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Thursday, 2 July 2015

TGO Challenge 2015: Part I: Town & Country

Day 'Minus One'


Many years ago, Lord Elpus and I would stand barely awake and bleary-eyed at Luton Airport at GodKnowsWhatO'clock in the morning and much later the same day, after struggling with 'outsize baggage', buses and trains, we would arrive at the West Coast, completely knackered to start our first day of our two week holiday walking across Scotland on the TGO Challenge.

We were throwing ourselves, in indecent haste at Scotland, and it resulted in two jaded walkers who passed magnificent rock architecture, bubbling and bouncing cascades, barely noticing anything that was not immediately in front of our feet.

THE CAFE IN THE GARDEN, RUSSELL SQUARE





But not any more. This year I sit on the top deck of a bus, marvelling at the views over garden hedges as it weaves its way through Windsor and London, and alight at Hyde Park Corner. Then it's a delightful wander through the tourists up past the Ritz and Piccadilly Circus to enjoy a late lunch at Cafe Boheme in Soho. A short stroll through Bloomsbury for a coffee & Danish in Russell Square, now mingling with the well-heeled retired and trendy young students. 

BLOOMSBURY. AT LEAST THE ARCHITECT HAD A GO...

EUSTON STATION

Another gentle amble finds me at Euston station, and then the Bree Louise, this evening a bustling hot, humid and full of excited Challengers sort of place. Pies & Beers, and old friends to see us off.


THE BREE LOUISE, EUSTON

TOBY, GORDON, PHIL, VICKY & ROBIN, AT THE BREE LOUISE

JEREMY, AT THE START OF HIS TENTH CHALLENGE. I WIN THIS YEAR'S BET WITH PHIL ON THE NUMBER OF MAP CASES. JEZZA WAS LATER TO LEAVE THESE IN THE PUB, ONLY TO BE REUNITED WITH THEM AT THE VERY LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE ON THE SLEEPER BY A VERY KIND CHALLENGER DUE TO TRAVEL ON THE NEXT TRAIN. [PHIL'S PICTURE]

VICKY DRESSED IN THE LATEST ULTRA LIGHT WALKING GEAR

VICKY, IN "SO LAST YEAR'S" WALKING GEAR

London is a fabulous city.



Day Zero:


After an evening in the bar and a night stowed in our bunks on the Caledonian Sleeper, we wake to Inverness Railway Station, and another beautiful morning. A coach delivers us to the front door of the Kintail Lodge Hotel, at Shiel Bridge on the west coast of Scotland.

KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL, SHIEL BRIDGE


SHIEL BRIDGE, KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL. PHIL CONSOLING ANDY, WHO THIS YEAR IS WALKING WITH "THE BIGGER BOYS."


PHIL'S PICTURE: KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL

LOCH DUICH, FROM OUR HOTEL

LOCH DUICH

With the weather set to "perfect" we have a whole afternoon to ease ourselves into a holiday mood. The rest of Britain is casting its vote in what promises to be a very tight General Election resulting in another disastrous hung parliament, but right now all that is a million miles from this little piece of Paradise. We celebrate the start of our holiday with a lovely meal and a good bottle in the conservatory, watching the sun set in the north west.

EVENING AT KINTAIL LODGE HOTEL

Watching Channel Four on the bedroom telly, Andrew Neil says the exit poll is suggesting a surprise win for the Conservatives. Paddy Ashdown promises to eat his hat if that were to be so. And with that, we slide into oblivion after a thoroughly relaxing two day journey.

This is the way to do it.

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