17 April 2022

TGO Challenge 2021: DAYS 13 & 14: To Lunan Bay

Here we go then - the last section is two days to the coast, leaving the hills behind and strolling through the glorious Angus countryside on my way to one of my favourite finishing points, Lunan Bay.

DAY 13 (19.5KM) and DAY 14 (17.4KM): CLICK TO ENLARGE


I've walked this route three years ago in 2018 with Phil & Andy and you can find a few reasons in that post for the route selection. You'll also notice that my walking companions this year are far more photogenic than the old lags I was saddled with then!

Even though the day is only a tad over twelve miles it's worth getting away with a clean pair of heels so that you can enjoy your arrival at Brechin with a trip to the pub before checking in to your B&B or campsite still in a timely fashion. Our route is on tracks and minor roads to begin with, with lovely views to the north of the hills you're slowly leaving behind. By and large the roads have plenty of deciduous tree cover - lots of beech trees unfurling their splendour -  to give partial shelter from rain or sunshine. Today we were blessed with sunshine: Lots of it! 



The little hamlet of Fern really is a 'must visit' spot on the itinerary for elevenses or a second breakfast. It's a tiny bit of paradise here on earth, frequented today by three angels.




After this glorious wood there's a bit of foot-slogging to be done, and in the late June full-strength sunshine this afternoon felt like hard work. I suppose it was the sunshine combined with the culmination of the previous two weeks of walking. Whatever, I struggled this afternoon and was very glad indeed to be strolling down the hill into Brechin into the town centre. We hit the first pub for some welcome refreshment. I'd been here before with Phil and Andy so it felt like coming home.


Then it was off to my wonderful B&B - Liscara - where I have stayed before, to get the sweaty washing done to make myself more presentable for the arrival at Montrose tomorrow. This was followed by a trundle up to the Northern Hotel to meet with half a dozen Challengers for some food.

Dinner included lively conversations on all manner of subjects, inevitably turning to the subject of the most useless gear Challengers have brought on the Challenge over the years. This included a discussion about modern lightweight gear and the inverse relationship between weight and price; the less your gear weighs the greater the probability you paid considerably more for it. This was felt by all to be downright iniquitous! 

However, I pointed out that after many years of sitting with all the other husbands in Rigby & Peller whilst our other halves were being tended to, this was nothing to be surprised about. Less is definitely more.

And with that I strolled back to my Bed & Breakfast in the evening twilight, unaware of the furore that this would produce in a particular section of social media. I was serenely happy, knowing that this year's Challenge was now in the bag.


It's an eleven mile stroll to the coast today and with my entire wardrobe freshly laundered and my back teeth floating after a breakfast of champions, I meet up with Lindsay at the benches outside the Brechin Town House Museum, which are flooded in warm sunshine at eight o'clock in the morning.


This is a very good start. We've soon crossed the South Esk on the lovely old stone bridge and are climbing away from the town beneath yet more wonderful beech trees. We're in no hurry and take regular breaks to admire the scenery, which is so much better than expectation and simple map reading would have us believe.

We decide on a spot for an early lunch at the top of a hill opposite Fithie Wood and so make our way steadily onwards in the warming sunshine. I'd decided to take a route across Rossie Moor this year to avoid any difficulties with path diversions at Renmuir that we had experienced in the past. 

We hopped over the gate to leave Fithie Wood behind us and within a hundred yards found a wonderful grassy spot sheltered by large gorse bushes at the start of the track that climbed the gentle ridge. It was heavenly. I may have dozed off. Snoozed most probably. A lunch of crusty cheese and tomato rolls, pork sausage rolls and fresh fruit seemed just the job. All was not just well with my world, it was bloody fabulous. We had watched fields of barley swept by warm breezes into gentle rollers sweeping down the hillside. Buzzards were mewing and larks and all manner of LBJ's tweeting their hearts out. We must have spent a good hour doing bugger all and it felt wonderful. After all the difficulties I had experienced over the past two weeks this finally felt like a wonderful holiday.

But we did need to get it done. So staggering up in the very bright sunshine we slowly ambled off, only to bump into a lovely bloke who was doing a nature survey of Rossie Moor as one of his his retirement hobbies. He's done all the Munros and Corbetts and spoke fondly of the TGO Challenge. Route finding across Rossie Moor? No problem he said, with a smile, though the paths are no longer where we'll think they should be, but we should have no problem...

Okay. Perhaps that should have been a warning, but it flew right over my very smiley bonce. Within two hundred yards we came to an abrupt halt. Ahead of us was a phalanx of solid gorse at least fifteen feet high, interspersed with youngish silver birch. We scouted this way and that and decided on a right. Then we clambered through a double barbed wire fence to try to get back on track, always looking out to see if we could collect the track that had disappeared. The going became increasingly squelchy underfoot. This could not be right... So we doubled back, still intent on finding the track that only existed in the cartographer's drug-crazed fantasies. After a good three quarters of a miles of tussock, bog, forcing our way through gorse and tightly packed birch trees we eventually found ourselves at a gate at the far side of Rossie Moor. We sat down, both utterly fed up and knackered in the heat!

Here's a tip: Don't ever even think of taking this route!


Out of mild curiosity after I had returned home I found where I had been from my Google Timeline, which I shall share with you below.

Utter madness.


Still, as my old mother used to say, "it's all character deforming".


At half one we decided upon a second lunch at a side track off a minor road before crossing the A92. You can't be too careful. We wouldn't want to feel giddy with hunger or dehydration. The sun was properly belting down - it was the height of the day and even the mad dogs had found shade, leaving just us Englishmen out in the midday sun.



We had a couple of miles to go and so we kicked ourselves back into gear and began the gentle descent to the Lunan Bay Cafe.


Lunan Bay is now a hive of catering and hospitality with a hotel and cafe to cater for our every conceivable need. We passed on the hotel's offers and made straight for the cafe. Unfortunately the blasted Covid regulations dictated that we could only take our cakes, coffee and cold drinks out on trays to sit outside. I'd rather fancied sitting down on a chair, with a back, in the Great Indoors for a change. I'd had rather too much of the other doors recently. Even so, it was lovely to be just sat on the decking, with coffees, beers and cakes. A rather nice lady offered to take our picture with my phone. This is as good as it gets, you know.


I'm not sure how Lindsay saw her mini Challenge, as she'd originally only bummed a lift to Scotland to do a bit of walking and perhaps bump into her Challenge friends. In the event, she had inadvertently picked up a struggler who she nursed across half of Scotland. What an amazing girl.

However, for me this had been a momentous walk, taking both my sister Megan's and my brother David's kidneys sightseeing across the very best bits of Scotland. I had had some pretty torrid days through a combination of being woefully unfit - not having had any time to get fit after my transplant - and still quite weak from the surgery, with a blood count in the low 120s. 

But I'd done it. I'm not sure that I could have though, had it not been for bumping into Lindsay and latterly Judith and Barbara. But, I'D BLOODY DONE IT! This was by a country mile the hardest TGO Challenge of my twenty five crossings. 


During my walk there had been a first-time Challenger who had been a regular on the TGO Challenge Facebook Group who had begun to get on my tits: He regularly handed down tablets of stone, airing his opinions, one of which was that the only way to do a Challenge properly was to wild camp all the way across, camping late and camping high. If you weren't doing that, you were doing it wrong and were in effect an oxygen thief, stealing the air from someone else who could have taken your place to do the thing properly. Prior to setting off, I had pointed out that the Challenge was a broad church, with a huge variety of experience, ability and challenges that individuals should set for themselves. This was met with a blank denial. The chap seemed to be on some bizarre crusade, setting himself up as an authority on How It Should Be Done. I had attracted my own personal stalker who seemed to have taken against me, and he popped up on a few occasions during the walk to take some deeply unpleasant  and personal swipes. 

I let this lie. I was not going to let an idiot spoil my walk. Straight afterwards, when I found out other stuff he had posted that I had missed, I was pretty brassed off and would have offered him this advice: Never get old. Never get unwell. And never need help. Who knows, somebody might cross the road to help you but during the Challenge I was pretty sure it would not have been me. However, I've had almost a year to reflect, and my attitude has mellowed. I now pity him. And I would probably take pleasure in getting him back on his feet and urging him on eastwards should he ever need that support.

I have always seen the TGO Challenge as a family that is supportive of those who are struggling. We each of us know that simply to arrive at the west coast and point yourself in an easterly direction has taken a huge amount of planning and effort. We look out for each other to help as much as possible in order that *everyone* gets across and enjoys the event as much as possible. It's a life affirming event and long may it continue.


So, once again, a huge thank you to Ali and Sue who are the present event coordinators and their team of volunteer helpers, without whom the event could not take place. Those thanks extend all the way back to the very first TGO Challenge team over forty years ago.


On arrival at the Park Hotel in Montrose to sign the Finishers' Register, I was handed a parcel. Lord Elpus and Miss Whiplash had sent a rather nice bottle and a lovely card. 


Phil won't be walking the Challenge this year (2022) as he has medical problems that make it impossible. Since 1999, when he first agreed to walk across with me, we've done at least a dozen Challenges together. Phil has completed fifteen Challenges in total. He has planned, virtually single handed, this coming Challenge that I'm now about to attempt without him.

Phil seems fairly certain that he has walked his last TGO and I'm going to miss him like hell.



  1. I've enjoyed this trip - the ambience has been palpable. I was amused by the wanderings shown by your GPS, at least you were MAINLY going forwards, but who's bothered about a bit of backwards anyway, especially as you got there in the end.

    1. Hi Conrad!
      Who's bothered! I was *very* hot and bothered!
      But yes, we eventually escaped.

  2. Great to see you finish off this trip report Alan. I was planning to take that route through Rossie Moor on my route this year :-).......

    1. Hi Paul
      Just in time then!
      Have a wonderful walk and enjoy your lovely new shelter.

  3. Just binge-reading your story.
    Thanks for that.
    Get healthy, stay healthy

    Willem Fox


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