Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Friday 22 May 2009

TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 14 - Lochside Caravan Park, Forfar to Scurdie Ness, then Montrose - Like Lemmings to the East Coast

Distance walked: 43.1 km (208 miles)
Metres ascent: 471
Time taken including 1 hour 35 min stops: 9 hrs 55 mins
No of Challengers encountered: 2 at Scurdie Ness. Then lots!

Total Distance walked: 333 km
TotalMetres ascent: 12,400
Time taken including stops: 118 hours

First, a thanks to all who have commented on the previous entry, and thanks to Eileen and Andrew, from Bodmin, on their first Challenge, for being at Scurdie Ness and taking photos at the finish.

It was a hard day, mostly on tarmac. We succeeded in finding some soft green lanes, but the shortcomings of Scotland's footpath system hit home when we strolled for nearly a kilometre up a 'please keep dogs on leads' path, only to find the next couple of km, linking two 'tarmac' sections, had been blocked off with barbed wire and ditches.

With over 40 km to walk today anyway, the additional mileage wasn't welcome, so as we neared our destination we 'ironed' our route and went directly for the lighthouse rather than fumbling our way via Braehead of Lunan. That route can wait!

A friendly local, walking his soft, leathery Dalmation down a tarmac lane in an area that in England would probably be riddled with public footpaths, agreed, telling us how much he appreciated his visits to the more 'walker friendly' Yorkshire Dales.

You just can't tell from the Scottish maps what is public and what is private - it's really confusing, and difficult to plan a route that avoids tarmac as you reach the coast, without hitting annoying obstacles. Yesterday we were highly successful; today, by the end, we had more or less given up.

But today's compensation was the fine, sunny weather, following yet another frost free dawn. For the first time in a week the waterproofs remained stashed all day. The oil seed rape glittered, bright yellow under the beaming sun, and, clad in t-shirts, Tilley hats and daubs of sun tan cream, we enjoyed fine aspects both back to the hilly interior and towards the coast and the Montrose basin.

An early start enabled us to reach our finishing point by 2.30, via our final alfresco brew and lunch spots. Our progress was monitored by stonechats and pheasants as we passed hedgerows increasingly filled with garlic mustard, vetches and forgetmenots. Lanes lined with gorse meant that we could enjoy its coconut scent almost until the east coast seaside smells took over.

From the Top:
Early morning near Forfar
Common Comfrey - prolific in the lowland hedgerows
An early view towards the sea
Long lanes of straight tarmac were a feature of today's walk
Our last alfresco lunch for a while
Montrose Basin and the sea draw ever closer (is that Good or Bad?)

Luckily, Andrew and Eileen were there to help us mutually record our success digitally, and we walked a short way with them before a pub doorway enticed them inside. Sue (in fear of seizing up) and I continued along the pavements of Montrose to the Park Hotel, and the niceties of recording our success at 'Challenge Control'.

Both the Park Hotel and Montrose campsite are most sociable places at such times. We caught up with folk too numerous to mention individually, including some of the other bloggers. Even 'time-warped Darren' appears to have finished, blaming 'technical problems' on his failure to broadcast beyond Day 5.

We are going to tomorrow night's Park Hotel gathering, so tonight we enjoyed some food at The George before heading back to the Park to prop up the bar whilst listening to Roger Smith (Uncle Roger, aka 'Spiderman') and his 'awards ceremony'.

So ended another successful TGO Challenge. Tomorrow will be a day of leisure followed by another evening of revelry, and on Saturday we return home. After that some images and an index will be applied to these 'off the cuff' daily entries - I'll put a note on the TGOC Message Board when that's done.

Done - 29 May - hoorah! Time for another trip!

Above: the Saturday morning remnants of the bulging campsite at Montrose
Below: Graham Brookes receives his '20th Crossing Plaque' at the dinner on Thursday, attended by around 100 people

The next little adventure - starring the Phreerunner tent in a week's stroll from Windermere towards Manchester - starts on Monday 1st June.

Ciau for now.

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Thursday 21 May 2009

Scurdie Ness - 2.30 pm - 21/5/09 - Finished!


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Oilseed Rape - must be getting near the coast!

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Thursday 21 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 14 - Plan - Forfar to Scurdie Ness to Montrose

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Campsite in Forfar
2 Welton
3 Burnside
4 Road junction
5 Hillside
6 Cotton of Guthrie
7 A933 road
8 Kinnell
9 Nicholl's Loch
10 Braehead of Lunan
11 Usan
Scurdie Ness (Finish)
5 km road walk to Montrose Camp Site

Statistics (including Appendix - AKA 'Sting in Tail')
42 km
440 metres ascent
14.8 hours


Our full route is here.

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Wednesday 20 May 2009

TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 13 - Kirkton of Glenisla Hotel to Lochside Caravan Park, Forfar - Country Lanes

Distance walked: 34.6 km
Metres ascent: 528
Time taken including 1 hour 20 min stops: 8 hrs 50 mins
No of Challengers encountered: 0

We enjoyed our stay at the Glenisla Hotel

A freak bit of phone reception woke us early with a text message from Heather T-S. She is wet, blistered, and camping nearby in Glen Prosen. But she has bagged a few summits. We suspect she would have got cold hands and is glad now to be down low for the last time.

[Later - she made it to Brechin together with many others.]

I've heard claims that the last couple of days of the Challenge are an anti-climax. I beg to differ. After 12 days averaging about 1000 metres ascent, it's a welcome contrast to enjoy the undulating countryside that leads to the coast. The flora and fauna change gradually to lowland species, and the boggy moorland tracks turn to firmer surfaces, albeit sometimes asphalt.

This is in my view something to look forward to - not at all an anti-climax.

Today we set off on the boggy Cateran Trail - towards Alyth - the wrong direction for us, so at Whitehills we left that trail and headed along the road through Dykend, then on tracks that took us to views of the sea and led us all the way to the village of Kirkton of Kingoldrum.

We had hoped for a village inn purveying real ale and bar meals. There was nothing next to the church - a bad sign - but my spirits lifted when I spotted an 'ale' sign. Alas a house was for sale, with a tree partly concealing the sign.

So tomorrow's lunch was eaten in a grassy field full of sheep.

Above: heartsease (I think)
Below: farmland typical of the area we strolled through today

Easy paths led to Kirriemuir, which was entered via a scenic RSPB reserve, then along the pleasantly landscaped parkland path that leads beside the river to the town centre.

Here the friendly Co-op provided a tasty supplementary snack, and our provisions were replenished sufficient to see us through to Montrose tomorrow.

J M Barrie was born in Kirriemuir - here's a commemorative statue of Peter Pan

More paths and tracks led us gently to Forfar Loch, where we joined joggers and dog walkers for the last couple of scenic km to this excellent caravan park that also welcomes campers. The only downsides are the sound of a distant disco' and a complete absence of other Challengers.

The birdsong is trying hard to drown out the disco'. We are in a blackbird zone.

Today pink purslane and various umbellifers lined the hedgerows, with a surfeit of bluebells and many other lowland species. The lanes were brightly coloured with the orangey yellow of gorse and broom.

In the air, sparrows and goldfinches were abundant, mallard are now quacking everywhere, and crows and rooks are nesting in copses.

I could go on....

Top: a field of daisies and geese looked very white
Middle: we passed lots of freshly ploughed fields
Bottom: sadly, the disused railway lines are a forgotten potential amenity

It was good to hear that Gayle and Mick have finished, and that Alan has enjoyed the delights of Feughside - one of the highlights of my first crossing two years ago. We look forward to seeing them and many more tomorrow; hopefully including Darren - his blog remains in a time warp.

Thank you Louise for your comments. You will have observed the different styles of the various blogs! We will enjoy reading the others next week.

This is all a rather verbose way of saying 'we had a pleasant but fairly uneventful walk today, and didn't really meet anyone - in fact our only real encounters were with a nice lady in Kirriemuir Co-op and the campsite warden here'.

Tomorrow will be different, as we will strain every sinew to go the 25 miles to Montrose, and hopefully meet up with lots of old friends. So you'll have to wait a while for the next words from this scribe.

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Entering Kirriemuir - a very friendly place - 3.30 pm - 20/5/09

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Wednesday 20 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 13 - Plan - Glenisla Hotel to Forfar

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Glenisla Hotel
2 Path junction
3 B951 road
4 Dykend
5 Road junction
6 Gairlaw
7 Kirkton of Kingoldrum
8 By Loch of Kinnordy
9 Kirriemuir
10 Path junction
11 Lochside Caravan Park (campsite in Forfar at 60 metres)

33 km
460 metres ascent
12.0 hours


Our full route is here.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 12 - The Spittal of Glenshee Hotel to Kirkton of Glenisla Hotel - sunshine + SHOWERS

Distance walked: 20.8 km
Metres ascent: 659
Time taken including 1 hour 20 min stops: 7 hrs 25 mins
No of Challengers encountered: 0

We waved goodbye to Peter and Barbara - who set off bravely into the cloud and rain enveloping Glas Maol - having relieved them of their oatcake mountain.

The rather quirky (and perhaps least attractive in Scotland) hotel was soon left behind, as we sped along the well marked Cateran Trail towards Mount Blair.

Well, 'sped' isn't quite the right word. We had heavy legs today.

The weather didn't help - 'showers clearing in the afternoon' was the forecast. We spent the morning taking our waterproofs on and off, but kept them on all afternoon as the forecast 'clearing' should have been worded 'becoming continuous'.

It was a delightful path through sheep farming country. The air was full of birdsong, or shrieking - in the case of the oyster catchers.

A noisy woodpecker made no secret of his presence as we passed a small copse.

Then a memorial cross, marked on the map but inaccessible other than through the lens of the camera, was passed, with noisy greylag geese vying with the sheep for attention in the field below.

Whilst most fields had their quota of lapwings and oyster catchers, one was filled with common gulls. I wonder why? "We must be getting near to the sea" observed Sue.

The path passed Dalhaglar Castle, an imposing white turreted building outside which pranced a posh lady in wellies and a headscarf, with a long face and two small dogs straining on their leash. The blue pyramids of flowering bugle lined the way here.

It was approaching lunch time, so we selected a sheltered spot in a dark pine forest in which to enjoy lunch. Just as yesterday though, the rain decided to try to drown our already long deceased mackerel. Another low scoring luncheon venue, but not as bad as yesterday's thanks to the protective, if somewhat drippy, forest canopy.

Climbing Mount Blair was easy after the lunchtime refuelling. The 400 metre ascent was soon reeled off and views from the summit, contrasting between pale green sunlit valleys and high mountains swathed in black clouds, were admired.

An impressive orientation table (sadly with part missing) adorned the summit, but this was dwarfed by a mast, which at least gave us confidence regarding the last picture posting.

The descent down a narrow sheep track over rocky ground was in complete contrast to the broad path of our ascent from the north west, but we eventually negotiated the steep and often boggy hillside to reach a quiet lane that led to Brewlands Bridge.

Fields of 'spent' daffodils are common, hereabouts. It seems a shame that the flowers aren't harvested, but I suppose they will be sold as next year's bulbs.

The 'scenic route' via Auchenleish Farm proved extremely boggy. One of my boots has now given up the pretence of being waterproof, so that foot is relying on the Sealskinz socks to stay dry.

After that wetness experience we rejoined the Cateran Trail and crossed the River Isla over an ancient footbridge to reach this splendid old hotel.

There are no other Challengers here, but some have been through, and our friend John Burt stayed last night. "One gentleman was turned away a few days ago because we were full of runners" (a Cateran Trail race), we were told, "but a neighbour kindly gave him B&B." Could that have been our vetter, Alan Hardy, on his dash to Montrose to help at 'Control'? ["No - I don't do hotels" said Alan, so it can't have been him!]

We have enjoyed a hot bath, and the food here is excellent compared to last night's mass produced buffet.

The hotel dates from long ago. Some recently discovered wall paintings seem to indicate that it was in existence before 1750. They are on display in a bedroom. Small but interesting. This place has a long history.

But I won't bore you with that just now. It's time for bed!

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Tuesday 19 May 2009

Our Final Summit - Mount Blair - 744 metres - 1.50 pm - 19/5/09

Despite appearances, we do have a good view of the valleys that surround this hill, though none of the 37 Munro summits you can see from here are on display today.

Downhill all the way to Montrose from here?!

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Tuesday 19 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 12 - Plan - Spittal of Glenshee to Glenisla Hotel

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Spittal of Glenshee
2 Westerton of Runavey
3 Dalhenzean
4 Leave the A93
5 B951 road
6 Mount Blair (G)
7 Nether Craig
8 Brewlands Bridge
9 Path junction
10 Glenisla Hotel (250 metres)

22 km
700 metres ascent
8.9 hours
(1 Graham)


Our full route is here.

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 11 - Wilderness Camp at 580 metres to The Spittal of Glenshee Hotel (330 metres) - Cold Rain

Distance walked: 20.6 km
Metres ascent: 853
Time taken including 1 hour 10 min stops: 7 hrs
No of Challengers encountered: 0 (plus 2 at the Spittal)
No of people seen: a man on a tractor

The Simple Life:

• Wake at 6 am after 9 hours of quality slumber
• Lie in until 6.45
• Enjoy a brew then breakfast
• 8.00 - go for a walk
• 10.30 - brew up in idyllic spot (elevenses)
• 11.00 - go for a stroll
• 13.00 - tarry a while for lunch by a burbling beck or gushing spring
• 13.30 - luxuriate in the warm sun with fine views
• 14.00 - go for a wander
• 16.00 to 18.00 - locate Rivendell, and a flat patch of grass for the night
• 18.00 to 21.00 - enjoy sumptuous meal in the wilderness
• 21.00 - settle down to 9 hours of quality kip.

Before you ask, it doesn't take 2 hours to find a pitch - that's just a rough time frame!

The Simple Life is an 'ideal' to those eccentric few of us who enjoy backpacking in wild country.

Today we adjusted the timetable somewhat, lying in late and finding our 'Rivendell' - the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel - early at 3.30 pm.

The in-between bits were a little different as well.

We started late as we had a short day, and it was raining.

True to form, the rain stopped as we exited the tent. But today it soon started again as we sloshed our way up a vague and very boggy path to a col to the east of Carn an Righ.

Ditching our sacks (no chance of theft - we saw no other walkers today) we headed up the Munro, from where, despite the icy wind and Cold Rain, we had a view. The pink buildings of Fealar Lodge looked a long way down, and most other mountains seemed to be in cloud.

'Essential business' was conducted, and a blog picture that perhaps conveys the ambiance was sent.

The rain thickened as we descended. This was the worst weather of the trip.
We overshot the planned route along an exceedingly boggy path and had to backtrack from Loch nan Eun to the end of the ridge where a good path led up to the cloud laden summit of Glas Tulaichean, our second Munro of the day and sadly the last of the trip, and the first in cloud.

Beyond the summit a good track led gently down to the ruins that were once Glenlochsie Lodge. The downside was the slow gradient in the face of a cool easterly wind and Cold Rain.

The view down Glen Shee from Glas Tulaichean

Our feet were dry and warm, as was everything else except our hands. Even my new Sealskinz gloves, whilst keeping my hands dry, caused cold hands due to their absorption of the Cold Rain. And these are gloves that I expect to be good for temperatures of down to -20C (including wind chill) for cross country skiing.

The lodge was dry inside, but dirty, so we decided to lunch outside as the rain had stopped. As soon as the stove was pulled out a big black cloud came and dumped its contents of Cold Rain and hail on us whilst we lunched. We packed up again, then the rain stopped.

It was an easy walk after a tricky river crossing, down a dismantled railway line that ended abruptly at a set of buffers.

A ring ouzel (blackbird with a white bib) fluttered off ahead of us, and there are lots of thrushes in this valley. It must be good 'worm country'.

We continued past the path thieving complex of Glenlochsie Farm to Dalmunzie House (a posh hotel) and thence to our more modest lodgings at the Spittal, where an Indian family is in charge of the hotel. It's a bit quirky, and strange to see them all dashing around in kilts.

Much R + R followed, then a convivial evening with Peter and Barbara, the only other Challengers staying here. They are off Bagging Munros tomorrow, whilst we hit the trail east, with one final hillock, in a bid to reach Montrose by Thursday evening.

Time flies when you do a day's walk, try to socialise, and then attempt to communicate with the rest of the world. But I enjoy it, and so obviously do others. Gayle and Mick are going well, as is Alan Sloman - all keeping up to date with well composed blog entries that we'll enjoy reading at our leisure next week. Weird Darren seems to be in some kind of time warp and at the time of writing is only up to day five with his 'off the wall' postings, but with the help of the natives he seems to be keeping going despite his many ailments.

I'm sure we all appreciate the comments we get, particularly from Phil, and Martin Rye, who would love to be here but couldn't make it this year.

And to Aussie Michael, do come, but sadly you won't find the water any lighter here - I probably weighed a 'nearly full' bottle. Also, there will be an amendment to the kit list for a late purchase - the waterproof gloves mentioned above - 'winter gloves' have been very handy (ha) over the past few days.

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Monday 18 May 2009

Monday 18 May 2009 - TGO Challenge Day 11 - Plan - Last Wild Camp Just East of The Middle of Nowhere to the Spittal of Glenshee

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Wild camp
2 Col at 780 metres
3 Carn an Righ (M)
2 Col at 780 metres
4 End of ridge
5 Glas Tulaichean (M)
6 Glenlochsie Lodge
7 Dalmunzie House
8 Spittal of Glenshee Hotel (340 metres - start of 'the TGOC for softies')

18 km
840 metres ascent
7.7 hours
(2 Munros)


Our full route is here.

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On the summit of Carn nan Righ - 1026 metres - 10.10 am - 18/5/09

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Lunch by the River Tilt - 17/5/09

Where could you prefer to be?

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TGO Challenge 2009 - Day 10 - Wilderness Camp at 720 metres to Wilderness Camp south east of Fealar Lodge, at 580 metres (NO 018 789) - A Fine Day in the Highlands

Distance walked: 23.0 km
Metres ascent: 1093
Time taken including 1 hour 20 min stops: 9 hrs 35 mins
No of Challengers encountered: 0
No of people seen: 9

As we dived into the Nallo last night the rain started to lash down, as is its wont.

We were happy and dry, but the showers continued until early morning, with the cloud base just above us.

But the pressure was rising so we thought things would improve. True to form for this trip, as we exited the tent the rain stopped. For the whole day. So as I write this from, sadly, our 8th and last wild camp of this trip, I am yet again being dazzled by the late sun - the tent is pitched facing west, as on all except the first night of the trip - that's nine days of easterly winds when we would normally expect westerlies.

Anyway, the clouds raced with us up the easy Corbett - Beinn Mheadhonach. We only managed to overhaul them 50 metres below the summit, so we nearly got a view.

An easy river crossing, one of many on this trip, on the way to Carn a' Chlamain

The rough going to Carn a' Chlamain, our 11th Munro of the trip, was made easier by the clearing weather, with the dark low clouds of the early morning being gradually replaced by high white fluffy ones for the rest of the day.

And a truly fine day it was, as you will see from the images when they appear here in a week or so's time.

Here they are:

Top: Sue was fascinated by this plant - can anyone identify it?
Middle: on the summit of Carn a' Chlamain
Bottom: descending to the warmth of Glen Tilt

From the summit a good path led down to Glen Tilt, which was simply glorious to walk up this afternoon, after we'd enjoyed lunch in a wonderfully sheltered spot on an old bridge parapet below some falls. 10/10.

At around 300 metres, this was the lowest our route had taken us since Kinloch Laggan, some four days ago.

Above: striding up Glen Tilt
Below: "Let's cross this bridge!" said Sue

Neither of us had ever been to Glen Tilt before. We commend it, though we found the Falls of Tarf, viewed from a magnificent suspension bridge built in 1886 and commemorating the drowning of a 16 year old in that place a few years earlier, just a little disappointing.

From the falls a pleasant path led over to Fealar Lodge, from where we yomped over a low ridge to reach this pleasant camping spot near the confluence of two rivers. It's just a couple of hundred metres from our planned location, though we did use Crocs to get across the river to this flat patch of grass.

Fealar Lodge is very remote, and high at 550 metres.

I'd expected to find a bolted up hunting lodge, but from the top of the Munro, some 7 km away, it had somehow looked more than that. It still surprised us when it came into close view. A working farm. Painted pink. Including the outbuildings.

The bright sunshine brought the wildlife out today. For a change, the birds were not being blown backwards any more. There were plenty of oyster catchers and lapwings, chaffinches in the woods, a dipper scooting low up the river, and curlew, wheatears, pipits and skylarks on the moors. Plus several more moorland and river birds that we struggle to identify.

We saw our first bloom of tormentil, that unmistakable small yellow flower with just four petals, on the approach to Fealar, in an area where there was an abundance of the white flowers of wood anemone, flowering much later here than at home.

There's now a lot of lady's mantle around, as well as dog violets and the odd marsh marigold. We spotted a lone vetch in some grass by the Fealar path.

The butterwort plant is distinctive and ubiquitous, with its circle of pale green basal leaves. It must be due to come into flower, but we have yet to see any of its single stemmed pale blue flytraps.

The surprise of the day looked like a discarded piece of rope lying across the path, about two feet long. The first surprise was that it moved. We drew closer. It turned and hissed loudly at us. The stand off lasted a couple of minutes. Photos will follow in due course (see below), but sadly I didn't have the presence of mind to take one with this gadget. Neither Sue nor I had seen such an impressive adder before - a good inch in diameter at its fattest point, and in the past they have always scurried quickly away from us, not turned on the offensive.

A highlight indeed, of a fine highland day, continuing as I write (8 pm) with the calls of curlew, grouse and other birds, and the gentle babble of the river we had to cross to reach this fine piece of turf.

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