Reading Alan Slomans blog
a while ago, he put out an invitation to join his TGO team of Phil Lambert
and Andrew Walker
for a cheese and wine evening during the event.
This stayed in my mind when we planned a short break up to Blair Atholl.
I mentioned to Sheila that a few challengers were meeting up for a cheese and wine party but I had forgot to mention that to get to the venue meant a 17km walk in. So when she saw the backpacking tent going into the boot as well as our base camp tent there was a perplexed look on her face.
There was an even stranger look when 2 backpacking rucksacks also went in.
I had to come clean, but it was OK, she thought it would be great.
The venue was just a 6 figure OS grid reference. This turned out to be at the bottom of Glen Tromie on the Minigaig track.
So the day arrived for our little adventure. We set off hoping to get breakfast on route, in Kingussie. What a disappointment, nothing opens until around 10.00 am. It was only 8.30am.
We walked up and down asking folk if there was any place to get a coffee. The question brought on a few laughs and a resounding "no".
I had an idea that maybe one of the hotels would do us a breakfast and so went in to the Star hotel and rang the bell, and again and again, but nobody came to reception.
A 3rd person came in, also with the same idea, but to no avail, nobody came to answer the call, we all walked away disappointed.
We knew the grill in Newtonmoor would be open so we headed there. Just as we drove passed the hostel, Betty's tearoom had an open sign on the door.
Entering the shop we were greeted with "are you the last two,because your late". We had no idea what she meant and so we just agreed. It turned out that she opened especially for challengers this morning, early, and 2 people had not turned up. Anyway we got a lovely breakfast and we explained that we were not with the party who prearranged breakfast. Thanks to Betty's.
So, onto a parking spot where we could leave the car overnight. I had one in mind, passed the Barracks at Ruthven and close to Glen Tromie. I thought it best to tell the local constabulary what I was doing but the Police Station was deserted. Probably all having breakfast in the Star Hotel. Ha.
We parked up and I called at the farmhouse opposite just to let someone know the car had not been dumped or stolen. Nobody home.
Then our luck changed when a lady pulled up on a quad bike. We asked if it would be OK to leave the car, she said it would, and invited us in for a cup of tea. We had to get going and so we declined a lovely offer from a complete stranger. How kind.
The barracks were erected on a hill top which is supposed to be a remnant of the ice age. Built in 1719 after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, it wasn’t finished until 1721. Much longer build than planned. (Nothing has changed much with builders , has it? Or is it the planners fault)
This wasn’t the first castle recorded here. The 1st being in 1229 and destroyed in 1451. It was rebuilt again in 1459.
It was badly damaged by Viscount Dundee during the first Jacobite uprising in 1689. Viscount Dundee is buried at Blair Atholl old Kirk.
120 troops were barracked in 2 separate blocks and had to do all their own cooking. In 1745, 200 Jacobites tried to take the garrison from 12 Redcoats but they didn’t succeed until 1746 when they took the Garrison with Artillary.
Across the road from the barracks and through a gate we picked up a good path, first across open fields and then through mixed woodland with lots of wild Primula's in full bloom.
It started raining, light at first and then heavier. We resisted putting on waterproofs as long as possible but that moment came soon enough. It only lasted a further 5 minutes before we stopped to take them off again. Typical.
Through the woods and alongside the rushing river, retriever dogs at the gate house at Glentromie started barking, and heralded our imminent arrival way before we spotted the house and where the adjacent bridge leads onto the Estate Road. Luckily the dogs were penned and so posed us no problems.
The Glen here is quite narrow but a little further on passing another big house, Lynaberack, it opens up to a much wider aspect and today, glorious views of the river and surrounding tops. Lynaberack is a modern style building that replaced the old house which sadly burnt down. It is now rented out for shooting and fishing parties.
The old drove road has now given way to modern tarmac, making it easy for estate workers to drive to and from Gaick Lodge and other habitations. But for the walker it is hard on the feet.
We passed Bhran cottage before crossing the last bridge before the Gaick lodge route splits.
Checking the map, our route stays on the North side of the Allt Bhran. The path shown on the map is difficult to locate on the ground because of all the sheep and deer trods which cover the steep river banking.
It was thick heather intermingled with green bog. We caught a bad smell on the wind and came across a dead hind after a couple of minutes. We moved up wind quickly.
It’s hard to imagine that the old drovers would bring cows along this high bank of the river when the other side is flatter. Maybe someone has some knowledge they could share on reading this.
After the dam we dropped down almost to the river bed which was running low. We made a point that we would come back along the river rather than struggle with the terrain higher up.
Some pleasant walking over tall grassland brought us to our destination. A quick check with the GPS ensured we were in the correct place.
It had taken 4.5 hours to walk in, with about 20 minutes for lunch.
The boys had chosen well, it was a lovely spot to wild camp. Surrounded by hills with some snow cover and right next to a pristine burn.
We sat for a short while drinking in the atmosphere. Although not wilderness as such, it had that air of tranquility that you only feel in remote places, that feeling that you are the only ones there.
As it happened this was so short lived. A couple of people appeared and stopped for a chat. They had seen us some way in front and had been following us. They thought we were doing the Minigaig.
They told us that they were doing the Minigaig in one go! OK, I know its not impossible, but these people were not youngsters and its 41km. When they reached us at 3.00pm ish, they still had 28km to do. Rather them than me but I hope they made it OK.
We got the tent up and made a coffee and it was only a short time after that we had more visitors. It turned out to be Izzy and Les, both challengers and almost legends, being their 10th crossing. Well done guys. In their spare time they run a B and B, Cruachan, in Appin,
on the shores of Loch Linnhe.
Their names were familiar and it clicked when they mentioned the B and B. Fellow blogger and challenger Martin Banfield
had mentioned them in previous conversations and blog posts.
After introductions, Les and Izzy got the tent up and time flew past. Unfortunately the hosts were still missing and we wondered if they would make the rendezvous. 7.00pm was mentioned as a time that we should start procedings, with or without the hosts. Sorry chaps.
7.00pm came and we joined forces. The wine was opened and the nibbles past round. Nearing 7.15pm we heard a voice and saw a huge blue rucksack on legs, which could only mean one thing, welcome Andrew Walker. Followed closely by Messrs Sloman and Lambert. No wonder they were late, having walked from Laggan.
The lads got their shelters up and considering the distance they had walked, were in good spirits. Alan looked a bit drained but considering his health issue, had done fantastic.
And surprise surprise all the shelters were different.A MLD trailsar, Akto, TN Solar 2, a MLD solomid and our Scarp 2.
Suddenly another couple arrived. Known as the comestables by those in the know or Val and Dave to the unacquainted. What they had in their 2 rucksacks had to be seen to be believed. Red,white and rose wine, 6 baguettes, Eccles cakes, numerous blocks of cheese, bread sticks, table cloth, serviettes, tarpaulin, grapes, walnuts, ballons, paper plates. It just kept coming out like Mary Poppins carpet bag.
Val and Dave had drove to the head of the Glen then cycled for an hour and then walked an hour or so to find us. And, they were heading back tonight after the party. Just fantastic and very much appreciated.
The sun was starting to set, highlighting the eastern slopes in a mauve colour, and the clouds turning pink. Everyone tried to catch that perfect sunset shot. This was taken by Sheila with a Samsung Galaxy S3 phone.
After the sun dipped below the ridge and almost simultaneously a herd of deer moved down and stood a couple of hundred yards from us. They looked at us in a kind of disbelieving way, as though they were disgusted that some humans had pinched their overnight spot. Some moved away but the odd one or two stayed a couple of minutes, staring, before heading off to find another place to bed down.
It had become very cold now the sun had gone and being out in the open became quite testing. AlanS went to bed and the others tried their best to clear the table before the inevitable time came to finish the evening.
L-R. Dave, Alan, Izzy, Phil, Andrew, Les and Val. Sheila took the photo in fading light so not too bad for a phone camera. (AlanS had already retired to Sally Solomid)
Val and Dave cleared up the rubbish and handed out what food was left, to be eaten on route tomorrow. Thanks ever so much for a great night. They headed off in the direction of the sunset, they had quite a journey to do in the semi darkness before reaching habitation again.
Morning arrived all too soon for our challengers and us, although we were in no hurry we were up and breakfasted and packing up in unison.
We waited until they were all ready for the ascent of Leathad an Taobhain, their first point of the day then after a final photo we turned and headed in the opposite direction. The day was once again clear and only light cloud over some of the higher tops.
Challengers leaving and Sheila looking freezing.
Our decision yesterday to walk the river proved to be a far better route than the high path and once the dam was reached we used the rough road to Gaick house and the bridge over the Allt Bhran.
Views north from here are superb and give walkers a fantastic vista of the Glen. We looked back to see where the others were but we didn't spot them.
The view North
4 hours later we were back at the car after a very nice lunch stop in unbroken sun for 1/2 hr.
Thanks ALPHA for the invite. We enjoyed it immensely.
Oh and to Colin Bennett who left the macadamia nuts and the note on the path, it was found by us and passed on. Thanks
A slideshow of the walk etc can be found here