Posts tagged ‘coast to coast’

March 17, 2013

The TGO Challenge 2013 – route shakedown

by backpackingbongos

I found planning this years challenge much easier than in 2011.  This is because there are a few areas which I am keen to walk though.  These being Knoydart, the Monadhliath mountains and the Moine Mhor.  I also fancied taking in Braemar on this years route.  Thankfully all of these places pretty much sit on a straight line if you place a ruler across a map of the Highlands.  I’m not adverse to making the route as short as possible!

As on the last Challenge I broke my route down into four separate backpacks, transport corridors make this easy to do.  This makes the task less daunting as you only need to plan three or four days at a time.  There are then natural breaks and places to restock supplies, meaning that no more than four days food needs to be carried at any one time.  I also like to have a nice warm and dry b&b waiting for me after three of four days in the wilds!

I have been a bit more ambitious this year with regards to my ‘main’ route, it goes much higher and crosses more hills.  If all goes well I will climb nine Munros and one Corbett over the two weeks.  There will be the choice however if tired or the weather is bad to stick to the glens on my foul weather route.  Overall my daily mileage is around 20 to 25 kilometres, the longest being on the third day at 28 kilometres.

So what is the route like in more detail?

(You can click on the maps to make them bigger).

Part one – 73 Kilometres (45 miles) over three days

Part 1

This years crossing will start with the ferry from Mallaig to Inverie in Knoydart.  If the weather is good I am then looking forward to ascending the Munro Luinne Bheinn and the Corbett Sgurr a Choire-bheithe, followed by the roller coaster ridge of Druim Chosaidh.  I have my fingers crossed for a high level camp somewhere along the ridge.   I then have two long but low-level days to get to Invergarry taking in Glen Quoich, the River Loyne and the forests of Glen Garry.

Part two – 58 Kilometres (36 miles) over three days

Part 2

Crossing the Monadhliath is something that I am looking forward to immensely.  The first day will see a moorland bash to Blackburn bothy before dropping down to the secretive Glen Tarff.  This is a spot that has been on my ‘must visit’ list for years now.  I will then cross a vast high plateau, right through the middle of the proposed Stronelairg wind farm.  I then find myself on a worryingly featureless section to try to find a camp near the headwaters of the Abhainn Cro Chlach.  A truly wild and remote section.  Finally I head to Kingussie via a high watershed, taking in the Munro of Carn Sgulain.

Part three – 58 Kilometres (36 miles) over three days

Part 3

After the fleshpots of Kingussie a gentle walk will take me to the Ruigh-aiteachain bothy located in the wonderful Glen Feshie.  The Moine Mhor is also on my ‘must visit’ list and I am hoping for clear weather to cross the clutch of Munros surrounding this high mossy plateau.  I’m hoping to camp up there which could be the high point of my crossing.  After dropping down to the Dee there should be an easy stroll to Braemar via Mar Lodge.  Saturday in Braemar should see the place full of unwashed backpackers.

Part four – 90 Kilometres (56 miles) over five days

Part 4

Leaving Braemar suitably refreshed I’ll sneak past Loch Callater lodge to enable myself to keep a clear head for the ascent onto the White Mounth plateau.  A spot of Munro bagging will take me to the Spittal of Glenmuick followed by another climb up to the Shielin of Mark bothy.  Then there will be a stroll down Glen Lee to camp with a mass of other Challengers at Tarfside.  In order to keep to the hills to the very last minute I’ll head to Edzell via the Hill of Wirren.  This will then leave a tarmac plod to the coast at St Cyrus via North Water Bridge.

I have to say that I’m rather looking forward to it!

November 21, 2009


by backpackingbongos

Last June I did a three day backpack with Rae, camping at Angle tarn on the second night.  It had been a pretty miserable evening and night with low cloud and a constant drizzly rain.  Packing up the following morning and setting off towards Patterdale we bumped into Iain Crockart, his wife Lou and dog Ned.  They were walking Wainwrights Coast to Coast, with Iain taking photographic portraits of those met along the way.  Each walker was asked to hold an empty white picture frame and close their eyes whilst the photo was taken.  It was requested that the precise quiet moment be savoured and remembered.

When Iain had completed his walk he sent each person a copy of their portrait to which they would add a set amount of words.  I have included a few here (click to enlarge):

I received my copy of the book a few weeks ago and there are some great personal accounts of the Coast to Coast walk and the challenges that it offers.

A copy of the book can be purchased at cost here.

October 13, 2009

Across Scotland in a week

by backpackingbongos

In April this year I had a fantastic week with Rich crossing Scotland coast to coast from Evanton to Ullapool.  A leisurely 60 miles in 6 days passing through one of the remotest parts of the UK.  A route that was a couple of years in the making, constantly returning to maps and picking out tracks and bothies to help with progress through this wild area.  Therefore I feel rather proud that a fellow blogger recently undertook the same journey and it looks like he too had a splendid time.  You should definitely check out his blog:

A little bit about not alot

Marcus is currently on day two of his write up and I am following it with anticipation.  Already he is half a day ahead of Rich and myself on the second day and I am looking forward to see how the rest of the trip went.  I hope that his and my trip reports inspire more people who would like to do a Scottish coast to coast but don’t have a full two weeks to give this route a go.  If you missed my write up here are the links:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

I am forever planning my next big trip and I plan to do another week long coast to coast late next April.  I really fancy following in the footsteps of Cameron McNeish and doing the Sutherland trail, which is sort of a coast to coast (west to north!).  Or I have my eyes on the map again and have spotted another possible east to west crossing, this time much further north, across the Flow country of Caithness and into Sutherland.  I am sure I can twist Rich’s arm again………………………….

September 3, 2009

It’s TGO Challenge time!

by backpackingbongos

My digital copy of TGO arrived in my inbox yesterday, inside is the application form for next years Challenge.  The TGO challenge is something that I have wanted to complete for years now.  After a couple of years not making the draw for places I got a place on the 2001 challenge and excitedly prepared my route.  Unfortunately this was the year of the foot and mouth outbreak and there was a danger of the challenge being cancelled.  Luckily it was not, but due to restrictions on the west coast the challenge started in Aviemore.  I completed the crossing to St Cyrus in eight days and got a good sample of this special event.

I was also successful in the draw for the 2003 challenge, but alas did not make it past day four.  It all started well at Lochailort and I had a great wild wet day crossing to Oban bothy.  The weather remained horrendous and I can remember the short distance over to Glen Pean bothy taking all day, most of this in sandals as there was water everywhere.  I got further behind the following day and tried to make up for it on day four with a 19 mile push, which in bad weather broke me physically and psychologically – I went home the next day!  My route was too testing and I did not meet many other challengers, hopefully this experience will help me with future planning.

So fingers crossed in 2010 it will be third time lucky for a full crossing.  My Evanton to Ullapool backpack in April gave me a small taste of a walk across the Highlands and I can’t wait to get back up there.

May 2, 2009

A Scottish coast to coast – Evanton to Ullapool pt4

by backpackingbongos

Day 5 (23rd April) – 7 miles with 240m ascent

When I awoke this morning and went outside the bothy, I spotted Richard paddling across the far end of the loch mug in hand.  I am not a morning person so I went back inside to make a coffee, then sat outside the bothy to take in the scenery.  Todays walk was very easy so there was no rush this morning and we pottered around the bothy for a few hours before setting off just before midday.  Today would be slackpacking rather than backpacking!

We followed the track alongside the Corriemulzie river with great views back towards the mountains with Creag an Duine dominating the surrounding peaks.


The track was very easy going and we made fast progress, crossing the ford without any difficulty.  We then took a shortcut up the hill side across rough ground to pick up a higher parallel track that eventually leads to Glen Douchary.  A narrow path branches off of this and heads towards Ullapool with the only sign post we had seen in the hills on the whole trip.  It was good to see that our final destination was in sight.


A narrow but well defined path made a change to the landrover tracks that you now find in the mountains.  Fast progress without spoiling the wild landscape we love so much.  Landrover tracks seem to be eating into the wilderness these days making the wild places ever more accessible.

Just before dropping down into the next valley I turned around to take in a last close up view of the high peaks.  From now on the mountains would be behind us, although the lower hills would be just as wild.


The narrow path disappearing in places stuck high above the Allt nan Caorach, a hidden scenic gem amongst the barren hills.



There was a great looking wild camping spot at the head of the valley but we had only been walking for a couple of hours.  There is then a very long narrow lochan along most of its length which I imagine does not get much sunlight.  Before dropping down to the shores of Loch an Daimh we had a good glimpse of Glen Achall which would be our final route to the coast tomorrow.


There was a grassy spot at the end of the loch and we sat for a while to eat some food and see who could skim stones the furthest across its surface.


There is a vague path that follows the shore of the loch for half of its length which eventually joins up with the main track from Glen Achall.  Whilst walking alongside the loch a jet plane flew silently up the loch towards us seemingly only a few feet above the water.  It was only when it passed overhead that the roar from its engines hit us, instinctively making us duck.  Our ears were ringing for a while afterwards.   We soon spotted the chimney of Knockdamph bothy in the distance and a short while later we rounded a corner and there is was.



It was only just gone 3.00pm and we had finished walking for the day.  We had thought about spending the last night wild camping but the weather forecast (kindly supplied by text by my partner) was for rain tonight and the morning.  I did not fancy a damp night so decided to stay in the bothy.  Richard fancied camping so tried to put his tent up outside but the ground was too hard to get pegs in.  A lazy afternoon and evening spent reading and strolling around the bothy, soaking up the atmosphere of its wild location.  Most comments in the bothy book were from people walking the Cape Wrath trail from Fort William, something I would love to do one day.  As with the other two bothies we had visited on this trip, Knockdamph was very clean and well cared for.  Its sad these days that you have to really get away from roads for bothies to be properly respected by visitors.  Not one of the 3 bothies we visited had even a scrap of rubbish and there was always dry fuel left for the next visitor.  I have visited many bothies on my travels and it always surprises me that people would visit beautiful places, leave piles of rubbish and have a shit right next to the bothy (and reading some reports in bothy books actually inside it) without burying it.  Anyway rant over!

Knockdamph has an upstairs bedroom with beds and mattresses which was quite bizarre, not that I fancied sleeping on a musty old mattress.  For some reason it made that room feel a little spooky, what with its ancient newspapers lining the ceiling.  We decided on the floor downstairs instead.



Map of route (click to enlarge)


Day 6 (24th April) – 12.2 miles with 300m ascent

We had just over 12 miles to walk today before catching a bus from Ullapool to Evanton at 4.30pm.  Not knowing how long it would take we decided on a early start.

We emerged from the bothy just after 8.00am into a cloudy and drizzly world with clouds covering the hills, weather that had been thankfully absent during the last week.  It was very mild and after only 30 minutes walking we had to stop and take off waterproof trousers as we were getting wetter through sweat than we would through the very fine rain.  Within a short space of time our track was descending into Glen Achall where spring had definitely sprung.


The route ahead now was very easy and ground was covered quickly along a well surfaced track.  It was such a contrast after the last few days to be walking through a green low level valley.  The drizzle became patchier and the skies tried to brighten up.



We were soon reaching Rhidorroch house halfway along Loch Achall where we hit our first bit of tarmac for 5 days.  We also passed our first hiker in 5 days but our greetings were totally ignored, welcome back to the real world!  We consoled ourselves by a quick rest by the loch to skim a few more stones.


Unaccustomed to traffic we jumped out of our skins when a vehicle approached us from behind further down the road.  The final couple of miles of the route were alongside the Ullapool river hidden in a wooded valley between low hills.


A large noisy quarry welcomed us to the outskirts of Ullapool and our rumbling stomachs pulled us across the A835 and along the coastal road into the village.  We had managed to cover the 12 miles by 1.00pm which would hopefully mean a chippy would be open.  It was and we satisfied our appetites before heading down to the beach near the pier to dip our toes into the sea.



Although it was a short route we were pleased to have made it across and to have been self sufficient for six days.  I had left the pebble collected from the coast near Evanton in the van.  Richard had carried his across and he left it on the beach, lets hope an east coast pebble left on the west coast does not upset the balance of nature!

After a few hours of kicking our heels in Ullapool we got on a bus and probably stunk it out, six days in the hills does have a downside!  Just over 2 hours later we were back where we had started…………………………….

Map of the route (click to enlarge)