TGOC 2006 - Days 1 to 3 Sheil Bridge to Fort Augustus (Choose your Team Well)

In which I persuade my neighbour to walk across with me.

What could possibly go wrong?

So for this venture we need a prequel.

I had for some insane reason after deciding that was it and I would most definitely never ever do this bleeding walk again......


So I did all the planning and set out a schedule and got us in somehow.

My neighbour of the time Nick, hereinafter to be just referred to as N was a company director, and ex rugby player, but NOT in the shape he had been.

I gave him clothing and gear advice, and also set out some training we could do to get to the prescribed level of fitness.
Shall we say that N did not appear to do as much of this as would have been ideal, and leave it at that.

I offered clothing also that would have been preferential to the job, but let's ignore that too shall we.

SO, come the day, all was good an enthusiastic.
N had wanted to do some adventurous bits, BUT I had built a route that would be less arduous, but permit these more arduous bits to be done should we get the weather window and also have the required fitness to get it done.

Bearing in mind, that I was running Marathons in training for Fun prior to this.

Ho hum.

So, we set off to the train.
Buggered if I can remember what train we got, but I seem to remember it involved a 5.15am start from Cambridge on the Thu...

We trundled north and then got the train/bus to Shiel Bridge, where we were booked into the Wee Bunkhouse.

John Jocys was booked in here too, which as it happens would prove to be useful by the end of day 1 🙆‍♂️

I should also add at this point, that I would do all the navigation.

(if I have to)

Note: there were no phones and fanciful GPS maps back in 2006
At least none I could afford at the time

(Hold that thought)

Day 01 Fri 14 - Shiel Bridge to Loch Affric ( 25km 745m)

So, after a few beers the night before it was time for the off.
All was going well thus far.

JJ was with us, and so it happens, the true LEGEND Dennis Pidgeon.
Dennis popped off to dip his toe, and came back with one very wet leg.

Anyway, we were on our way.
Fresh as a daisy

Me and Nick at the start 

The Legend that is Dennis :-)
We headed off along the road and then the track to head down eventually to Gleann Lichd and on to Camban Bothy

It was to be a long day.

The weather may have been a bit cool

Leaving Camban bothy after a wee stop (before it was done up)
We cracked on to Alltbeithe Hostel (long long before the WONDERFUL HANNAH was there).

But the man running it at the time was being a complete
BELL END that's 🔔🔚,
and saying NON residents couldn't come in. (OK, that may have been a later TGOC, but I don't think so)

We were not planning to stay, so we cracked on

Something reminds me that Ali was there this year, and was just heading off South to cross the river.
Might be wrong on that...???

Leaving Alltebeithe behind

We carried on to see how far we could get.
The weather was a bit up and down, but the rainbow was pretty.

JJ and Nick (not sure Nick was ever happy this trip 🤔
Me crossing the bridge before the camp
AND YES that is a Buffalo shirt.
And the same Raichle Boots from last year
It was probably getting on for 18.30 when we decided we would camp, finding a really nice flat spot.
N was butchered and shattered and just wanted to do nothing but put his tent up.

I had my nice NEW RED Laser Comp, and he had my old Saunders.

Anyway JJ and I put it up for him, and he crawled in.

Remember who was doing the food? 🤔🤷‍♂️

Yes, John and I did the food, and N lay in his tent.
I think until the next morning.

All that training before the event having paid off ??

A view a bit before we crossed the bridge

Nick in his tent

Looking back to the bridge from where we pitched

JJ in his Akto (always happy) 

And thus after John and I had a long chat or something.
Not sure if we had alcohol with us, but probably..

It was time for rest and sleep.

Hoping that Nick would feel better the following morning.

Day 02 Sat 15 - Loch Affric via Cougie to near Torgyle Bridge ( 25km 745m)

And so we headed off on a much brighter sunny day.
I think it may have rained overnight.

We headed up the valley on the Affric trail intending to turn right at the Cougie track.
Now sadly ruined by the Hydro scheme.

Looking down towards the lochan on the way to Cougie after the climb up.
This is the bit where you go through the gap in the old fence.
We headed on down to Cougie, reaching there after lunch.
This was my FIRST time at Cougie.
And what a brillant place.

The welcome from John and Val was fantastic, and the tea and cakes and scones.
I would come back here again more that once.
I did it on my 10th because it is special.

Sadly, this was going to be the last time I saw both JOHN & VAL together again.

You should read all about COUGIE if you can.
And if you go this way, and haven't been in, GO

Val and John sadly now have passed on, but the welcome from the family is still beyond.
They have left their legacy of happiness.

SCRATCH the cat 

John & Val.

I sent this picture to Mel a few years back and they have a copy on their wall now.
I cannot tell a lie, when I went back in 2015 on my 10th and saw it, it brought a tear to my eye!
We didn't stay, but we could have.
Instead, we cracked on heading down the track and right (not the normal trade route towards Hilton Lodge), then then followed the river via a lot of bobby forestry work at the time to head over the
Allt na Muic and then down through the forest.

Quite a bit of Off piste on the middle section as the track totally vanished until heading back down into the forest.

Once into the firest, the trail was clear but very muddy and wet.

We carried on down until emerging near the road by a small field with a stream to the right.
This was our stop for the night.
Just far enough from the road to not be seen, but with a flat pitch and fresh water.
Any further would have meant a road walk all the way to Torgyle bridge and beyond.

Nick making a better effort with the Saunders pitching than me TBH

Not a bad spot for the night, and in decent time to masn we could crack on into Fort Augustus tomorrow, and hopefully be there in time to catch the Premiership rugby finals in the afternoon.
One of the teams was SALE and Nick was a big Sale fan and hoping to see it.
I was also secretly hoping that SALE would bloody well win.

Day 03 Sun 16 - Near Torgyle Bridge to Fort Augustus ( 17km 360m)

So, in order to ghet there in time for the Rugby Premiership final, we headed off reasonably early.
Bundled up the road and over the bridge and then followed the main (I think) General Wade track up and under the Pylons, and then down to the zig zag path into Fort Augustus.

The route in takes us via Morag's Lodge, where we boked in.

Luckily, as this was Day 3 only, there were places available.

Nick loking err.. 🤔

Well, after booking in, we headed into town to get a beer and see if anyone was about, and also to maybe catch the rugby.

Nick found a pub showing the rugby, but not the one we were in.
I suspect he was tired again, as I do not remember him coming back out for long in the evening, although I may have been wrong there.

So it was an evening with a few beers.
John may or may not remember if anyone was there.
My mind is a bit blank.

Eventually we went back to the lodge and got some shut eye.

I do remember that there were some Fishermen from Devizes there (can't remember 1st name but a surname of Hall springs to mind).
Also, Pete and Trish (who were also at Morag's).

SALE  beat LEICESTER in the final, so not sure why N was grumpy the next day.
Well, it could have been ME actually being unwilling to stop in a storm but heh...

Read on!


TGOC 2005 Braemar (Inverey) to the Finish (Montrose)

So after a hectic start it was time to relax and bimble to the coast at a leisurely pace.

YES, IF ONLY! 🤦‍♂️

Hit that Play button and DRIVE to the Coast
IT IS PART of the Experience Baby
No background Music , the journey ain't right!
AND - Jeez look at the thickness of those strings

Day 07 Thu - Braemar Inverey to around the Stables of Lee 
(Glen Lee) [44km 1500m]

So we set off about 7.00 am, into a crisp morning.
Taking the road all the way to Braemar.
Yes I know, when I became sooooo much wiser I went via the wonderful woods.

I left Bruce in Braemar and went for a cup of Coffee at a small shop inside the courtyard that was luckily open.

A brief cup and then I headed off over the Lion's Face and down the road to cross the Invercauld Bridge.

Headed off through the forest trails to Gelder Shiel (I would visit here again on Stormy Monday a few years later)

My pictures drop off now.
Don't know why.
Banging out ridiculous hard yards I guess.

It was a warm day despite the clouds, and TBH I had no idea what my final destination would be.

I even contemplated heading up to Lochnagar from this side and camping high, but in the end I didn't.

I cracked on down the wide rocky LRT to come out at the Spittal.
You'll know that track if you've been there.
A real knee thumper.

Luckily for me with a sodding great pack, I hadn't reached the knee operation phase of my life (that was going to start in 2007 and finish in 2010, so far, although about my current RIGHT niggling cartilage 🤦‍♂️).

Had I actually planned any of this route?
TBH, I don't remember.

I headed on up the Allt Darrie, with the intention of going over and stopping at the Sheilin of Mark Bothy.

Had a sit down by that rock

My first attempt at navigating this bit, I took a bearing (the number now eludes me, but was one of 105 deg, 111 deg or something else from where the river splits), that had been given to me by the rather wonderful David Towers.

No idea how I managed it, but it was BANG on, and I dropped down to the bothy at approx 17.30 hrs, on a sunny evening.

Not a sole about, so I had a decent rest here, sitting outside the bothy.
When I say NOT a sole about it wasn't exactly surprising was it.
This was the 1st Thu (day 7) of the TGOC, and I was already at the Sheilin of Mark bothy 🤷‍♂️

It gets worse...

I decided as it was still lovely, I would crack on and ignore the pain.
I felt sure that the little pimple of Muckle cairn would go easily, so I headed off, without a thought of where I would camp...

And thus it was (no pictures sadly), I headed up.
This turned out to take rather longer than I had expected, what with carrying a sodding great pack still, and also being totally buggered.

BUT, up and over I went....

And down and down those bloody LRT tracks the other side.

And down and down until I got to the bottom the other side.

Now I mention the stables of Lee, but I think I actually stopped somewhere about 1 km short of here, OR it may have been just past.
TBH I have no bloody idea.
By the time I got to where I put up the wee Saunders tent, it was about 19.45

I was totally shattered, and found a tiny patch of grass just big enough off the left of the main track, with a smidgen of water flowing nearby.
I have been tis way several times since, and have never really worked out where it was.

Maybe a brighter sole than I, that can remember these places can give me an idea.

The image below shows another dreadful pitching of the tent.

I didn't even cook food.

I remember eating my entire supply of Mars bars (which I believe was 5), and then falling asleep, waking up only to feel somewhat sick, and then about 4.00 am by the sound of several Land Rovers thundering by on the wider track, and then I was asleep again.

Day 08 Fri- Somewhere up Glen Lee to Edzell via Tarfside (31.5 km 380m)

I was up early (mainly because of thundering vehicles), didn't bother with breakfast, and headed on up the valley towards the loch.

Past the end of the Loch to Kirkton

A beautiful day with beautiful skies, and hot.

Carrying on , I headed up the road and then the track to Westbank, for some reason here, taking the wrong track round the bottom past the house, not the route I should have taken.

I can't remember what time I got to Tarfside.

Last time I had been here was in 1995 on my 1st TGOC and then I had stayed at St Drostan's in a lovely bed.

Today (being the 2nd Fri) it was shut.
Now't here.
I tried to borrow a coin from someone to use the phonebox to phone in, but the only person I saw didn't have one.

There was nothing for it, but to crack on via Glen Esk.

BUT, not spotting the 1st bridge, I carried on up the road all the way to Milden Lodge. I had seen this bridge on the map, but there appeared no way in.

I carried on past, and then climbing a gate, I walked up the path (DRIVEWAY 🤦‍♂️) and then via what I expect was the garden to go across the rickety black bridge. The one with the warning on it NOT to use (yeah, yeah...)
At the other end it was padlocked shut, but I had come this far...
So taking life in hand, I climbed over the side of spiky bits and round.
Dropped my pack from a tottering position and then jumped down.
Somehow all without injury, death or being shouted at.

I scurried across the ground and up to the track the other side of the Esk.

And then, ON and ON into Edzell.

I went all the way to Edzell coming in via the well ploughed path to Lochside.

It was still Fri, and obviously no Challengers.

I made my way down the high street and found a B&B near the post office.

This as it happens was rather fine, and my first chance for a wash in a couple of days.

I peeled my socks off and replaced the huge quantities of tape on my feet after a really good soak, then went out to the pub for a solitary meal.

NOTE to self :  Try to find more company in future

Day 09 Sat - Edzell to Montrose (21km 141m)

Not much to say today really, and NO pictures.
At least, NONE that I can find

I was up by 08.00 for breakfast, said goodbye to the lovely landlady, and headed off directly out of town, under the arch and along the road to Montrose.

It was just banging out hard yards at pace now.
The fun was gone and I just wanted to get to the end.
All road, and some main road 🤦‍♂️, my only stop was a shop on the right hand side as I headed down the hill at Hillside to buy some chocolate and some Irnbru

Then a horrid noisy smelly bit of main road into Montrose over the bridge.

I was back in Montrose at the Park, signing in and out by just after midday.
Grabbed my goodies, had a beer, and by 14.30 I was already on the train home at what even today, would be a bleeding expensive fare. I think it was just over £100.

Nobody to talk to, no post TGOC banter.

I changed at Peterborough, and then Ely, and was collected from Cambridge.

It was the 2nd Saturday (Braemar Saturday, singing and fun Saturday)
and I was back home in my own house by 20.00

It was my 2nd successful crossing.
My feet were in tatters on the heels.
BUT I had done it.

That was it, off the bucket list.

No need to do any of that shit again EVER was there?


(2006 is pending when ....... Wait and see)