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04 September 2022

TGOC '22, Days 6 & 7: Bridge of Gaur to Blair Atholl

 

DAY SIX, WEDNESDAY: BRIDGE OF GAUR TO TOMANBUIDHE

After returning home and reading other Challengers' accounts of their walks, it seems I picked a good night to be indoors, pampered, and generally spoiled rotten. There was quite a storm on Tuesday night of which I was blissfully unaware tucked up in fresh cotton sheets lying in a wonderfully comfortable bed. I do recall a bit of thrashing on the Velux roof light in the bathroom but gave it no heed at the time as I slipped into beautiful oblivion.

There was a big ragged sky as I set off at Bed and Breakfast hours, with heavy showers all about me, slipping past and kindly missing this lonely wanderer as I trundled along the north shore of Loch Rannoch. 

This is generally the unfavoured shore for TGO Challengers as it a 'B' road rather than the seemingly more attractive option of the little yellow minor road along the southern shore. I'd walked both on previous Challenges and definitely come down in favour of the option I'm walking today. This road is very quietly trafficked and has the advantage of a lot more visual interest, as you pass by more houses and you're constantly in eyeshot of Schiehallion, a wonderfully cone shaped hill from this direction.

   SHOWERS AND SCHIEHALLION ACROSS LOCH RANNOCH

Today was to be road walking and so my plan was to take it steadily along Loch Rannoch, with gentle footfall and a few stops to air the tootsies and head for a late lunch / afternoon tea at the cafe at the far end of the loch at Kinloch Rannoch and then re-gird the loins to continue along the road for a late afternoon plod until I found somewhere that I fancied to camp stealthily with access to fresh water. 

RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW
Distance: 27 km
Ascent:  350 m

The last time I'd been along here was with Andy Walker - Mad'n'Bad - and we had quite a long day and were massively grateful to camp in Bohally Wood along with a colossus of the Challenge, Roger Boston. If you click on that link you'll see that I was singularly unimpressed with the events of that day. Today I was set on a more sensible mileage that I could accommodate with more aplomb.


I didn't count them but along the north shore of the loch there were around a dozen designated 'wild camping' spots where you are invited to overnight in the spirit of wild camping and leaving no trace. I recall walking along here many years ago when these spots were full of fisherman who were obviously here for a good while and all about was a mess of discarded beer bottles, barbeques, and all manner of rubbish. Today there was just the one spot being used by a young couple in a small tent who were on their way to the 'far north' having started their journey in Brentwood, Essex. Their spot was in perfect order. 

Full marks to whichever authority that championed this initiative.

 ROADSIDE MIRROR PICTURE SELFIE

1948: I DO HAVE A SOFT SPOT FOR THESE LITTLE BEAUTIES


TALLADH-A-BHEITHE LODGE

I've posted this picture of a rather smart Lodge that sits on the north shore of Loch Rannoch, with the single purpose of shaming the money grubbing bastards who own it. Around ten years ago this Dutch couple put in a planning application for a large wind farm, the Talladh-a-Bheithe Power Station in the most extraordinarily inappropriate place. The locals were up in arms! I wrote about their application, which you can find by clicking on the red link. I don't know if they still show their faces amongst the local community but they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Happily, even the SNP-led Scottish Government didn't have the brass neck to push this one through.

IMPORTANT EDIT: 
Many thanks to an anonymous comment in the comment section below this piece: 

"if I may clarify a point regarding the owners of Talladh bheith lodge, they were never involved in the wind farm application as the lodge was sold off from the estate some 25+ years previous, it is owned by a German family who seldom visit unlike the Dutch estate owner who is still a regular !!"

So, the owners of the lodge have nothing to do with the dreadful Talladh a Bheithe wind farm application!

PLAY ME

It really is a rather pleasant stroll along this road, so take two minutes to join me on an entirely uneventful stroll along the loch side. You see the wind in the trees, a few glimpses of the loch and the backing track is made from the wind and some birdsong. It does it for me.

SLOW DOWN, AL, CIVILISATION AHEAD!

I was the sole occupant of the cafe at Kinloch Rannoch and I have to say I did not enjoy the place. I had coffee and cake in a funereal atmosphere, served by an apprentice undertaker. The sugar shakers were solid; no sugar had been shaken from these beauties for quite some while. There were amateurish daubings hung about the walls with fantastical price tags. Even though a pleasant day outside, the windows were tightly shut against it and the atmosphere was definitely on the frosty side of unwelcoming. I wish them well but there needs to be some changes.

Continuing down the road, things brightened considerably. It was still warm and the wind had died down so the afternoon was now officially 'quite pleasant'. Approaching Home Farm, almost at the top of the hill, a very smart four by four slowed down and a guy leaned from the driver's window and asked if I wanted a lift. We chatted in the middle of the road for a good half an hour, moving to one side when a coach full of well-heeled pensioners squeezed past on their way to the hotel in Kinloch Rannoch.

He had had a pretty interesting life. Originally from the south coast he had spent his childhood in Australia and then ten years or so on cruise ships until, by an intriguing route, he had been tempted to the Highlands to set up a business looking after holiday homes in the area. Having passed a fair number on the walk this year I suggested that he should be quite busy. He loved his life in Tummel Bridge and was raising a family in beautiful countryside. Here there was no overcrowding, no knife crime and the air was fresh and clean. This man had finally found his own version of paradise; and good luck to him as he was a thoroughly decent sort.

No sooner had I left him to continue in the warm late afternoon, than on the descent from the hill I met an elderly cyclist coming from the other direction, pushing his rather fine steed. He was catching up with the group that I'd met at the Bridge of Gaur Guesthouse, after having time out to be checked out for a suspected heart attack. He was fine and now intended to have a bloody good time with his friends on their journey northwards.

RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE IN A NEW WINDOW

I recommend my camp spot in the red circle on the above map as it is quiet, well out of the way of passing traffic and close to a good source of water just a little further along the track at the 'F' of 'Ford'. It's an old logging platform or turn-out so a little stoney underfoot and you need to be careful to avoid one or two little boggy spots. The pegs don't go in very far, but you're well protected from the wind by the surrounding trees. I had an excellent night here, with owls and drumming snipe.


It had been a fine day with seventeen miles under my belt in lovely weather. Things were definitely on the up, with two consecutive good days. I had still not met any Challengers but the chance encounters with others on the road was making up for it. 

Here are the usual stats:





DAY SEVEN: THURSDAY: TOMANBUIDHE TO BLAIR ATHOLL

I must have needed a good sleep as I wasn't away until around nine this morning. I still wasn't eating properly as I couldn't be faffed with cooking a meal last night, digging in to my lunch / snack food instead. I took on lots of fresh filtered water and set off down the track back to the road that would take me eastwards once more.

Today should be an easy day as I've been this way quite a few times in the past, often from Kinloch Rannoch, some 6 miles behind me. It was around thirteen miles to Blair and so I had a leisurely stroll ahead. 

RIGHT CLICK TO ENLARGE TO FULL SCREEN IN A NEW WINDOW
Distance 21 km
Ascent  410 m

All the temporary works from the construction of the Beauly Denny pylon line seem to have settled down now, leaving just the line itself, but a completely trashed landscape full of enormous wind turbines in its wake, with more and more turbines in the pipeline to ruin yet more wild land. 

You can blame all the engineering-illiterate morons for this, with their fixation with the impossible 'net Zero,' and the appallingly ignorant and weak politicians who haven't got a fucking clue about energy generation, distribution and the subsequent cost implications. Europe is now in the clutches of a cunning madman in Russia who has been pulling the strings of all the green zealots across the Western World for fifteen years or so.

You want green energy? Well now you can bloody well pay for it, through the nose. With the destruction of Britain's coal fired and Germany's nuclear generation, Putin has you by the bollocks, and trust me he is not going to tickle them. The only way energy prices will ever get back to what everyone refers to as 'normal' is by toppling Putin's corrupt regime. For 'normal' you can substitute "before all these tossers decided that renewable, spasmodic energy was the way to go and blew up our coal fired plant, refused to invest in nuclear (and so losing all our class leading nuclear engineers) and destroyed our gas storage infrastructure."

Society needs affordable dispatchable power supplies to survive. God help the poor. God help our soon to be completely trashed economy, our spending on health, infrastructure and education. Every single piece of this is self inflicted and all egged along by the NGOs such as Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of the Earth and all the other bleeding hearts along with Greens, the Liberals, Labour and the Conservatives because none of the bastards understand that energy is the prime building block upon which society is based.

We don't need Boris, Liz Truss or any of the leaders of the present shambles. We need a party leader who understands engineering. Full stop.

*****

And calm...

And now some pretty pictures of the morning's walk:

SCHIEHALLION

TIMBER EXTRACTION - GOING TO DRAX POWER STATION TO MASSIVELY INCREASE OUR CO2 EMISSIONS?

FINALLY, A SMILEY CHAP HAVING A GOOD DAY

My first break was at the transmitter: See the map you've clicked on to make it bigly-huge in the new tab. I like stopping at transmitters because there's always a locked substantial gate that you can lean your pack against and a guaranteed mobile signal. I rang Challenge Control who were just arriving at the Park Hotel after leaving Newtonmore to let them know of my rude health and location. Sue seemed to be in fine form but the numbers of Challengers who hadn't made it to their start points and the numbers who had dropped out in the first few days were unprecedented and a shock to me.

THE VIEW SOUTH FROM THE TRANSMITTER WITH THE SEEMINGLY INNOCUOUS BEAULY-DENNY POWER LINE

THE VIEW BACK WESTWARDS

After quite an enjoyable stroll through the forest my long lunch break was at the bench at Loch Bhac. This is an idyllic spot and very popular with local fishermen - a local angling club issue the permits, which aren't cheap -  for two boats which are powered by silent electric motors. As I was tucking in to my salmon wraps both boats decided it was time for their lunch. One of the couples sat with me and I spent a lovely hour or so chatting with them. 

One was an elderly gentleman, the other a fellow about my age who had bought the day's fishing for his companion as a birthday present. If you've ever watched Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer's "Gone Fishing" our hour together ran along very similar lines. Fishing was the vehicle for a conversation ranging far and wide, generally putting the world to rights in a kind and thoughtful manner. Both had had health issues in their past and both were very grateful to wake each morning and they would try to make each day more enjoyable and satisfying than the day before. These men were absolutely adorable.

LOCH BHAC

As we said our goodbyes they boarded their little boat and I hoisted my pack. I felt lucky to have met them both.

THE TWO FRIENDS IN THEIR LITTLE BOAT ON LOCH BHAC

The single track path down across the moor from Loch Bhac to Balnansteuartach is four kilometres of bliss. I'll let the pictures describe my heavenly descent:

GLEN TILT LEFT OF CENTRE


BLAIR CASTLE COMING INTO VIEW

BLAIR CASTLE

The descent finishes at the farmstead of Balnansteuartach but then you have a grassy trod that runs parallel to the A9 below you that lasts about a mile too long before you finally drop down to cross the road and dive down the bank to the footbridge that carries you across the River Garry.

FOOTBRIDGE TO BLAIR ACROSS THE RIVER GARRY

It was early afternoon and so my first thought was for some rehydration and so I found the back bar of the Atholl Arms Hotel - usually a pretty safe place to bump into all manner of Challengers enjoying respite from the sunshine. Inside, out of the sun, it was deserted, with incessantly cheerful accordion music so beloved of Highland Hotels blasting through the place. Why do tourist watering holes think it's a good idea to cram as much bloody Scottishness down the throats and lugholes of every available tourist, who, having probably spent the best part of a week so far journeying around Scotland, is now fairly sick of the sound of this piped rubbish. They know they are in Scotland; they chose to holiday here. They don't need this.

In a fairly traditional Scottish welcome, a lady with a Chinese accent invited me to sit at a particular table immediately beneath one of the blaring speakers. I chose another table as far from any of the speakers as possible. I asked the barman if it was possible to turn the volume down slightly as we were the only inhabitants of the bar. He very politely and very firmly refused.

Hospitality - a lost art it appears in Bonnie Scotland. I drank up my beer and left, determined not to come back to this hell hole this evening.


I had been planning to spend the night on the Blair Castle campsite but on my longer than expected stroll along the grassy trod above the A9 I had managed to book myself a room in what sounded (and indeed turned out to be) a very comfortable B&B. I fancied a long soak in a shower, a comfortable bed and a look at one of the pitchlock ends of my Notch to try to untangle the webbing straps. I also needed to wash my increasingly smelly clothes after two days of hot sweaty walking. 

Happily I achieved all this with time to spare to wander back into town for fish & chips and beer at the odd but very efficient "Food in the Park."


A GOOD ROOM, TRASHED



Back in my room I received a text from Mario - of Mario, Jayme and Peter - inviting me to join them for breakfast the next morning before heading up Glen Tilt. In my current shambolic state of zero fitness and low blood count I politely declined, suggesting that I would be setting off early and that they would definitely catch me up. It was incredibly heartening that I was finally going to be meeting up with three bloody lovely Challengers.

MY B&B's LOVELY GARDEN - AND MY FOREARM


9 comments:

  1. I was with you all the way. I was amused by your "loins" reference; reminded me of old curmudgeon Wainwright on departing from Byrness for that final thrash over the Cheviots: "Now gird up your loins as you've never girded them up before."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Conrad
      👍😊
      I've currently a little time on my hands as I'm girding my loins for a six week session of radiotherapy in a couple of weeks' time, hence the reactivation of the blog. It is a wonderful expression!

      Delete
  2. Oh the camp on a mound in the woods with Roger, in which I sliced a huge chunk out of my thumb, bandaged it with copious plasters and then passed out for 5 min 🤦
    Good to see you back ranting. Every word of which I agree with.
    Awaits next instalment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cheers, Andy. That was the year when you didn't have a single digit that wasn't bandaged in micropore!

      Delete
  3. As always an excellent read.. however if I may clarify a point regarding the owners of Talladh bheith lodge, they were never involved in the wind farm application as the lodge was sold off from the estate some 25+ years previous, it is owned by a German family who seldom visit unlike the Dutch estate owner who is still a regular !!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Eddie. Local knowledge is invaluable. I've done a major edit note immediately after the incorrect text.

      Delete
  4. As always, enjoyable read. Hope the recovery is going well 👍

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Getting there slowly, Sir. Building up the blood count so irradiation doesn't knock it down too low. But, most importantly, Still Here! 👍

      Delete
  5. I know you won’t reply, but best wished to you all the same,

    ReplyDelete

Hi.
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!