The Monarch Hotel’s chef came up with a great ‘Full Scottish’ to fuel us up for the day, which was as well, as it was to prove to be a long one. But there could be no ducking out, no stopping short, as we were heading for our second Cheese & Wine Party and we were expecting a few attendees. It would be plain wrong not to turn up to a party that you had organised.
[DAY 7 JUST OVER 17 MILES: CLICK TO ENLARGE]
[MONARCH HOTEL’S PIC OF ME, PHIL, MIKE KNIPE & ANDY. YOU’LL NOTE THAT AT THIS EARLY HOUR MY FLEECE SLEEVE IS ALREADY ON THE MARCH UP TO MY ELBOW – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
I’m never great company first thing in the morning and I like walking on my own for a bit until things settle down, which actually works quite well when you are walking as a threesome. I’ve no idea why, but I just like a bit of space for a while.
The walk to Glentruim is on roads, but they are perfectly quiet and so in lovely fresh weather we bowled along to the Macpherson Memorial.
I’ve stopped at this cairn quite a few times over the years and, after a bit of digging, I have turned up this information:
The Clan Macpherson Cairn was raised at Glentruim in 1996 as part of the Clan Macpherson Association’s ﬁftieth anniversary celebrations. The cairn was erected to commemorate one of the clan’s great heroes: Cluny Macpherson of the ’45, who led his men in support of Charles Stuart during the 1745–46 Jacobite Uprising. After years in hiding in the aftermath of Culloden, Macpherson died in exile in France in 1764 and his actual burial place is now unknown. Stones from the homeland were incorporated into monuments raised in the diaspora. The Glentruim cairn – at the heart of the Macpherson homeland – is constructed from stones sent from the diaspora; indeed, sent from no fewer than twenty-six different countries throughout the world in which Macpherson migrants have settled.
Whilst most of the stones are anonymous within the fabric of the cairn, the Clan Association has kept records of every stone donated, detailing where they were sourced and the migrant stories each represents. Collected from old homesteads and farms, historic forts, mountains, rivers, mines and other sites from throughout the world where the migrants settled, each stone thus materialises the memory of a migration.
Each tells a particular migrant’s narrative, but each particular narrative is also a fragment of a wider story: that of the Macpherson diaspora, which is, in turn, a fragment of the story of the Scottish diaspora as a whole. Just as the fragments of rock are conglomerated into one in the cairn, so the
personal histories they each embody are fused in the cement of a shared heritage into the collective history of a people.
Whilst we were having one of our lazy snoozes at the cairn, (which has a cracking view looking back up the Spey) John caught us up and we strolled on together as a foursome once more. A little later we bumped into a dodgy looking cove in his motorhome, Ian Shiel, a lovely man who over the years has been a great friend to me. It was good to see him looking chipper.
[MONADHLIATH FROM WADE'S ROAD – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
I love the Wade road from Phones to Newtonmore – you’re only a mile from the busy A9, but slightly elevated, so you don’t see or hear it. It feels like you are in the middle of nowhere. Your view sweeps the entire length of the the vast Monadhliath Mountains. We had a snoozy lunch at about eight miles, at the un-named lochan after Phones. I wasn’t feeling at my best, so this was a very welcome stop.
We left John, who had been great company and was carrying on to Newtonmore, and we headed up the track to the Allt Ghiubhais.
[PHIL, JOHN & ANDY - CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Phil had been this way before and had learned from Colin Tock that the track went a mile further up the hill than shown by the O.S. which was welcome news as I was feeling quite rough.
[PHIL POINTING OUT THE 'SECRET' TRACK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
At the end of the track there was a little marvel: A secret sunken bothy. It looked as though it didn’t have many years left though as the walls are now bulging from the soil pressure.
[PHIL'S PIC OF THE SUNKEN BOTHY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
As you can see, Croydon & Morpeth had been this way in 2010 and Dickie Fuell in 2011.
[PHIL, SUNKEN BOTHY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
Then it was back to the day-job and so off we trudged up the glorious boggy bealach of Blar an Liana Mhoir. It wasn’t steep, but it was heavy going underfoot. We could see heavy showers coming our way from the west and sure enough they were soon splattering against waterproofs. I love the next picture, courtesy of Andrew, as for me it captures the day wonderfully.
[ANDY'S PIC OF PHIL & ME, BLAR AN LIANA MHOIR – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
[PHIL, BLAR AN LIANA MHOIR – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
By the time we got over the top to Glen Tromie I really was very tired but now at least we had an easy stroll up the metalled road to the first weir after Bhran Cottage.
[PHIL ABOVE ALLT BHRAN, DISTANT MONADH LIATH – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
After the second weir I took a bit of a tumble - I was just not thinking straight and missed my footing - and Phil patched up my bleeding finger. By now I really was on auto-pilot. I just didn’t have any petrol in the tank and to be honest I don’t remember too much about the slog up the valley. I do remember that the skies were clear and the views pin sharp.
We made our stopping point at just after seven o’clock and it was all I could do to get Sally Solomid up. Wonderfully, Alan & Sheila Rayner and Les & Issy Silkowski were already there, so the effort of the day was well worth it. Alan & Sheila weren’t on the Challenge but had interrupted their holiday to join us for the day. Splendid, eh? We were handed a parcel, that had been left for us on the path up to our location. It was from Colin Bennett. Inside were scrumptious macadamia nuts. It had a large note inside:
[CLICK TO ENLARGE]
What a lovely man!
The others had already started partying, so we joined in, trying our best to be chirpy, but I think I failed a bit on that score; I was just too far gone. Then along came Dave & Val Machin. They had cycled up the glen and walked the last few miles. But my word, they had done well.
[CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
From their bags they produced a veritable feast that we all fell upon. There were balloons! But, even wrapped up for the Arctic I was still freezing cold, so I sloped off for a few minutes warm-up back in the tent. Unfortunately as soon as I lay down, I was out for the count.
[ANDY'S PIC OF CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
When I woke in the morning I found that Phil had tucked me in and zipped up my tent. Val and Dave had left at well after ten o’clock at night to head off back to their bikes, but in the failing light had missed the path and had finally got home in the small hours. What wonderful people, eh?