View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Thursday, 31 May 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, the story so far…

In which my knees terrify some WHW walkers…

Up at 6.30am, away before 8am…after washing some of my smellier smellies. The sun, even at this time, shone hotly – my soggy laundry would dry fairly quickly in this heat.


Towards Lundavra


Water tap by Lundavra – no water though

The day’s route was very straight-forward and *mostly* easy underfoot: north by Lundavra, then following the West Highland Way, south and east, to Kinlochleven.


Lots of walkers encountered – all going the other way (to Fort Bill, the end of the WHW). Many took delight in telling me I was going the wrong way (this is not news to me, I usually go the wrong way), others wanted to know whether I was doing the WHW in the ‘other’ direction – North to South.

I think the WHW must be marketed quite heavily overseas, a very substantial proportion of walkers were from overseas: many Americans, a large Japanes party and and goodly number of Dutch and Germans. The Way must provide an important source of revenue for businesses on the route.

Walking in a kilt

American ladies swooned. Japanese photographers clicked away, English walkers blushed, German walkers politely averted their gaze….

I had to pose for so many photographs that day that it added a good hour to my walk – great fun though!

My Sports Kilt was generating a lot of interest. In all seriousness, this is the best of walking kit I’ve bought in a long while. It’s extremely comfortable, lightweight and very practical. At 330gms it’s not exactly heavy and because it’s made from microfibre it dries very quickly.

It helped that the weather was so good of course, but even in moderate rain it did it’s stuff well.

The risk of ticks was uppermost in my mind when I was walking through undergrowth. I’d treated my kilt (and my undies) with Permethrin before setting out and this gave me some peace of mind. There was only one day where I didn’t wear the kilt all day, that was my Day 3 through Glen Gour where it just *looked* like good tick-breeding ground. As it happened I didn’t encounter one tick on my entire crossing.

Sports Kilt is an American company, I ordered mine (and Mike’s) whilst I was in USA earlier in the year – perhaps a Scottish manufacturer could take up the reigns and produce them over here.

Back to the walk…

I’ve walked the WHW a couple of times, always South to North, going the other way transorms it into a completely different walk – no better or worse, just different.


The route was mostly but not always easy underfoot, some of the path was covered in loose rocks and stones which slowed my progress from time-to-time. The absolute worst bit was the final steep-ish descent to Kinlochleven – I nearly ended up on my bum a couple of times.


I’d booked into the campsite at the back of the MacDonald Hotel, it was very quiet when I arrived, but within a couple of hours it was rammed. It’s a reasonable commercial site, £10 a night and good facilities – the ground was stony under a couple of inches of grassy soil though.

The Kilted Pieman was refused permission to camp, apparently the site was full – although he could have squeezed on quite easily.

The hotel served decent food and very excellent beer (Cairngorm Trade Winds). I’d hardly eaten all day so I ordered a decent lunch but I struggled to finish it.

I’d sent a food parcel to the hotel, it *should* have contained maps for the next section of my walk….but it didn’t. What the hell happened there then? I had my route description with me of course, I also had my Garmin Etrex20 so I had a fall back, it wasn’t ideal though. (I since found the maps….at home, in a box. A different box.)

A couple of other Challengers appeared, notably John Jacklin and Scott – good blokes, the pair of them.

Mike ended up camping at the Blackwater campsite, we met up for nosh and beer at the Tail Race, decent food but no proper beer – just fizz.

Mike’s route wasn’t too dissimilar to mine so we decided to team up for a few days (he had his maps!), certainly until my next food parcel which would hopefully contain some maps.

In bed by 11pm, nicely relaxed and ready for a good night’s kip. It wasn’t to be though, noise from adjacent tents and the camping pods kept me awake until the early hours…then it was coming light at 4.30am. Ho hum. 

Cuckoo count 4

Other wildlife encountered: Norralot, not even any Challengers on the route.

Photos from my entire TGOC2018 are here

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, Day 3

In which I fend-off killer-ticks. Probably.

I was awake quite early but chose to stay put in the hope that the light rain might stop and the sun make an appearance long enough to dry my tent out before packing.

The noise of Challengers passing our peaceful pitch promised a fairly quiet day ahead – just what I wanted.

Su was away by 8.30am, I followed around 9am. It was still raining lightly but ! didn’t want to delay my departure by too long.

This was the only day I didn’t wear my Sports Kilt, my route to Ardgour was very wet underfoot and the undergrowth looked like Tick Heaven – long (Permethrin treated) trousers were the order of the day.


The watershed

Navigation was straightforward, follow the river to the watershed the follow the River Gour down to Sallachan. 

The spot I’d earmarked for elevenses was too waterlogged so my next meal was onses – lunch at 1pm, next to a lovely waterfall, surrounded by spectacular scenery. The sun was shining brightly, it was quite hot – so my Akto was treated to a bit of an airing.


Lunchtime: brew with a view. There were fish in the river.

Lynsey rolled up, looking freshly laundered and well-pressed (how does she do it?). She’d intended going up Ben Resipol but a tumble that bruised her shoulder changed her mind for her. She continued to Ardgour, leaving me to soak up the rays and read the rest of the previous Thursday’s ‘I’ newspaper. It would have been the Guardian but it was too heavy to carry.


Signs of volcanic activity?

The ground was difficult, with man-eating swamps and ticks the size of bluebottles. I may have exaggerated slightly there. But they were probably quite enormous. Although I didn’t ACTUALLY see one. A friend probably did though.

I was aiming to pick up the LRT marked on the map – hoping for better ground. The ground was just as bad, slow going with lots of deeply flooded sections and loose stones & rocks. Time was passing slowly.


Lighthouse at Corran

Eventually made Argour. I had a phone signal so I phoned Control and had a good chat with Pauline. and Bernie. It seems news of my Sports Kilt had reached the megaphone of CBS (Challenge Broadcasting System).


Scott, Lynsey & John J (not me, the other one)

I stopped to chat to Lynsey, John Jacklin and Scott who were sat outside their digs, the Ardgour Inn, drinking dirty beer and waiting for their tea to arrive.


The Corran Ferry, across the road from the pub

The Corran Ferry (free for foot passengers) was in the slip so I boarded and was soon on t’other side.


Over the sea from Corran

I met up with a (slightly) elderly couple from South Africa, they were farmers there and wanted to sell-up but various restrictions meant they couldn’t and so they were stuffed. They were very keen to hear all about the Challenge. I gave them chapter and verse in the hope of tea and cake….but to no avail.

Must try harder….


I don’t know, I really don’t know


I trundled on, avoiding the pub, aiming towards Lundavra. A lovely flat spot (NN053630) next to a river presented itself at around 8pm so that became my home for the night.


I neglected to photograph my tent in situ that evening, but this is what the area looked like after I’d packed up the following morning. Nice eh?

I had a good wash down before bed and slept very well indeed.

Cuckoo count: 5

Other wildlife I clapped my eyes on: Newts, frogs, fish (trout?), deer and loads of different birdies. Oh, and 4 Challengers. But they were really quite tame.

Photos from my entire TGOC2018 are here


TGO Challenge 2018, the next bit

In which I make a classic nav error and I eat cake and drink tea

Before I start wittering on about this next bit of my trip I should add another reason for my choice of route this year: the last couple of years I’ve seen my fitness levels drop quite dramatically. This is not A Good Thing for those who like doing the sort of things that I like doing. This is all down to me: My regular long walks had become highly infrequent, my once very frequent runs had become very infrequent….other stuff too, but I’m sure you know what I mean. My Kilchoan start, whilst making my total Challenge distance longer, offered a lower-level route….even lower than usual, but achievable. And so it was.


Saturday, Day 2, and I was up and about at 7am in bright sunshine. The Akto was wet through with condensation both inside and out. It had dried out quite a lot by the time I left my holy stealth camp site. I was surprised how deserted Acharacle was, nobody about at all – not even a dog walker. Or a dog. Even.


10.30am and a lovely sky

At Shiel Bridge (no, not that one) I came across the lovely John & Sue Tattershall. Despite their fine Lancastrian surname, they hailed from Salisbury, dahn sarf. They were also Kilchoan starters and were celebrating their wedding anniversay….John clearly knows how to treat his wife on such an occassion. I was impressed with his romanticism.

It’s odd, but they’d completed 6 Challenges and I was on my 12th – yet I’d never met them before – such is the large area covered by the Challenge.

Whatever, the Tattersalls of Salisbury were also on the boat from Dalelia to close to Polloch – so thoughfully arranged by Phil L….thanks Phil! We marched on together, heading initially for the ‘PH’ at Mingarrypark where we’d set our minds (and stomachs) on bacon butties, tea and coffee. The advertising hoarding promised lunches – just the job! Well it would have been….but they only seemed to served lunches in the evening, ie: Dinner.

Hungrily and slightly miffed, we strove on eastwards towards our boat ride.


We were there in very good time, so early that I phoned Trio Lambert and asked if it was acceptable for we three to cross early…..norraproblem. We three were whizzed across the water to Ceanna Garbh in a very short time. The boat ride was quite exhilarating, the water crystal clear – all really very beautiful.


John T,


At the jetty on t’other side we three installed ourselves on a bench seat and and ate, drank…and even dried our tents in the very unusual Challenge hot sunshine.

My plan for a quiet and peaceful Challenge was working very acceptably well, J&S were very agreeable company.


Trio Lambert at lunch

They scooted off whilst I started to slowly pack up. The buzz of an outboard motor announced the imminent arrival of Trio Lambert. I hurriedly stuffed my gear into my pack and scooted off. In my haste to escape, and after a good 10 minutes, I realised that the sun was shining from the wrong direction….I’d gone the wrong way! Ho hum.

Anyway, this nav error was, er, rather ‘convenient’ (if you know what I mean) and by the time I’d got back to the jetty all was quiet and deserted.

I trundled on, this time in the right direction. Arriving in Polloch I was met by a local gent doing his garden. He’d seen others pass his house, carrying packs and wondered what was going on. In exchange for lashings of tea and a VERY large piece of lemon drizzle cake (my favourite!) I was able to explain a little about the Challenge.

Whilst enjoying this rather lovely hospitality a knock came at the door: it was a woman who’d been born in the village. She was hunting out relatives who still might live in the area. Polloch is small so she didn’t have too many doors to try!

Bidding my host farewell I headed East (East is good etc etc) to search for my intended camp spot.

It wasn’t long before I heard Trio Lambert, they must have been dawdling. !0 mins or so later I caught them up as they’d stopped for a breather – after exchanging pleasantries I continued eastwards in a very uphill manner towards my planned stop for the night, next to an un-named lochan just west of Druim Glas. The choice was a bad one – nowhere really suitable to pitch the Akto so I carried on. And on.


After a bit of heather bashing (sorry Heather) I picked up a path and eventually caught up with Shap McDonnel and Su. Su was also looking for a spot for her Akto, Shap wanted to continue further and that’s just what he did.


Su & Shap

A nice flat area presented itself, plenty large enough for two Aktos, and with a stream close-by we decided to pitch together around NM862658.


Home for the night

It was still warm so I decided to have my usual strip-wash – but outside the tent rather than in the tent. I did warn Su, honest I did.

Poor Su. I fear the shock of my ablutions were too much for the poor girl. I did warn her – and I DID keep out of sight. Honest. I reckon she may have been peaking. Tsk.

A pleasant (and very clean) evening followed. I snored…and all was coming right in my little world.

Sorry Su.

Cuckoo count: 6

All my TGOC2018 photos can be viewed here


Monday, 28 May 2018

TGO Challenge 2018, the first bit.

Kilchoan to Scurdie Ness….sort of

The Plan, for there should always be A Plan, was to walk from the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the West coast of Scotland, to Scurdie Ness Lighthouse on the East coast.

The reasons for choosing this start point were two fold:

I had ‘discovered’ Kilchoan in both 1973 & 1974 when I attended the Loch Lomond Motorcycle Club’s Antler Rally. The ride, from Manchester was a tough one – especially on a 250cc MZ motorcycle, comfortable as they are. In those days Kilchoan’s electricity was supplied by generator and when the generator went off at night the whole place was plunged into darkness. I recall the petrol station dispensed fuel by hand-operated pumps. Anyroadup, I was keen to revisit the place just to see how it had changed over 45 years.

T’other reason was that I really needed a quiet start, and given that Kilchoan isn’t the easiest place to get to I imagined very few Challengers would be using it as a start point.

To Scotland…

…by train, to meet up with Denis & Mary. Even three days before the event there were Challengers waiting to board the train at glasgow Queen Street. My destination was a poky and rather overpriced hotel in Oban. Oh well.


View from the hotel in Oban

Oban’s a lovely place and it was good (and important) to spend a bit of chilling / unwinding time there before the start of the Challenge.

Denis & Mary are good company and aren’t exactly unknown in Challenge circles. Other Challengers rolled up over the next couple of days – notably Chrissie Dixie. Food, beer and coffee were all consumed only to slight excess thanks to the excellent Wetherspoons by the harbour.

A bit of relaxing wandering around the town:




Oban Harbour.Wetherspoons had run out of Adnam’s so I left.

To Tobermory….

…by sea and bus. I met with The Kilted Pieman at the CalMac ferry terminal in good time for the sailing to Craignure on Mull. A bus deposited us nicely in Tobermory where we didn’t go for a pint. Until later.


Our ferry disgorging it’s load at Craignure

I was staying in the SYHA whilst Mike treated himself to a night in a hotel.


Tobermory in the sun

We met up for a bit of a very nice walk after tea. Apres-walk rehydration followed.





To Kilchoan….

…by sea. The Plan was to catch the late Friday morning sailing to Kilchoan but the strengthening winds meant there was a good chance that that sailing would be cancelled – so it had to be the early sailing or nothing.




Kilchoan Harbour

To Singing Sands…and beyond

A bumpy ferry crossing over the sea deposited us in Kilchoan in good time to have missed most of the other Challenge starters. I was sorry to miss Neal from Shetland who had proved such great company on last year’s Challenge.


The Kilchoan Hotel

The Kilchoan Hotel, our sign-out point, had changed somewhat over the years. In 1974 it was a basic ‘proper’ pub. Now it was all fancy menus, heated toilets and coffee from a cafetiere. Not quite the same.

A cafetiere of not-very-good coffee set us up for our individual Challenges and after signing out we headed off for two weeks of walking.


It wasn’t long before a couple on a rather nice tandem pulled up for a chat. The couple, Sandra and Jim Robb, were both Challenge Leg-Ends and justifiably proud of their record. Their last Challenge in 2004 (C25) was my FIRST Challenge.

Sandra & Jim headed off to the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point, whilst Mike headed East and I went North.

Then the wind got up my Sports Kilt and it started to rain. Rather a lot. My PacLight overtrousers were needed, they worked well over my Sports Kilt. So far my route was on single-track roads, nice and quiet but a bit exposed to the elements.


First deer of the trip




The north coast of Ardnamurchan is quite wild and beautiful. I started to get a move-on, not wanting to be out in the bad weather for too long.


I was looking foward to getting my tent up by Singing Sands but the signage had a slight deterrent effect….so I carried on eastwards.

And then I carried on some more because there was nowhere to camp, the ground was either too sodden, too rough or too ‘public’.

It was 9pm when I arrived in Acharacle, miles beyond my intended camp-spot, I struggled to find a sufficiently out-of-the-way spot to pitch my tent but I’d spotted a fall-back opportunity on the map: a church yard. Added advantage of such a camp spot is that they often have an outside water tap….but this was the West of Scotland where rainfall is plentiful, a water supply isn’t really needed in this area! Oh well, I didn’t want a drink / meal / wash anyway. Well not much.

My chosen spot was flat, very private, and offered plenty of early morning sunshine to dry off my Akto. And there were red squirrels. Nice.

I slept well that night.

Part 2 tomorrow. Probably.

But before that, a few more piccies. The first lot are for Rob who has a thing about doors (I don’t ask):






And these are for AlanR….of course:




All my photographs from this trip can be viewed here.

P2P recce with Judith, a UFO, and a wild camp.

The reason for this test is the continuing problem I have with posting using Open LiveWriter…. The Plan (there’s sometimes A Plan) was to...