And so, having been let down by Northern Rail on Durham Station by a train that refused to move and was overtaken, at some speed by the train I was supposed to catch was the first sign that doing the same thing again (that is to say, relying on a train service to get me where I am supposed to be at the time I am supposed to be there) was just the first incident from which I ought to learn. Northern Rail have done it before and, I expect, will do it again. But, by running about like an eejit at Waverley station and Glasgow Queen Street, I eventually managed to arrive at Oban at, close enough, the time I was supposed to be there.
|Glen Lonan ( nice, innit)|
I've started from Oban before - but this time, I did something different. I walked to Taynuilt with Kate, a first timer from the far North who somehow knew JJ. Everybody knows JJ, though, so maybe no surprise. I had a light pack, so I could keep up with her youthful pace. And the reason I had a light pack was because I had a train ticket from Taynuilt back to Oban. We parted in Taynuilt and I returned to Spoons where they fed and watered me and didn't make jokes about the kilt.
|Loch Drizzlybum aka Loch Dochart|
This plan had worked well. In the morning, Spoons fed me a huge breakfast which I couldn't quite manage and Scotrail whisked me back to Taynuilt where I plodded off up Glen Etive, turning Right at Glen Kinglas. I walked some of the time with Rolf, an anglophile European and was passed by Lindy and we met some others too. There were four of us camping at the head of Glen Kinglas. It rained. Then it rained some more, followed closely by a damp spell. This is not particularly unusual. In the morning I bashed on to the West Highland Way and followed it South surreptitiously, hiding behind tussocks or pretending to tie my bootlaces if it looked back. I arrived at Tyndrum where I had a bed in a hotel, busy with West Highland Wayfarers and some TGO challengers who didn't want to talk to me. So I repaired to a pub where I allowed some bikers the chance to worship the ground that was still stuck to my boots when they learned that I was 78 years old and had taken three days to walk from Oban when they'd done it in 40 minutes. I'm not actually 78 by the way, but why spoil a good story and the chance of free beer?
|Another discreet camp next to Loch Tay|
The previous three pictures are completely in the wrong order by the way.
So orf I jolly well went down the west Highland Way again and then at Auchtertyre, I heaved myself up the glen to the North, getting a bit lost for a while and then, after passing easily through the Gleann a Chlachain Mountain woodland, where it chucked it down in a big way, I passed over the bealach into Glen Lochay. This goes to Killin, after a bit of discreet camping next to a very nice
beck burn. I allowed myself to be exploited a bit in Killin to the tune of a nice lunch and some tea , before joining the Rob Roy Way and completely missing the turn off I was supposed to turn off at and walking all the way down the road to Ardeonaig where I found a lovely camping spot next to the loch, just below a roadside sign which said "No Camping". I considered that this probably didn't apply to me and in any case I was hidden from the road and there wasn't much traffic anyway.
|Sign near Mar Lodge|
|International TGO ers snooze break|
Aberfeldy came and went and provided food and a camp site and the Rob Roy Way continued without incident or accident to Pitlochry where I became slightly mislaid on the High Street, ultimately fullfilling my gastronomic desires and the purchase of fresh supplies of rough whisky. I took the path through the Pass of Jimmy Krankie through to Blair Atholl where I didn't like the food and the service was rubbish. The Pass, though was fandabbydozy. As was Glen Tilt. Gloen Tilt was heavily populated by TGO challengers and cyclists and just some of the time, I walked alone. I camped with four others at Bynack Lodge - a ruined hunting lodge and a
Ballater was a long way next and somewhere during this stage, I met up with Jo, a Japanese chap with shin splints and (?Mark) , an American without shin splints. He was a Monty Python fan, so we got on. The King was out at Balmoral and Ballater was better than Braemar, providing scoff, beer, shelter and a breakfast and nobody mentioned the kilt.
|Sir Dave at Edzell|
|Nobody mention the kilt|
The came Tarfside. In a previous year, I had almost walked out of the hostel at Tarfside when there was an anti-kilt pile-on during which skirt-wearing men's masculinity was challenged. I expected the same and, my plan was not to stay there anyway - mainly because of the pile-on, I would say. I went in anyway and was met with "Oooh look its that man in a frock again gigggle giggle hehehehehe". No names, no pack drill, but expected. Its childish stuff, but I found that in Scotland, its not all that unusual to encounter the kilt on a man and most people I met, including yoofs, who you have thought the most likely to take the mickey, were very complementary. Its just the odd eeeejit, and it's very very annoying. and I walked straight out again and marched off down Glen Esk, to find a lovely spot by the river and leaving me with only a short day the next morning....
....Which was to Edzell, where it was steaming hot and the pub was closed. Eventually it filled up with TGO challengers, including Sir Dave, the beaver. Its a long and heart-warming story which I guess has been told elsewhere.
The walk finished at St Cyrus, where the pub was open and nobody said anything bad about the kilt.
The final pic, below is Sir Dave receiving his accolades at the Challenge dinner.