Today: 14.0 miles
Total so far: 1592.3 miles
Percentage Completed: 95.3%
(Click map to enlarge)
Up in good order and away at a sensible time (8:15!) We re-cross the braided Strathmore River without mishap and start the steady climb up the flank of Ben Hope, aiming for the waterfall - an impressive double drop over the lip of the crags.
It is a much cooler day, with rolling clouds and a smart breeze which we are walking straight into. Ben Hope is completely smothered in cloud and any thoughts (however slight) of nipping up to the top without packs are very quickly scotched by the weather. (Phew!)
We walk on the compass due east up to the top of the rounded ridge taking a rest at a wonderful erratic with a cave on the leeward side with a ready made rock bench. More coats, hats, scarves and gloves are donned after a bit of a snack and we head off, just beneath the clouds on a wonderful moorland walk.
We take little rests on the numerous rocky outcrops to sit and admire the huge sweep of miles and miles of nothingness as the wind blusters and whistles; the clouds dropping further as we descend alongside Allt an Achaid Mhoir.
We play tag with a herd of about sixty deer on the Meadie Ridge to the south of us, just standing watching the compression spring of the herd stretch and bounce back into tight huddles. The moor is pathless and so we follow the wise deer tracks which help us down the river over the bluffs and gorges, keeping us safe until we make the Kinloch Estate bothy at Loch an Dherue.
Loch an Dherue & bothy
It is a little gem: Double glazed, with comfortable chairs and lots of space to spread out, we decide on a large lunch of Cod and Potato casserole with soup, coffee, bread and cheese, to use up the final bits and pieces of my six days of rations. The rucksac is positively tiny when I repack as two huge food bags of food have finally been consumed!
As we sit having lunch looking out over a peaceful scene of loch and Gneiss crags, the weather start to come in with a vengeance - the blustery rain splattering against our window.
It is going to be a very wet afternoon, but we cannot complain - the weather has been incredibly decent to me on this walk, and as John Donohoe once commented on the 'Challenge' Message Board, 'Scotland need a few showers to keep it fresh'.
It's good tracks and a minor road all the way to our B&B (Rhian Cottage - an excellent establishment) just short of Tongue, where we are to meet Derek & Marian again. The valley is surprisingly lush with full green long grass and cattle in large pastures, after the rough and tumble of the moorland and mountain scenery of the last six days.
I am looking forward to Tongue and a rest-day; for a shower, clean hair and a shave. Simple things!
Richard has been brilliant company, but leaves me here, to return to the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, to be a learned gentleman once more, rather than the Ragged Gentleman of the Road with just the one pair of trousers to his name.
Richard on Broch, near Ben Hope