A load of years ago I met the Pieman at Shiel Bridge, my start point for that particular Challenge. Mike was starting from Glenelg, a good few miles to the west. That year it was a bad few miles: the weather had been awful and Mike, the brave chap, had decided to walk to his start point. Thank heavens for Paramo.
This year it was my turn to do the Glenelg start. Everybody I’d spoken to reckoned it was a brill place to start from, I wasn’t disappointed.
On the Thursday night I shared a B&B with High Altitude Brookes and Paul. Mrs Cameron, our host(ess) collected us from Shiel Bridge bus stop and drove us to her rather nice house, a short walk from the Glenelg Inn, a rather excellent boozah.
Tiredness and the need to be up for an early(ish) breakfast meant that Graham and I escaped from the pub at around 10.30pm and legged it back to our B&B….not before we’d made fools of ourselves attempting the pub quiz.
Day 1: Glenelg to Shiel Bridge
A good night’s sleep followed by a decent breakfast set me up for the day. I was in no rush (nowt new there then) and spent an hour wandering around Glenelg, taking photographs, chatting to some of the locals, wetting my boots in the briny – and picking up a lightweight pebble to haul over to the east coast of Scotchlandshire.
First stop was for refreshments at The Wagon @ Corrary, well worth a visit: decent coffee and a smiley lady serving goodies. Of considerable interest were the remains of a number of ancient brochs, drystone structures with hollowed walls.
Broch at Corrary
The heat from the sun was hot, probably something to do with the temperature. To stay cool I scared the local wildlife by rolling up my trousers to above my knees. Women and small children screamed at the sight of my pale knobbly knees. Such knees shouldn’t really be allowed out in the daylight, perhaps I should start wearing tights…..or maybe a fake tan is the answer.
Shiel Bridge was my intended overnight stop, not too far at all. The glorious weather (almost) had me wishing it was further. Whatever, it was a lovely walk that offered some good views.
Most of the Challengers had left by the time I arrived in SB – although I was very pleasantly surprised to find a couple of non-challenging Challengers lurking:
With Jeanette & Biaggio at The Kintail Lodge
Much refreshment was taken that night, this walking (and talking) lark can seriously dehydrate a chap. And hydration is just so important. Innit.
A good night’s kip followed….well it would, wouldn’t it?
Day 2: Shiel Bridge to Strawberry Cottage
At 8.30am I promptly left the bunkhouse around 9am. The weather was still glorious: hot, well quite warm, sunshine and a gentle breeze. Norralot not to like really.
Walking East is always A Good Thing on the Challenge, so that’s what I did. It was easy walking on a Land Rover track through Kintail Forest. Still no Challengers, Shiel Bridge starters were mostly a day ahead of me.
A helicopter flew over at one point, I was later to find out that it was going to extract a Challenger (from Alltbeithe I think) who’d fallen and suffered a dislocated something or other. Such bad luck.
It was tempting to stay around Alltbeithe, I knew that some Challengers were staying there so I certainly wouldn’t be alone. The warden / manager or whatever they are these days was something of a star. She provided excellent refreshments and hospitality to passing Challengers….I only found out a day or so later! Ho hum.
Strawberry Cottage / Athnamulloch is four miles after Alltbeithe, along Glen Affric. It was around 6.30pm when I eventually put my tent up. I was sharing the nice flat(ish) area with 5 other Challengers – company at last! A little later another group arrived but they camped a good distance away from us – they probably weren’t Challengers.
The sky was quite clear and the temperature was dropping. I was looking forward to a cosy night in my new sleeping bag, a North Face Hightail 3S, but I was disappointed. I was quite chilly, the down in this brand new bag was clumping badly, creating a good number of (very) cold spots with hardly any insulation. Not impressed – especially for £230.