Days 1 to 3 can be found here.
Days 4 to 6 can be found here.
Days 7 to 9 can be found here.
Days 10 & 11 can be found here.
Day 12 – 14 kilometres with 220 metres ascent
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It was the coldest night of the Challenge. I woke at first light and tried to unzip the fly which was a solid sheet of ice. The rain the previous evening had frozen and I was treated to an icy shower as I brushed against the Scarp. I went back to sleep for a few hours until the sun had risen over the hills and warmth filled my tent.
The Water of Unich was followed downstream for a bit before I crossed it and picked up a track that led up and over Carn Lick (I couldn’t find a cairn to lick).
The Shank of Inchgrundle is a great name for a very scenic ridge walk down towards Loch lee. The views along the Loch and up the Water of Lee to Mount Keen were splendid. The following two days would be across farmed glen, intensively managed grouse moor and country lanes towards the coast. I took the opportunity to savour the hills whilst I could.
The walk along the Loch is via a well used landrover track. I stopped often and sat on various rocks in the sun, avoiding leaving the hills behind.
Just past the castle and at the beginning of the public road I spotted Louise approaching from Glen Mark. After a couple of days on my own it was great to receive a warm hug and see a smiling face and we talked of our adventures as we walked together to Tarfside. The hill path that skirts to the north of the Hill of Rowan is a much better alternative to walking the road, although I have never been tempted to climb the small hill with the big monument.
We both made a beeline straight for St Drostans Hostel, an oasis of Challenger hospitality along with food and drink. The big kitchen table was crowded with other Challengers and it was great to catch up with others after a crossing mostly undertaken in solitude. I was offered a bed for the night in the hostel and jumped at the chance of a room all to myself. Louise was offered a room with a young handsome Canadian chap as they were mistaken as a couple (I think Louise was flattered). She then managed to draw the attention of the obligatory weird and sexist Challenger………
I sorted out my room and then sat in the lounge for a while to drink beer and be sociable with various folk who I knew through blogs and Twitter, but had not met in real life. Chrissie was on a grand tour of Scotland and had come to Tarfside to meet me and sample the social side of the Challenge. I wandered with Robin down to her van which was parked up next to the village green where we passed another sociable couple of hours drinking coffee and eating cake. I had booked dinner at the hostel so walked back to fill myself with Carbs. A night in the Mason’s arms with plenty of beer saw me heading back to my bed in the dark a little ‘dehydrated’.
Day 13 – 22 kilometres with 520 metres ascent
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A mixture of alcohol coursing through my veins, a hot room and numerous people who can’t close a door without slamming it meant that I slept badly. Coffee and an egg cob settled my grumbling stomach and I headed off to walk the road to the Retreat with Louise. A mile later and we were stopping for breakfast number two before continuing along the road to Edzell. We said our farewells after a few more miles as Louise crossed the river to walk along the south bank of the Esk. I continued a bit further before taking the track that heads up to the moorland summit of Craigancash.
On the horizon above I could make out Alan Sloman and Phil and I did my best to try to catch them up. The views to the west were lovely but the hills around me were covered in tracks leading in all directions, the heather scarred with a patchwork of Muirburn. This part of Scotland is an intensively farmed monoculture used for the raising and shooting of grouse.
On the climb I was aware of a figure watching me, the strange thing being that it did not move at all. This became more unnerving as I got closer. A man in a blue boiler suit and red hat remained motionless in front of me, it was only at the last moment that I realised that it was a mannequin. It was pretty obvious but I really had not expected to see a shop dummy with a wooden pole shoved up its trouser leg on a Scottish hillside. The fact that its mouth was taped made it all the more creepy.
I found Alan and Phil just finishing their lunch as I stopped for mine, so I was left alone to watch them grope another dummy of non specific gender that was hanging out further up the track. The coastal plains were far below my feet, green and yellow fields stretching to the sea which still looked a long way away. It was good to see it glinting on the horizon though, I was nearly at journey’s end.
Passing the dummy I could not help noticing that it was not suitably dressed for the hills, remember folks cotton kills.
Progress was halted by a tall deer fence which fortunately was not electrified. It was a bit of a precarious climb to get over it though. It would be pretty much impossible with a dog, so perhaps not the best area to return with Reuben.
I caught up with Alan and Phil in a brand new shooting hut complete with comfy chairs and a functioning gas cooker. I soon left them to it as I was keen to get into Fettercairn and the hotel that I had booked for the night. It was a long descent down Herd Hill and through the Wood of Mon Duff. The final walk along tarmac left me feeling foot sore.
The Ramsey Arms was a real gem, by far the best place I have stayed in in Scotland. Friendly staff, bags of character and comfy rooms. Chrissie had motored over in the afternoon and parked up the van in the village. I was too tired to be sociable so headed straight to my room for a well needed shower and to rinse my filthy socks. It was a sociable evening in the bar though with Chrissie, Alan, Phil and another couple of Challengers whose names I have already forgotten. As well as Guinness they served up huge portions of excellent food. I wholly recommend the Ramsey Arms for food and lodgings and a final nights treat on the TGO Challenge.
Day 14 – 23 kilometres with 180 metres ascent
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The last day of walking was not one I had been particularly looking forward to. Twenty three kilometres along tarmac is not really my idea of fun. After a decent breakfast I went and said good morning to Chrissie and the brown Lab Tilly and arranged for the van to become a mobile tea van around lunch time.
I headed off under leaden skies, a light rain falling for the long trudge to the east coast. Initially there was a nice path through beech trees but this soon deserted me and it was tarmac all the way. The crossing of the A90, which is a dual carriageway was a bit hair raising and I was glad to get across in one piece. Chrissie met me just to the north of the Hill of Garvock where I fortified myself with coffee, sandwiches and cookies. The timing was perfect as the rain got heavier whilst I was in the van.
The walk from there into Inverbervie passed without too much excitement, the towering turbines of a wind farm being a bit overwhelming at one point. I could not believe just how noisy they were even from a mile away.
Inverbervie itself is a pleasant place to finish, a functional Scottish seaside town. I met Chrissie and Tilly for a celebratory dip of my toe in the sea. I had decided the day before that I could not face the Challenge meal in Montrose. I really did not fancy camping at the busy Montrose campsite (not particularly pleasant) and all accommodation in the town had been booked up. Instead I secured a cheap room at the Star Inn in Inverbervie which was actually very pleasant and excellent value for money. I met Chrissie that evening at the Bervie Chippy for a celebratory meal. A pleasantly understated way to finish my third TGO Challenge.