Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Martin in Gatineau Park - 2018

Monday, 15 May 2017

TGO Challenge 2017 - Day 4 - Clashgour Bridge to Tyndrum - Pine Trees Caravan Park

Date: Monday 15 May

Route:  as planned plus 3 km from yesterday's plan: Wild camp > Abhainn Shira > Victoria Bridge > Mam Carraigh > Bridge of Orchy > West Highland Way > Tyndrum (Pine Trees Caravan Park)

Distance: 22 km (Cum: 87)

Ascent: 430 metres (Cum: 3450)

Time taken: 6 hrs including 1.5 hrs breaks

Weather: warm, calm(ish), no midges ... steady rain

It was 9.30 before I set off across Clashgour suspension bridge on the good path that was to be a feature of the day. I'd been lulled to sleep by the drumming of raindrops on Goretex, and and I woke, late, to the same sound. I'd have heard it all day if I'd stayed in the tent.

After just over half an hour I passed Clashgour hut, the last landmark on yesterday's planned route. The hut was originally built c.1900 but had to be rebuilt in 1919 following a fire. Its construction is of the Meccano type kit, typical of temporary structures of the period. Until 1933 it was used as a four pupil primary school, but this ended with the opening of the new road to Glencoe. For several years it remained unused and it deteriorated until the GUM club Glasgow University Mountaineering Club took it over in 1948 when the Blackmount estate agreed to lease it. This arrangement still continues today. The hut has changed since then, with the main change being the building of an upper level for sleeping. Legend has it that the hut once held 35 people after two groups of walkers were forced to return there from a wild day on the Blackmount Hills.

I'd seen smoke from the chimney, and glancing back to the hut I perceived a young lady signalling at me - 'T'. I introduced myself as 'Conrad', out of deference to the great man who receives frequent offers of this nature. The tea was excellent, provided by four non members of the club who had paid £3 for the privilege of spending a night in this iconic place. I have no idea how it could accommodate 35 - it seemed full with five.

Joining the West Highland Way (WHW) at Victoria Bridge, I soon made my way to the Inveroran Hotel for excellent coffee and sultana cake. I'd already passed a few WHW walkers... over to Wiki...

The WHW is a linear long distance footpath, with the official status of Long Distance Route. The 154 km route runs from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William. I'm informed that about 80,000 people use the path every year, of whom over 15,000 walk the entire route. I met about 100 people today who appeared to be on the WHW.

The trail was conceived by the late Tom Hunter, approved for development in 1974, and completed and opened on 6 October 1980, so becoming the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. In June 2010, it was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail!!

I was on my way again on the good path to Bridge of Orchy, still in rain (it rained all day). A girl wearing flip flops passed in the other direction (I saw nobody else heading south) - her smile was as broad as the path, which was lined with bright yellow kidney vetch.

At Bridge of Orchy, a village that dates back to 1751, a 66 reg campervan pulled up. Alas not Gayle, but a chatty couple nontheless. 

The eponymous bridge at Bridge of Orchy was constructed by Government forces as part of a programme of pacification of the Highland Clans which involved the construction of military roads from the Lowlands into the much wilder upland areas of Scotland. It crosses the River Orchy, one of the finest white-water rivers in the UK.

The hotel provided me with a vast pot of tea and a bowl of Cullen Skink. The diners were of WHW genre - no sign of another Challenger. 

So, onward to Tyndrum, with the rain being blown into my face by what little wind there was. Many more bedraggled folk on the WHW. The track has improved somewhat from the bogfest I recall from walking along here many years ago, and the coconut smell of the bright yellow gorse was delightful.

After an uneventful two and a bit hours I reached Tyndrum, a small village notable mainly for being at a junction of transport routes. The West Highland Line railway from Glasgow splits here, with one branch heading to Fort William and the other to Oban. Tyndrum has a station on each: Upper Tyndrum on the Fort William line and Tyndrum Lower on the Oban line. Thus unusually there are two stations serving the same small village, only a few hundred yards apart, but about 10 miles apart by rail. It's no surprise then that Tyndrum is the smallest settlement in the UK with more than one railway station.

Overshadowed by Ben Lui, (not today - the cloud saw to that) Tyndrum is built over the battlefield where Clan MacDougall defeated Robert the Bruce in AD 1306, and took from him the Brooch of Lorn.

It's is also a former mining centre and there's a very recent saga concerning a proposed gold mine at nearby Cononish, above Cononish Farm. Work on constructing the mine began in the 1980s but low gold prices forced the closure of the mine before it became fully operational. In October 2011 it was announced that the mine would be reactivated. It was expected to employ 52 people and produce 154,000 troy ounces (4,800 kg) of gold and 589,000 ozt (18,300 kg) of silver over the next 10 years, thereby generating an estimated £80 million for the Scottish economy. Following planning difficulties, which featured in the BBC Four programme Tales from the National Parks, and a fall in the price of gold, opening of the mine was again delayed. (There's more...'yawn'.)

So by 4 o'clock I was installed in my cabin. Ablutions took some time, then a chicken burger at the Real Food Café. Very ordinary but the beer was welcome. No sign of any other Challengers - I'm probably looking in the wrong place. Anyway, I'm enjoying Ruth Hogan's 'The Keeper of Lost Things'.

Today's pictures: inside and outside the GUMC hut, the view back to Inveroran, and 'Islay' - my luxury cabin. 


afootinthehills said...

Get up early and pan for gold Martin. I think the site provides the necessary equipment. Good luck!

Phreerunner said...

There's a pan in my cabin Gibson. I've just panned the puddles (in the cabin) and have come up with a load of pine needles...

afootinthehills said...

Too much volatility in the pine needle sector for my liking. Sell.

Paul Myerscough said...

Tyndrum invokes memories of the WHW for me too. An those funny looking caravans appear at intervals on the route.

O yes. That smell of the gorse! I'd forgotten. Somehow its not so potent down here ...