22 April 2022

TGO Challenge 2022: Acharacle to St Cyrus, Solo


As you will have noticed from the TGO Challenge Countdown Clock to the right, there are not many days now - just twenty as I type this on the laptop - before I hoist my pack and leave Acharacle on the west coast for a two week walk across Scotland to the east coast. 

Whenever I wrote that in the past on this blog, it always induced a frisson of excitement, wondering what each day would bring, wondering how the weather would affect each day, and wondering who I would bump into enroute. For the last twenty or so years I would invariably share these experiences with a man who I could totally rely on to be there, whatever misfortune befell us. I've known Phil for well over thirty years. We have a lot in common; we walk at a similar pace and have similar views on a great deal in life. Whenever we reach a difficult spot on a walk, whether through tiredness or difficult terrain or the old unexpected, we understand implicitly how the other is likely to be feeling and make allowances and adjustments without ever having to think about it. In short, he's my perfect walking companion. 

Don't get me wrong. I've walked with others and have had a wonderful time, but there has never been that automatic, unthinking understanding.

This year I am having to readjust psychologically in a pretty major way, as it's doubtful that Phil will ever walk another TGO Challenge. I'm going to miss him like hell; it will be like having my right arm cut off. However, I won't be able to shake the old bastard off quite yet as he has been the principal architect of this year's route. He has also organised the transport to Scotland and back and the accommodation along the walk. I'll be walking his route and hopefully through the blog and the occasional social media post, he'll enjoy the inevitable moments of schadenfreude as things go tits-up. We do enjoy another's misfortune from the comparative comfort of a safe spot, preferably with a glass of the good stuff at hand.

If that wasn't enough, to add a little extra excitement this year, over the last seven weeks I've had three different surgeons correcting various anomalies that have cropped up with my health that were a direct consequence of having two kidney transplants over the last nine years. Consequently I've not been out for a single training walk this year, and it's unlikely that I will before the Challenge. This also meant that I had to miss out on the annual PreWalkDaunder, that took place in the Yorkshire Dales, that I had organised myself before the required trips into the body shop were on the horizon. I did manage a two mile shuffle around town yesterday to test out various meshes, stitches and my balance. It went okay and upon returning home I slumped on my sofa with a decent measure in a glass to celebrate. 

I was celebrating, right enough, as after the second operation it had felt like the Challenge would be impossible, yet four weeks later I was out and about. Another twenty days? Pah! A doddle! I'm going to have a go at four miles tomorrow. I'll just have to get fit on the Challenge.

So with the comfort of Phil looking over my shoulder this year, here's a peek at our route:


And here it is at a Road Atlas scale, in three chunks with overlaps. The days alternate in red and black.


The observant amongst the congregation will notice that on Day One there's gap - that's a ferry crossing of Loch Shiel, which reminds me, that's another job for tomorrow's list. There's also another ferry to be taken, at the start of the third day, across the Corran Narrows. From there it's terra firma all the way to St Cyrus on the east coast. From Lundavra through to Glen Nevis with a little piece of route magic from Phil, then a good walk through to Corrour and onwards to Loch Rannoch.


A nice twist after the loch and then onwards to Blair Atholl. I'm really looking forward to the next two day section to Braemar. I doubt I'll be bumping into too many here. I've booked a table at a good restaurant in Braemar to celebrate.


I'll be visiting Bill and Michael at Lochcallater Lodge for the first time in a number of years. Visiting the lodge always feels like going home, sitting in front of the fire with the very best of like-minded people. It's been too long. Then it's a nice walk over the tops to Glen Clova and up and over to Tarfside  to join the Challenge trade route to the coast.

This is one of Phil's masterpieces - a sensible first couple of days through some new territory for us, followed by some longer walks through spectacular mountain landscapes and then wild walking amongst Cairngorm giants. 

Yes I'll be walking solo but Phil will be with me every step of the way.


And still, in the Spirit of Old Mortality, still sadly missed, are two of my favourites:


  1. Good luck sir.
    I shall be somewhat further north for much of this, assuming I don't have hip breakdown. What days are you at Braemar and the Lodge?

    1. Cheers fella
      Being a creature of habit and not swayed by the temptations of an earlier start date, I shall be in Braemar on Saturday late afternoon after a biggish day, and then of course at Bill & Michael's on the Sunday afternoon.

  2. I'm in awe at your determination. Good luck.

    1. Determination, David? Or just plain stubbornness. I haven't missed a TGO Challenge since 1995, and I don't intend to now!
      Of course, it could all end in tears...

  3. All I can say Alan is that I hope all goes well and that you enjoy yourself and I look forward to reading about it .

    1. Cheers, Chris
      Obviously I'll be taking it carefully for the first few days but I can't wait to get back there.

  4. You will be walking almost parallel to me until you head off towards Rannoch, you pick up the route I more or less planned the last time I started in Lochailort. I will be in Braemar the same day, slumming it with the great unwashed in the campsite. Then I'll see you in Tarfside.
    I am excited and anxious, as usual, all at once.
    One foot in front of the other...

    1. That's a lie. C&W at NWB. See you there 🤣

    2. Yesterday I ordered my Real Turmat meals, and a few puddings that I have for breakfast to interrupt the incessant cereal bars.

      This afternoon I've been looking at the accommodation that Phil has organised and possible eateries and cafes along the route. The maps and route sheet are now printed.

      Tomorrow I'll start thinking about my kit. I've no idea where it all is - it's scattered around the place as I loaned it to a few friends last summer. I *think* I need to buy some some socks - I'll check that tomorrow. I had been planning to go for a four mile walk today but somehow the snooker got in the way...

      I'll see you in Braemar, my lovely!

    3. Can't wait my lovely! xx

  5. Good luck Alan, and best wishes to the absent warrior. We'll be with you in spirit. And even in person at Braemar.

    1. There's beginning to be a fair few messages to pass on to Lord Elpus. I'd better start writing them down... There's only so much memory left i the grey matter these days.

  6. Hope to see you along the way Alan.
    We will be in Kinloch Rannoch on the Tuesday evening and Blair Athol campsite on the Thursday.


Because of spammers, I moderate all comments, so don't worry if your comment seems to have disappeared; It has been sent to me for approval. As soon as I see it, I'll deal with it straight away.
Thank you!