Stat Counter

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pies over Scotland - TGO Challenge Suddenly It's Summer

Morvern from Mona Gowan
 And so, after a moderately boozy night at the Allargue Arms followed by a frosty night in a tupping field, I left Cock Bridge in warm and bright sunshine and walked a mile or two along General Wade's military road from the South till I found a nice burn by which to brew up and make porridge.

Ben Avon from Carnagour Hill

Lochnagar fromScraulac

Later - I pressed on to the main road  to Ballater and on up over Scraulac and Cairnagour on short, springy heather. The views of snow-clad Lochnagar and Ben Avon were quite spectacular. Despite being breathless from the view, I eventually heaved my sorry carcase up to the top of Mona Gowan and decided that my plan to bag Morven, a huge snow-topped cone next door was maybe a bit ambitious. So I didn't.
Instead, I descended South and found a long and straightish track over moorland along the Southern edge of Morven, thereby avoiding any embarrassing heart-attacks, strokes, hyperthermia (it was hot), or over-pronated toenails.

I did notice an hotel offerring free beer and massage and made my way towards it, but just as I got to the front door, it disappeared. Damned mirages...

Lochnagar from Mona Gowan

 Various lanes and main roads and more lanes ultimately brought me to Tarland, once the centre of several beef-herding routes and now the location of the Commercial Arms, my bed, booze, food, shower and telly for the night - though not necessarily in that particular order. I was impressed by the Commercial Arms, though - the staff were unfazed by my trampish appearance or the odeur de Cairngorm, the food was specially good, the shower nearly took the back off me sunburn and the telly had hundreds of channels which I could flick through whilst sipping a luxury malt before waking up at 5:30 a.m with only a vague idea where I was.

Breakfast was good too and, refreshed and with dry socks and butties from the shop, I marched hopefully out of Tarland in completely the wrong direction, turned round, consulted the village information board and marched out again in a different direction, almost definately towards the North Sea.

During the afternoon, another hotel appeared and this one was advertising happy hour during the whole of May when all drinks would be half price and a free sauna would be included with every third pint.

As it happened, just as I made for the reception area, the whole buiding dissolved into the heat of the burning sun.

I can see the sea! Yippee!
 After a bit a Scottish Rights of Way Society green sign indicated a path up a steep hill which was the right of way to Lumphanan. I followed it into Rothiemurchus-like woodland. The robins and other small birds were singing happily. The sun was shining. There were beautiful, green views through the bgaps in the tree and the route was easy. I skipped along happily, in a good mood, full of Full Scottish Breakfast With Two sausages. Everything was right with the world. Or at least it would have been had I noticed the sharp right turn two miles back - the opne with the twin cairns I failed to notice. Two miles in the wrong direction leads to a huuuuuge error in being where you're supposed to be and takes some working out where you actually are, I can tell you. Various options were weighed up, including shouting for help and/or lying in the ditch sobbing or a combination of these two. I decided to eat chocolate and then go back whence I'd come.

I got it right eventually, and, after a while, I turned up in Lumphanan. The bad news was that the pub was shut (they always are nowadays), but the Mace store was open. The sun blazed down from a cloudless sky.
I shopped briefly and ate my spoils on a bench near the Lumphanan International  Communications Centre (bus stop with a phone box and a post box) and dozed in the heat of the mid-day sun. In a Blur, A caravan of camels sailed slowly by towards the Oasis. But which was best?  Blur or  Oasis?

I headed East, roughly in the general direction of Lithuania.  My route now coasted around the north side of Torphins. Many dog walkers were met. In fact there were dozens of them....

As I plodded on, I came across a white-painted hotel, gleaming in the fierce shimmering heat. The sign outside advertised buy-on-get-one-free drinks and meals and a discount for Englishmen over the age of fifty five with white bears and huge rucksacks. I knew it was a mirage. 

But as I passed, two men dressed in white tuxedos were leaning over the palm-shaded verandah. I distinctly heard one say to the other "I tld you this wa sa bad place to open a hotel, Hamish..."

Hill of Fare camping spot

I started climbing the Hill of Fare and soon noticed a beautiful green shoulder where camping discretion was assured by patches of strategically scatterred whin and a good water supply gushed from what appeared to be the supply for a building that was no longer there. I put up the akto and luxuraited in the hot sun and the gorgeous view of Lochnagar.

Earlier in the day, I'd got my first view of the North Sea - a long, blue horizon beyond the hill I was now sitting on. The End is Nigh (I got that quote off a bloke at King's Cross station by the way.)

A fine, blue morning followed and it was time to battle with the Hill of fare's deep and tangled heather.

Basically, I just got stuck into it and, after a while of uphill swearing and falling about, I noticed an old grouse but about 300 metres away and, a thin but rough and soggy path running towards it. Based on the theory that grouse shooters never actually walk very far, I deduced that there could be a  track there. I was right. A thin uphill track soon became a double track and then a proper landrover track and this lead to within a few metres of the summit. Clever bugger eh?

Deeside Way

After that, I went down over the moor and along a bit of highly dangerous main road to the fleshpotss of Banchory where I shopped again and feasted on ice lollies before embarking on the Deeside Way. This is based on the old railway line from Aberdeen to Ballater and is waymarked, surfaced and popular with all kinds of joggers, cyclists and dog walkers, a large proportion of whom had really lovely bums. So, it was a happy Pieman who slogged the Deeside Way, eventually turning up at Peterculter and, by a riverside path to the campsite and hotel at Maryculter. I visited the hotel, obviously.

In the morning - the final morning, I went back to Peterculter for breakfast but only found a coffee and cake shop. A spar shop provided butties and pop and so, armed with these I returned to the Lovely Bum Way and marched the seven or so miles into Aberdeen. I liked this path. It doesn't have contours, for one thing, and the countryside is green and beautiful and, the natives and their dogs are friendly.


The walk ended near Aberdeen docks and I made my way back to Duthie Park in search of the route to the bus/train station, I came to the Shanghai Restaurant where, all of a sudden the door flew open and a yoof with a bag rushed out, followed by a diminutive Chinese lass. The lad tried to hide behind an eighteen-inch high wall and then noticed that both me and the lass were almost standing over him. So, he threw the bag at the lass and legged it. Apparently, the bag was empty and nobody wanted to call the police. As a thief, he was a failure, in fact, if there is such a status he'd be legally incompetent, probably a smackhead and, certainly, an idiot.

Montrose campsite

I got the bus to Montrose, signed in, got me T-shirt, certificate and badge and got rat-arsed a couple of times in between sunbathing, swimming in the sea (fab beach at Montrose by the way) and scoffing hot smoked salmon and crusty bread.


That was number eleven. 

I'd do it again. I had a blast.

Stats: 202 Miles and 29000 feet of up. Eleven tickable hills ticked (according to

Gear that did well:

Merino wool baselayer that I got from Mountainwhareous for fifteen quid as it was the last one due to the fact that it was now summer (!) and being sold across the street for £62.

RAB fleece with a TGO challenge logo on it - exclusive to TGO challengers with the logo!

Primus Express stove which I got in April.

Sealskin socks - performed well in all the soggyness.

Berghaus Akka down jacket. Warm and toasty and a good pillow, and squashable in the pack. I wore it for walking on one very cold day underneath a Paramo windproof.

Me old akto. The old girl did it again - recently reproofed and with a few repaired holes.

Gear that performed with mixed results:

TNF Dhaulgiri II boots - warm and comfy and with no blisters, but in the mire of week one, wetted out badly and didn't dry out till Cock Bridge. Luckily I had waterproof socks and kept a pair of woolly socks to wear at night.

Pre-mixed porridge oats with powdered milk, sugar and sultanas. Easy and quick to cook, loadsa  slow release calories, lightweight and nice to eat - and very cheap.

Gear that failed:

Cheapo walking poles - One bent and couldn't be collapsed so I banged it hard on a road and it died.

Garmin GPS. Keeps turning itself off and forgetting the bliddy waypoints. This is a faff. Luckily, I have a map and compass and a vague idea how to use these.


Alan Sloman said...

If you could now turn around and walk back I would be very grateful. Otherwise I'll have nuffink to read until this time next year.

I like the sound of the NiceBum Way.

Tony Bennett said...

So that's where you got to after we patted company above Strathcarron. And there I was thinking you'd decided to do the CWT, heading of north like wot you did.

Mike Knipe said...

Nobody else went the way I did, Tony. And only because I'd never heard of Pait Lodge.
Alan - I could do that without much persuasion. The NBW orta be a registered long distance walk.

Des said...

Great stuff.
Loved the surreal imagery of the middle-aged Englishman with a white bear.
I walked through Peterculter once. A very quiet place so I kept the noise to a minimum. The only businesses I could see were both funeral directors.

Oldmortality said...

202 miles and 29000 feet seems pretty impressive for and old bagger with a dicky ticker and 29" inside leg.Not for the first time, I am inspired to push myself a bit more. Thanks

Andrew W said...

Nice one.
That was a splendid little walk was it not.

Now, had you seen the images of Dave's thighs you would never have made it to9 the cooast, and have been forever reliving the horror.

Peter Crawford said...

Good job Mike, and bloody quick too. Sloman is still at Loch Trieg.

John J said...

Ah, so THAT'S where the summer came from.

I might follow your route next year.


Ukmase said...

Great report Michael of pies. Decision made , I'm entering next years crossing.

Mike Knipe said...

Des - I'm to impatient to publish, I orta proof read betterer.
Oldmortality - I'm going for the short and happy option as opposed to the long and miserable one.
Andrew... Yerghh, I don;t want to think about Dave's thighs. I can barely consider my own never mind some glowing hairy ones.. yergghhhh
Peter - I don't think he does all those walks, y'know... I've only ever seen him in a bar or a hospital bed...
JJ - Lovely Bum Way is lovely... Bit short on t-rooms and cafes
Masey - You know it makes sense. High level this time, like wot I don't...

JohnH said...

Loc. lots of chuckles. By the way, in case of booking confusion next year , Tarland has a Commercial Inn and an Aberdeen Arms, unless you were in the public loo in between.

Mike Knipe said...

It was the hotel at Cock Bridge which had confusion over bookings, John. The Commercial at Tarland was great - the food was really good and the staff were friendly and helpful. I didn't get as far as the other pub.....

Dawn said...

Wonderful Mike,fantasmagorical. A wonderful write up, lovely photos. Am really chuffed for you.

Mike Knipe said...

Thanks dawn, I'm really chuffed too, and a bit smug!

Anonymous said...

A great read, Mike. It's funny how routes intermingle. I camped not far from a Scottish Rights of Way sign to Tarland but was way too tired to look at the map and see there was a hotel there. Anyway, it would have been in The Wrong Direction and I think that was the night I had to stick my trousers back together with zinc oxide tape. I would have been a little under-dressed for Nice Bum Way if I'd not fixed that rip!

Mike Knipe said...

Lycra's the thing for the NBW, Judith. Ripped kecks with zinc oxide tape just wouldn't be a la mode.
Thanks for reminding me about it by the way.

Laura said...

Thanks for all that Mike - I've just enjoyed your Challenge a whole lot more than I did my own.....