View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Monday 5 July 2021

Two kilts & 3 lungs across Scotland


In the beginning:

This year’s TGO Challenge very nearly didn’t happen for me: Covid-19 being responsible for he cancellation of last year’s event, and delaying this year’s. Also, I’ve been firing on just one lung for the last 2½ years, and very recent surgery to try to kickstart my non-functioning lung had been, well, very recent – just a few weeks prior to the Challenge start date.


At stupid o’clock on Thursday morning I boarded the train to Preston to connect with the awful Transpennine Express ‘First Class’ service to Glasgow Central – the only thing that was first class about it was the comfortable seat. No reserved seating, no refreshment service – nada, nothing, nowt. 

At least I had the foresight to buy some decent reading material before boarding the train.


Note to self: Avoid Transpennine Express in future.

 Me and Judith at Glasgow Queen Street (Mike's photo)

I met up with other Challengers at Glasgow, and along with Judith and Mike, we navigated our way to the recently ‘improved’ Glasgow Queen Street station for the next leg of our journey to Oban. The improvements included no refreshments. Great. Fortunately there was a Greggs not too far away.

On arrival at Oban it was felt that Mike and I should improve our levels of hydration to help prepare ourselves for the coming Challenge. Six hours later we rolled out of the pub, completely rehydrated and in high spirits. It was great to see musician buddy Lindy (who now lives in Oban) and fellow Challenger Ian in the pub.

We spent a comfortable night in Oban’s SYHA, waking to glorious weather – warm, sunshine, gentle breeze…all rather lovely really. We headed back to, er, the pub – for breakfast and a goodly amount of coffee.

The view from our hostel window

Brekky down the pub

The obligatory Great Wetting Of The Feet

Try as we might, we couldn’t delay our departure any further. First waypoint on our route was McCaig’s Tower, above Oban. ‘Above’ meant this was the first climb of our Challenge –  the climb out of town was a bit of a rude awakening!

View from McCaig's Tower

Men in Kilts at McCaig's Tower

After a quick photo-shoot (and a pause for me to catch my breath) we meandered out of town along the long and winding road that is Glen Lonan.

Much tarmac followed. And there was an eagle. And a very fine and erect standing stone. Oh, and a blockage.

One for AlanR

Ask Mike, he knows what they're called.

After a load of very accurately measured kilometers and ascent we pitched up next to Eas Mor Burn where there weren’t many midges at all. Or ticks.

I’d treated my clothing to a good dose of Permethryn prior to setting off, I also carried Smidge, a midge jacket and a head net, plus (and I’m very grateful to Dawn for her recommendation) Citronella incense sticks, produced by Stamford. They very successfully kept midges out of my tent for the entire trip.

In an attempt to reduce my pack weight I opted for a lighter-weight tent this year, I’d obtained a second hand. pre-loved, previously owned or whatever, Scarp 1 in good condition. It’s rather lighter than the Akto, in addition the inner is larger and it has two porches – although individually, they’re smaller than the Akto’s single porch. It took me a few days to get used to having two porches and making optimum use of them.

I always thought the Akto was quick to put up, the Scarp is even quicker – a boon in wet weather.

There are a few minor modifications I’ll be making to the Scarp, but I can safely say that it’s a keeper – although not for the depths of winter, that’s where the Akto scores.

I had a lovely tea of home-made and home dehydrated lamb stew – very tasty.

The first day had gone well. Although there were no hills to speak of, my one functioning lung was strutting it’s stuff – maybe all this walking will encourage the other lung to join the party. I know I’ll never regain full lung function, but owt is better than nowt.


  1. Very good reading and photos.

    1. Thank you....whoever you are - I'm afraid your details come up as 'Unknown'!

  2. I was not aware of your problem and am full of admiration for your positive attitude and continuation of such epic treks. Long may they continue. I have walked well over 3000 miles on New Knee Number 1 and well over 1000 miles on New Knee Number Two and I hope you can clock up massive mileages with your reduced capacity, but even more do I hope that you can get some recovery. Best wishes.

    1. Thank you Conrad, I'm doing my best to get back up to speed.
      Interesting re: your knees, I had an arthroscopy & microfracture procedure on my R knee. After the op the surgeon told me I'd need a new knee in 5 years - that was 12 years ago!

  3. Fantastic John, I am so glad you made it across ok. Well done

    1. Thanks Dawn, it was Mike's 'encouragement' that helped me across!

  4. Well done JJ. Good to see your using a Scarp 1. Great tent. Re the “tractor”, it’s not easy to I’d as there isn’t much left of it. I am relatively sure it’s a Case TL with a digger accessory on the back. But that’s about it. There was probably no food and drink on the trains due to Covid. Role on 19th July.

    1. Thanks Alan!
      I'd like to think that the lack of service on TPE was down to Covid, but Standard Class had a food & drink trolley service, and on my return journey (two legs at First Class - NOT Transpennine Express) I was very well fed and watered.

  5. Nice one JJ, and it was good to see you pretending to be fighting fit in Montrose before collapsing into your executive train compartment!


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