View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Friday, 16 June 2017

TGO Challenge 2017 Part 4, May 2017

Tuesday 23rd May, Spittal of Glen Muick to Tarfside

I slept very badly, the previous night’s terrorist attack in Manchester saw to that. I had my radio on most of the night trying to glean as much information as possible. There was little to learn in those first few hours, just that there had been carnage. A black cloud followed me for the next few days.


A trio of Aktos in the early morning


Allt Darrarie

The day’s Plan was fairly straightforward: over to Sheilin of Mark Bothy > Muckle Cairn > Glen Lee > Tarfside. Nothing difficult there, although the boggy gound to the bothy isn’t the nicest – even on a lovely sunny day like today.

Mick’s Plan B was far better: a bit of stream following delivered us, along lovely dry and grassy runnels to where we wanted to be.


Croydon leading Gill & Patrick of the Manchester Crew


Shielin of Mark Bothy with Mount Keene a very long way away

Having said before that my boots were dry, my right foot was feeling every-so slightly damp.

The route over Muckle Cairn involves a fair bit of bog-hopping but once at the top it’s a fairly straightforward descent into Glen Lee.


Into Glen Lee

Glen Lee marked the end of the big hills of my Challenge, not that I did many. From here onwards the hills would be far gentler and by lunchtime the next day the big mountains would just be a memory.


Loch Lee….where you really mustn’t camp ’cos of the night fishermen

It’s a bit of a boring trek alongside Loch Lee (where you mustn’t camp in case you disturb the night fishermen. And, presumably, night fisherwomen). to Tarfside so we decided that the nice bench seat at the East end of Loch Lee would make for a nice tea stop. We wouldn’t be camping, and it wasn’t night time anyway.


As I took my boots off – really to get some air at my slightly damp-feeling right foot…. there was a scream from Gill. Now I know I have whiffy feet, but this was over-reaction – surely.


She’d spotted a little passenger in my right boot.

No wonder my foot felt a bit odd. The poor thing had probably been in my boot for two days. I’m not sure if it expired because of the noxious foot fumes or it had met it’s end when I pulled my boots on. Whatever, it was quite dead now.

We continued, mouseless, to Tarfside and tea, bacon butties & cake. My tent went up in double quick time and my stove was pressed into service for more tea. The drinking kind, the eating one came later.

Beer was scarce at the Mason’s. For reasons best known to the Mason’s Computerised Stock Control System, the place was beer-less by 9pm.


The Mason’s

Many started on the wine, then the whisky. Not me though, I don’t go in for that sort of stuff. An early night followed.

I couldn’t get the thought of that poor mouse out of my mind though.

Cuckoo Count: 1

Wednesday 24th May, Tarfside to Northwaterbridge

BBC R4’s 6am news consisted mainly of coverage of the Manchester terrorist attack. The police appear to have made some progress, arrests had been made – but welcome as this news was, it wasn’t going to bring back the 22 who ended up losing their lives, nor would it be much consolation to those that suffered live-threatening and live-changing injuries.



Breakfast was a most civilsed affair – sitting on a real chair, eating off real plates using proper knives and forks. The Retreat knows how to look after Challengers. Before leaving I made full use of the facilities. It’s so much nicer to start a day’s walk feeling clean and smelling, er, a bit better.

It was dry and warm, some Challengers were heading NE for finish points such as Stonehaven. Others, like me, were following the trade route to Edzell (and more food!) and then Northwaterbridge.



River North Esk

I steamed along the footpath that roughly follows the course of the River North Esk. I was moving at a fair lick. I was mostly alone but that was fine, it gave me the chance to catch up with my thoughts – something you don’t always get when walking in company. Of course I met plenty, passed plenty – and was passed by plenty more.


I’ve stopped to chat to this farmer on more than one Challenge

Edzell appeared, mobile phone coverage too. I was at last able to catch up with family & friends to check that all were okay after the bomb attack. Thankfully all were well.


My now customary visit to The Inn for refreshments, er, refreshed me nicely. A most healthy meal of whale & chips followed by the most disgustingly large ice cream sundae ensured I wouldn’t need any tea that night.


 Lindy and Croydon

Onwards to Northwaterbridge….



I’m not sure what sort of fish this was in the River North Esk (a salmon?) but it doesn’t look too healthy. I estimated it was around 70 – 80cm long.


Friendly doggy in a garden, just over the river from Edzell.

The campsite at Northwaterbridge was full of Challenge Family. After my huge lunch I didn’t need to eat – but I drank oodles of tea. It had been a warm day and I hadn’t drunk enough.


After a long and hot shower I wandered around the campsite, mug of tea in hand, catching up with everyone and finding out what they’d all been up to.


L>R: ? , Barbara, Lindy. Illumination by Baby Bel candle

Then it was bed time. After two weeks of camping in the highlands, a commercial campsite like this isn’t the most restful place in the world – heavy waggons whizzing past on the adjacent A90 saw to that.

It was a warm night and I had a lot on my mind, I didn’t sleep well.

Cuckoo Count: 0

Thursday 25th May – to the seaside!

I was away from Northwaterbridge by around 7.45am. It was going to be a warm ‘un, the sun was already quite hot. I was glad it was going to be a short day.

The major obstacle of the day was met early on, the A90. You really take your life in your hands crossing this busy road.


Crossing the River North Esk for the last time this Challenge I’m rudely reminded that I’m re-entering ‘civilisation’.


River North Esk

The route to the coast is mostly tarmac but Lindy had pointed out a nice bit of track that presented a very pleasant diversion for over a mile. Looking at the map it appears to be the old road (or one of them) into Hillside.


Lindy’s far nicer route into Hillside


First sighting of the North Sea



Hillside’s War Memorial

From Hillside there’s just a short stretch of tarmac to the next obstacle of the day…


A garden centre….


….and strawberries

Next stop, the North Sea and the end of my TGOC 2017



It was great to be ambushed by Neil, he’d been lurking in the sand dunes – he knew where I was finishing and he’d walked up from Montrose to meet me, what a star!


The End

Apart from Cuckoo Count: 0…. and a few photographs worthy of appearing here:







 Even more photographs here.


  1. Brilliant John, well done. It must have been awful to carry on and being overshadowed by such tragic events. Cracking photos.

    1. Thanks Dawn. What made matters worse was that I was completely out of touch with everyone, I just felt so helpless.
      A most sad affair.

  2. Well done John. I've enjoyed reading that. Although like you, I have many friends whose company I throughly enjoy ,and some of which I walk with from time t time I empathise with your remarks about walking alone. That was a heartwarming finale surprise.

    1. Thank you Conrad.
      Some of my finest walks have been solo - but even on those walks there were times when I yearned for company - it's good to be able to share experiences, both good and bad ones!
      Having space to think, especially on a walk, is priceless space.

  3. Willie Todd15:58

    Good write up - thanks. We had such good weather overall.

    1. Thanks Willie, I can't believe how good the weather was - although it made getting water difficult at times.

  4. Well done, JJ. Very entertaining and great photos.

    1. Aw shucks, you say the nicest things!

  5. Great write up, really enjoyed reading and following you through the mountains.

  6. So you made it JJ!
    Are you sure they aren't last year's pictures, or has that car been at NWB since at least last May!
    Have fun, and sorry I couldn't make it the other night.


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