See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2012.html Day 3 for map of planned route
Distance: 33km (Cum 97)
Ascent: 900 metres approx (Cum 2500m)
Time taken: 7.6hrs including some short stops
Weather: rain all day, cloud base around 500 metres, cool south to SW breeze, increasing with altitude.
Challengers encountered: none after au revoirs in Inverary
Others encountered: a jogger, a lady walking her dog, Jock (J333OCK) fetching his Sunday paper, and Rebecca at our B+B.
Flora and Fauna: bullfinch, siskins - not much new, it must have been sheltering.
Inverary was full last night. There were even folk camping outside the rather basic Youth Hostel. We wondered what had become of Bert and Suus, who had planned to stay in Inverary, but hadn't booked anything. We are still wondering...
Sue and I enjoyed the hostel's basic (uncooked) breakfast which was a variation on the European mountain hut breakfasts we will receive for much of the rest of the summer. Then we waved goodbye to Frank and his cohorts, who had ordered a luxury breakfast at a nearby hostelry. They needed it, judging by the minute portion of food that Frank was rehydrating for his evening meal.
After leaving Mildred Scott with the washing up and a yearning to do more than two days of the Challenge (she has done many in the past, but this year was walking with Vicky Allen for just a couple of days), we said cheerio to 'Snapper' Cotterill, who was last seen heading for the naughty chair after a futile rummage through all the dirty laundry in the hostel had failed to locate his room key.
Then we set off into the grounds of the castle, about which I said more than enough yesterday. Lack of attention to the map meant that by the time we reached the second kilometre mark on our planned route, we had actually covered three kilometres. Never mind, it was a scenic detour despite the rain, which has been unrelenting today.
After the pleasant woodland paths around the castle, the bustle of the main A83 road was a bit of a shock. But not as much as the shock of the road up Glen Shira. At the entrance to the glen was an ominous sign 'Clachan Flats Windfarm'. I'd not realised the tarmac would continue for ten miles up to Lochan Shira's dam, nor that the road had been upgraded for the transport of wind turbines for most of its length. Frank had plotted his route along the west side of the glen - probably a better choice than our road. I wonder how his team got on.
The first of today's pictures was taken at the southern end of Dubh Loch at the start of the long road to Lochan Shira. Driech.
We should have left the road at Elrigbeag, but the thought of thrutching up a pathless 500 metre ascent in steady rain to a misty, windy ridge put us both off.
So we spent the morning strolling up the tarmac to the dam, where some buildings shielded us from the rain sufficiently well for us to enjoy our Sunday lunch (pictured)without it drowning before our eyes.
Then our alternative route to the radio masts at Bealach nan Cabrach was plotted in a successful attempt to avoid the ribbons of blue that intersected our original plan. This worked well, with the added benefit of an unplanned summit. The well cairned spot, with fine views of curtains of rain (perhaps more extensive views in less driech weather), was imaginatively named '512'. Coincidentally my altimeter said 512 metres, the highest point of our crossing to date. Yes, this really is a 'low level' crossing.
Our pathless 'yomp' ended just beyond 512, at the radio masts, from where a service track led us into some forest. The shelter from the trees allowed us to drain our flask of tea in comfort, before continuing pleasantly down to Blarchaurain. Frank's party was planning to camp at this clearing. There were plenty of good spots, so as I write this from a warm lounge I expect they are cosily snuggled up in their tents near Blarchaurain. Except Geoff, who has a tarp.
A little beyond the clearing, our descent path joined the Old Military Road from the ruined township of Ardteatle at the site of a huge monument to Duncan Ban MacIntyre, (1724-1812), the Poet of Glenurchay.
From there it was an easy descent to Dalmally, where we were concerned to find the hotel in 'Dalwhinnie' mode - 'Shut for the Winter'. That was where we had planned to eat tonight.
Dalmally (here's today's Wiki extract) is former Labour Party leader John Smith's place of birth (1938). Glenorchy Parish Church stands on an island site between the rivers Orchy and Orchy Bheag near the village. The category A listed building, constructed 1810-11 on the site of at least two earlier churches, is a rare example of an octagonal plan with adjoining tower. The little-altered, white-harled (roughcast) church has been restored to its original appearance in recent years. (That seems to make sense, I can see it from the window as I write.) The site is probably early Christian in origin, and is associated with St. Connán. The large churchyard contains examples of medieval grave-slabs in the 'West Highland' style, which may have originally covered the graves of early chiefs of the Clan MacGregor and their relatives. They show warriors in contemporary armour, interlace and other motifs.
Kilchurn Castle, dating to the 15th century, stands in a picturesque setting on a peninsula (formerly an island) in Loch Awe, a little west of the village. Nearly everyone knows about Kilchurn Castle, but not many people know that there are four castles on Loch Awe, as well as a suspicion that there might have been a fifth near where Castle Farm now stands. There was also a castle at Achallader, at the head of Glen Orchy. The four castles on Loch Awe are, from north to south, Kilchurn, Fraoch Eilean, Innisconnel, and Fincharn. They were once served by boats, probably galleys - the island near Innisconnel is Innis-Sea-Rhamach, 'the island of the six-oared galleys'. Kilchurn was built, probably in 1437, by Sir Colin Campbell, the First Laird of Glenurquhay. Fraoch Eilean is a 13th century Hall House with a defensive wall, granted to Gillechrist MacNachdan by Alexander III in 1267. Innisconnel was built by the Campbells of Argyll, then taken by the MacDougalls, and finally granted again to the Campbells by Robert I, The Bruce, whom they had helped in his battles. Fincharn Castle is probably 13th century. The legend is that it was burned down shortly after being built in a quarrel between rival families, and was never really inhabited afterwards.
Only Kilchurn is easy of access. Fincharn requires permission from the farm, while Fraoch Eilean and Innisconnel need boats.
A little beyond the sad looking hotel, Craig Villa Guest House has been owned by the same family for nearly 30 years. Just three years ago Rebecca and her Brazilian husband took it over when her parents retired. Rebecca kindly took our damp waterproofs to the drying room. Despite the driving rain, our clothes underneath were dry, thanks largely to a recent treatment of the waterproofs with Nikwax.
"The hotel's in Administration", advised Rebecca. "Would you like me to cook you something?"
"Yes please. Anything" we chorused. So tonight we haven't had to brave the continuing rain. We've stayed in and enjoyed a lovely lasagne with garlic bread, followed by banoffee cheesecake and real coffee. Thank you, Rebecca. Before that we watched the news and discovered that City are football champions, but not without a bit of suspense (which we hope Andrew survived). We narrowly missed the 'Countryfile weather forecast for the week ahead', which is probably just as well, given Alison's comment.
It's lovely to hear from you Dot. We hope you continue to improve, and we'll see you soon.
Finally, happy 60th birthday greetings go to Bill. We hope this mention will make partial amends for our forgetting your card, and we hope the ceilidh went well. We look forward to seeing you and Alison in Aboyne next Tuesday.
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