven
Arriving in Kinlochleven I toyed with the idea of booking into the bunkhouse – it was blisteringly hot and I was in dire need of a shower. It was also a bit early. After a Co-op lunch of cheese butty, carrot cake and a bottle of something refreshing (non-alcoholic) I decided to press on a bit further.
The LRT running WNW from Kinlochleven passes some superb wild camping spots, I settled on this one:
Perfect pitch just south of Stob Ban
I was able to strip off and have a really good wash down – I hate feeling sticky and mucky when climbing into my sleeping bag. It’s so much nicer feeling clean(ish) and smelling sweet(er).
My new toy, a Caldera Cone
My only reservation with the Caldera Cone was that they’re designed for specific pans – in my case an 850ml MRS Titan. I frequently need to give my rehydrating meals a bit of a nudge (bringing them back to the boil to speed the rehydration process). This shows my MSR pan sitting in the Caldera Cone ‘unlocked’. It worked well although it’s as well to keep an eye on it’s stability – just in case. I’m happy with this arrangement.
Identification challenge for AlanR
Ruin at Tigh-na-sleubhaich
Debris left behind after the forestry had been chopped down and carted off. Worramess.
So that was it, well the first bit of this section anyway. It had been good fun, Denis & Mary were tremendously good fun and wonderful hosts. The weather had been glorious, a bit too glorious sometimes – I frequently had to sit out the hottest part of the days, starting early to avoid the heat and high UV levels.
Pubs on the route were noticably expensive – certainly pricier than other pubs on LDPs that I’ve walked. If you’re interested I suggest that you check out The Rowardennan Hotel and the Bridge of Orchy Hotel and it’s bunkhouse on TripAdvisor, I wish I had.
The End…..of this bit.
Although I should add that I spent the night in Fort Bill’s Bank Street Lodge, an excellent bunkhouse / hostel. I ended up sharing a room with TGO Challenger Keith Leonard (Grandad). He was doing the Challenge with Charles who was also staying at the hostel.
We ate in Fort Bill’s Wetherspoon’s pub, The Great Glen. Unusually for Wetherspoons, the food was awful. The beer was excellent though.
We decided to give the place another chance for breakfast the next morning. No change – the food was still awful.
A very, very nice bunch of outdoorsy-types had issued an invitation to join them on a gentle bimble in the Derbyshire Dales. Well, it might ...