After completing and enjoying the CWT in 2019 I looked for another 200mile walk in wild country for 2020. But where? I like walking in remote areas and always enjoy Scotland. None of the published trails that I had not already completed appealed so it was find my own route. In 2019 as the Carnoch bridge was out my CWT route from Fort William to Kinlochhourn took me over Gleann Cia-aig and along Glen Garry so a good start was from Fort William via the CWT option through Glen Finnan and Barisdale to Shiel Bridge. From here I identified, up the Affric Kintail Way but branch of to Fort Augustus, the Carrieyairack Pass to join the East Highland Way before the Lairig Ghru and Glen Tilt to the train station at Blair Athol. For reasons described below I did not complete the Lairig Ghru and Glen Tilt, perhaps this can be my starting point for my next walk. The route below was my planned full route.
My kit was much as I used on the CWT although I did change my tent and poles. I liked my Nordic Telemark but the condensation was grim so I changed to a Hilleberg Enan. Success, I and my sleeping bag stayed dry. The only down side was the Enan’s ventilation made the tent much colder. I did modify the tent. Added a guy to create an awning like the Telemark. I also added guys to the four storm fixing points linking them to the base corners so only using the same four pegs. Changed the pegs to groundhogs and added bungy cords to the guys to keep the tent tight. All these mods worked well. I was having a problem with my back aching that I put down to posture so I tried Pacerpoles instead of my Z poles. They worked well on paths from Day 6 but I found on the kind of rough to non-existent paths on the CWT the handles restricted my dexterity and hence not as good at improving my stability. I put this down to my increasing number of tumbles. My only other change was to add a Cnoc bag and Evernew water bag to my Sawyer Sqeeze, that set up worked very well once I had thoroughly rinsed the Cnoc bag.
2020 arrived and so did Covid, delay to 2021. Will Nicola allow us to cross the border to Scotland, delay a further two weeks. Ready for the off and Hitachi trains withdrawn, change route to Euston to catch the sleeper. An email to say hot water not available on the sleeper, did I want to cancel – No way! I’m going to Scotland.
Day 1 - Fort William to Cona Glen - 24.8km/15.4m with 501mtr/1645ft of climb
Up, breakfast and a leisurely preparation for my walk as the train continues north. Check the weather forecast, heavy rain for the morning then fine. Panic, the train arrives early, quickly collected my gear together and off through the centre of Fort William to the Camusnagaul Ferry. Myself, a cyclist, two CWT walkers and one unfortunate who was working, stood chatting on the open deck as we crossed the Loch on the alternative ferry, the normal was out for maintenance. Arriving, I went to the ferry shelter to finish putting my gear on ready for the rain that did not happen. By then the cyclist was long gone as were the CWT walkers. A pleasant 10km road walk south along Loch Linnhe in the morning sunshine, soon leaving the few houses behind although the road was surprisingly busy for such a minor road. I caught up the CWT walkers and we chatted for a few miles; we were to see each other many times over the next few days to Sheil Bridge. The rest of the days walk was up Cona Glen on a good track, with views of the surrounding hills and the river to my left. Walking up the glen to the sound of the cuckoo, this was to continue regularly during the days ahead, cuckoos are clearly thriving in Scotland. Mid-afternoon and the weather deteriorated, light rain that turned into heavier showers while the track also deteriorated. I got to the bottom of the climb up to Feith nan Cop in 6 hours, over an hour less than I had anticipated. The number of wild camping opportunities had decreased so a bird in the hand, I camped at Ruidh Meall Daimh alongside the river leaving the climb to the morning. The area was flattish but not as dry as I would have liked. I got my tent up during a lull and just in time for another heavy shower, the showers continued. A chilly night, put on another layer and slept well.
Day 2 - Cona Glen to Glen Pean - 23.5km/14.6m with 775mtr/2542ft of climb
The ground by the morning was quite wet from the rain. Dried my tent as best I could, packed up and set off up the hill, a steady 200mtr of climb up the rough track to join to a very wet rough boggy path for about 3km along the north side of the glen with the Allt Feith nan Cop below. The path was slow going and I found the path slippery, taking several tumbles, the last on rock, first blood to the trail. Eventually a good track is reached that allows a quicker pace down. A National Trust path across boardwalks and a bridge takes you to the Glenfinnan Monument, Visitors Centre and best of all a Covid tea shed in the corner of the car park. On arrival the car park was full but a total lack of people, at least a cup of tea without queuing. All was explained when I noticed the steam train stopped on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, as I drank my tea the train moved off and the train enthusiasts returned via a new path and bridges from the viaduct. It was time to push on, making use of this excellent new path to join the good track up Glen Finnan for the 5km to Corryhully Bothy. It has power sockets! The track then deteriorates and starts to climb the 400m to Bealach a’ Chaorainn with the views improving. Finally, the track becomes a rough wet path all the way over the bealach and down Gleann a’ Chaorainn to the bridge over the River Pean. The path at times comes close to the Allt a’ Chaorainn and indistinct, three times I forded the Allt as I could see no other way due to river erosion of hillocks. The final stretch on the east side was very indistinct and very wet. After crossing the bridge, I found a suitable camp spot between the river and Dessarry Forest. The day’s walking took me 9 hours about what I had expected. The weather was cloudy with just a few spots of rain although the evening brought a shower.
Day 3 - Pean Glen to River Carnach - 22.7km/14.1m with 705mtrs/2312ft of climb
Woke to another cloudy day with the aim of getting to Sourlies around low tide during the early afternoon. Set off through the remains of a deer fence and along a short very wet track into the forest to find a good forest track for 5km through Dessarry Forest, the forest was not continuous allowing views of the hills and the river below. Eventually the roof of A’ Chuil bothy is spotted below through the trees and soon I was out of the trees with views of the hills ahead. Soon into the next forest, a bit more open but the track now rough. The track ends at a bridge that has seen better days and a sloping rock slab opposite. Here I met two munro bagging cyclists waiting for their walking colleagues to catch up. The path soon splits and I decided to take the path up that followed the Allt Coire nan Uth as I heard it was drier, if true, the other path must have been submersed. Climbed the 70mtrs to join another path crossing the top of the forest, this path, also rough and wet did have the advantage of fine views. Continued on towards Bealach an Lagain Duibh and after clearing the forest spotted the munro baggers below, they had taken a lower, clearly quicker, path and we joined up for the final walk to the bealach discussing our respective days intentions. Just before the bealach they continued up while I crossed an even wetter bealach, if that is possible. I was soon to find myself knee deep in a bog; one leg came out easily but the other was a struggle. The bog did not want to let go. Not a good omen for the bogs ahead at Carnoch. At least the views in all directions were good. Continued down, steep in places, past the two Lochan a’ Mhaim and on towards Sourlies but first the crossing of the Finiskaig River. But I can’t see any path or way down on the other side! Once across the path was easy to find, it climbs. Loch Nevis can now be seen and along with the hills either side, the river below and various waterfalls the views are good. Eventually the path goes down a steep zig zag. The lower levels are both wet and rough before finally arriving at Sourlies bothy where two young ladies were having a day off before continuing their walk the next morning. The walk from the bothy to Carnoch bridge was easier than anticipated. Low tide made the walk round the headland easy, then initially heading NE along a wet path at the foot of the hill until deciding to head NW to the shore line. The shore was again easy dry walking until cutting across to the river and following the river to the bridge, although wet it was drier than some of the earlier days paths. Across the new Carnoch bridge, a substantial affair that should serve us for many years to come. Now a track, up the River Carnoch as the hills gradually come closer and closer to the river. The track becomes an intermittent path often wet. A steep sided wood is entered with the river cascading over rocks below and requiring the need to find a way, clambering around and through trees hanging on to the side of the gorge. Is this the way one asks? Eventually you join a decent path from above and continue on to arrive at a flattish clearing like a beautiful oasis. This will do me nicely for the night. Although this had taken me slightly less than expected at 9 hours it had been a tiring day. The weather had been dry although on cue a shower arrived during the evening.
Day 4 - River Carnach to Kinloch Hourn - 19.0km/11.8m with 994m/3262ft of climb
Another fine morning, cloudy but dry. So, it was up and over a small spur and continuing to follow the river upstream. The river is cascading over rocks and the steep sided hills tower above on either side. The point to leave the river as it turns ESE is reached. Where is the way up? No sign of any path! I went for a cleft in the rocks to the right, the cleft was blocked but it was possible to clamber up the side. This required various scrambles and climbs around rock outcrops, some abortive, including on one occasion squeezing up through a gap in the secure knowledge if I slipped, the narrow gap would stop me sliding down the hill. This was a 150 mtr climb up to a path, it became easier half way up across open, steep moorland. Now at least a clear, if rough and wet, path to the col of M’am Unndalain a total climb of nearly 400 mtrs from the river. It had taken me 3 hours to cover the 3km from my camp to the col. The walk down and through Barisdale was easier with fine views. Only two bothies were closed due to Covid on my route, Barisdale being the first. With the boat house within sight and a ruin next to the path it was time to turn off east along Loch Hourn. From the warnings I expected a very rough slow-going path, I was pleasantly surprised as I walked up the first slope on a very fine path. Someone in the distant past had spent a lot of time building this path to Runival. It only undulates and includes sections built on headlands above the sea and others on a sea wall to cross coves. I found myself wondering who I would have met during this path’s heyday. Unfortunately, time, weather and vegetation have not been kind. As you progress eastwards the path deteriorates and your progress slows. After Runival the path is very rough with headlands to climb over, the first two at 110 mtrs and 100 mtrs, both steep, the third a mere 40 mtrs less so. The path continued rough and wet all the way to the jetty at Kinloch Hourn, finally rhododendrons, a sign of nearing the end. A short walk down the tarmac road and the welcome sight of Kinloch Hourn Farm B & B is reached for the night. But first, outside, a welcome very large pot of tea and thoughts of the dry and sunny day’s fine walk. Then, yes, the rain arrived. The day’s distance was short at only 19 km but the initial and final lengths were demanding taking 9 hours, an hour longer than I expected. I slept well that night.
Day 5 - Kinloch Hourn to Shiel Bridge 18.5km/11.5m with 1009mtrs/3339ft of climb.
On leaving the B & B on the opposite side of the road was a deer taking no notice of me at all, this was not uncommon, with no stalking due to Covid, have the deer lost their fear of man? Armed with my knowledge of this day’s walk from two years previous and an exceptionally good picnic, who cares about the weight, I was off and up that steep 270mtr hill out of Kinloch Hourn. Then a track for 4 km with views to the west and through the second river crossing of Allt Coire Mhal. Two years ago, I hardly got my boots wet but this year, although not a problem, much more water. It was now time to start the steady climb to Bealach Coire Mhalagain. This time on the western side I took a higher line, soon well above the wet track below, above the various deep gullies and up through the rock outcrops. This resulted in me reaching the bealach about 50mtrs above the lochan at 699mtrs. After admiring the view all round, a walk down, not up, to join the very rocky unusual path with its wall of boulders that skirts below the Easter Buttress. Clambering over a land slip that looked fairly recent. Previously I went down the west of Meallan Odhar following a burn with its waterfall, not recommended. This time I went over the top of Meallan Odhar before descending the west side of Bealach na Craoibhe into Coire Caol. Losing the path, I stayed high but, after a while I could see a path some distance below, so it was straight down and along this clear path for 2km. Remembering that the crossing last time, at Gob na Roinne, was not straight forward, I went down to the Allt a’ Choire Chaoil just before it joined the others and crossed. Then crossed the Allt a’ Coire Uaine separately. Some rough, then open ground to pick up the good track to Shiel Bridge. Walking on to the Kintail Lodge Hotel for the night and my first food parcel. It had been a nice warm dry sunny day and it was still warm enough when I arrived to enjoy a pint outside. Tomorrow the Covid rules change and we can drink inside. This was another 9-hour day, slightly longer than expected and an hour longer than 2 years previous, although I did spend some time chatting with a walker who was walking from Berwick to Cape Wrath, his own version of Scotland End to End.
Day 6 - Shiel Bridge to Loch Affric - 27km/16.8m with 775mtrs2542ft of climb
It was time now to leave the CWT and head along the Affric Kintail Way. The day started with 10km of very easy walking, 4km on roads through Morvich and 6km on a very good track through Gleann Lichd to the Edinburgh University Mountaineering Club hut. The walk then improved considerably to follow the clear path above the Allt Grannda, first across two bridges, the path leads you to the old second bridge, now demolished, the new bridge is out of sight, downstream of the old. Then a steady climb for 260 meters with the Allt Grannda tumbling below. With waterfalls, the hills closing in all around and the burn cascading over rocks far below this is a glorious path that left me hopeful of an interesting walk ahead. Eventually the climb eased as you meander upwards and over the watershed to Allt Can-Ban, still a most enjoyable walk with interesting views all the way to the Camban bothy. After the bothy the glen started to open to become the wide and open Glen Affric. The path, now wet in places, for over 3km to the very remote Alltbeithe YH, closed due to Covid. Now 5km of track, poorly drained and in places rough especially on the final undulating part to the bridge at Athnamulloch. A short path alongside the river then a good forest track that continues above Loch Affric. I had planned to camp at the head of Loch Affric, but from the track above it looked wet so I walked on through a fence into the forested area. This is not dense woodland and includes areas of heather but I had difficulties finding a camping site. Eventually next to the Allt a’ Choire Chruim I found an area of very thick moss on boulders that was very comfortable resulting in me oversleeping. This had been an 8-hour day slightly less than anticipated with the weather dry and cloudy although rain threated and showers were visible nearby. The walk was now changing. I was now using Scottish Hill Tracks that made the walking easier and my Pacerpoles came into their own. The scenery, still good, was now more open and hence less dramatic. The weather also changed it now turned colder both by day and night with increased showers and wind.
Day 7 - Loch Affric to Guisachan Forest - 22.6km/14m with 689mtrs/2261ft of climb
With the weather fine I started off on my 3km walk along the forest track with the Loch in the near distance below to the point where I was to leave the Affric Kintail Way. Shortly light rain started so it was on with the waterproofs only for the sun to come out. On with the sun cream. After a brief chat with another walker the ScotWays signpost to Cougie and the start of a 150mtr climb to the Druim na Caillich ridge. The path, clear, rough and boggy in places follows the east side of the Allt Garbh, not the line shown on the 2014 OS map. It leads to a gate in a new Deer Fence, also not shown on the OS map, to eventually reach the remains of a fence and then a good track. Part way up the rain started again, on waterproofs, reaching the ridge, it stopped, off waterproofs. It was to remain fine for the rest of the day. Now to continue east on good open tracks with fine views of the hills, initially along the Druim na Caillich ridge. This must be horse country, I met two walkers scouting to see if they could bring their horses up the rough path and later followed three pony trekkers. Continually catching them up, they cantered ahead, I caught up, they cantered, this continued for 4km to Cougie. From Cougie the yellow road shown on the OS map is in fact a gravel track. A further 5km, now through the forest, the Plodda Falls car park is reached, a short detour to visit the top viewing platform. Spectacular. Decided with all the other waterfalls on the trail not worth the hour and a half to do the full tour, leave that to the families arriving by car. Continued, less than 1 km to the sign for Glen Moriston, now turn off south up another good track climbing 100mtrs through the forest to the open hill side and then continuing to climb. This good 14km track, although now looking recent for the nearby power pylons, is an old route and was used by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746 during his escape. It is gated to restrict its use to walkers and cyclists and is easy walking despite the climb. Shortly before Loch na Beinne Baine I found a suitable place to camp at 500mtrs. The afternoon had remained dry but the wind had increased and my camp was quite breezy. I had walked for just over 7 hours a bit under my plan. My back had been aching from my rucksack from the start but now it was really hurting and starting to affect my progress. It was no longer a general ache but digging into my back in one particular spot. I had tried repacking and adjusting the straps all to no avail.
Day 8 - Guisachan Forest to Fort Augustus - 21.3km/13.3m with 483mtrs/1586ft of climb and 944mtrs/3096ft of descent
The night had been cold and my sleeping mat had started to leak very slowly. A search found nothing so I assume a leaking valve. Overnight the wind had dropped and the damp clouds had come down making my tent outer wet. The clouds lifted as I walked up to the top at 562mtrs, continued on, past a small concrete building and also a gate reinforced with large boulders, no vehicle was going to use this road over the top without some serious earth moving equipment. Then the rain started, a heavy prolonged shower, on waterproofs. Met a local in a 4x4 and we mutually complained about “will we get a summer”. Continued on and with the rain stopped and a slight breeze, tried to dry my tent, a few minutes then caught by a light shower. On down, past a mobile phone mast, to the road and over Torgyle Bridge. The short path parallel with the road was hard going due to fallen trees so over the road and into the forest towards Fort Augustus. Again, this track is much older than indicated by the present good forest track, previously a road to Sky that was adopted as a military road in 1755. After a kilometre a junction with a fingerpost indicating “Military Road”, ignore this and take the other track up the hill heading east. Continue up with views along Glen Moriston to eventually again follow the line of the pylons. My rucksack was getting worse. Deciding it could affect me getting to the end of the walk if this was to continue, so while still within site of the phone mast I contacted Trish back home. She confirmed the mesh on her similar pack was taught, mine had stretched allowing the adjusting mechanism to dig into my back. A number of phone calls, investigating various options and Trish purchased a replacement pack from Fort William and got it delivered to my next lodgings for the night at Morag’s Lodge, Fort Augustus by taxi. Continuing, General Wade’s Military Road joins, on to the top at 400mtrs and then start descending. The pylon track soon becomes a forest track, the pylons leave to the right. Eventually, 8km from Glen Moriston, the track turns right, SW, into the forest and down, straight ahead is an uninviting, wet, boggy, level path along the edge of the trees. It is easy to continue on the forest track, as I did for a short distance but you want the uninviting level path which is the route of the Old Military Road. I had been making good progress but now my progressed slowed, not helped by the rain, it was now good steady rain, the rain continued to the end and on into the evening. The path eventually leads you down a zig zag to Fort Augustus, Morag’s and my second food parcel. Today I had walked for 6 hours, as planned.
Day 9 - Fort Augustus to River Spey - 26.5km/16.5m with 1005mtrs3297ft of climb
A dull chilly day as I walked through Fort Augustus. Over the river, the canal and out along the long road south towards Fort William, looking for a sign for the ancient burial site. No sign and the access point camouflaged by a house building site. Onwards past some more construction work and through the burial site to a track that takes you to a road. Turn right, past some imposing gardens for some hidden house, to a sign for General Wade’s Road and the Corrieyairack Pass. Initially a narrow path it soon joins a new track from the imposing pink house and you start to climb. Bear left when the track splits, through a gate and on to more open high moorland. You climb with good views over the Great Glen and Loch Ness behind. Plenty of other tracks built for other purposes, including the replacement larger pylons, but it is not difficult to follow the General’s Road. Good progress can be made as you steadily climb. My rucksack is now much better, just a dull ache from the previous damage. Soon the Blackburn bothy, sheltered to your right, is passed, on and upwards as the weather turns showery, initially light then heavier. At Lagan-a-bhainne cross a bridge with nearby, to your right, some old stone work that leads to old stone bridge abutments, I assume the remains of one of the General’s bridges, topped by the remains of a long-gone suspension foot bridge. On the way down I was to pass several of the General’s bridges, these, although intact, all had new bridges alongside. The exception being Garva Bridge. Continuing on and the rain was now coming down well as I came to another of those concrete buildings. I went inside to put on my over trouser, I had been using a rain skirt for the showers, to meet a chef from London cooking his lunch on his way across Scotland. We walked together for the rest of the day. Up to the top of the Corrieyairack Pass at 777mtrs, past some lying snow and another old abandoned concrete building. It had now stopped raining but the light breeze had become very strong and cold, whistling through the top of the pass. We were walking straight into it; this was to be the situation for the rest of the day. I had intended stopping for a break on the top but not in this weather. Onwards and downwards, we went, to the zig zag to be met by four cyclists coming up assisted by the strong winds. Down and along to Melgarve bothy looking forward to a night out of the wind. But alas this was not to be, it was locked. So, to look for a camping site, the chef walked on while I sat down for a rest in the lee of the bothy. The forest just after the bothy looked like it had some camping spots but as it was early, I decided to walk on for a while, through a steel barrier and on to tarmac. To my right was the River Spey, already significant although only just formed from a number of tributaries. After a couple of miles, I found a good sheltered camping spot between the Allt a Ghiubhais and the trees. Although still early I decided to stop in case a lack of suitable campsites further on. This turned out to be a good move. I had walked 8½ hours, an hour longer than planned but I had also walked further.
Day 10 - River Spey to Glen Banchor - 25.8km/16m with 368mtrs/1206ft of climb
A comfortable but cold and windy night. In the morning looking to the north, again isolated showers, but the south, not good, the sky was black. Time was not to be wasted, a quick breakfast and get my tent packed away with one eye on the black sky. Getting on my way the wind was still strong and cold. The road continued down the broad wide glen for 3km to the Garva Bridge over the River Spey. An interesting larger General Wade Bridge, now with added supports it is still in use with a weight limit and ford nearby. From here farming land and the start of the road in places being fenced. A further 11km of tarmac, past some farm houses, but not the farm, abandoned. Then Loch Spey and its Dam, the East Highland Way joins, and on to Laggan. The Café was welcome, out of the cold wind, and a well-received soup and hot chocolate, followed by a pot of tea. It was now a stretch along the A86, initially straight but the final part over a small hill with bends. I found the traffic gave me plenty of room making it easier than expected. Off left along a side road through Balgowan to get back to the wild countryside. Just after two semi-detached cottages a clear path on the left doubles back. Follow this clear path as it meanders up and into the trees. Where it meets a faint path turn left initially to the edge of the trees then along the fence to the NW corner and a gate in the deer fence. Out on to moorland, over a very dubious bridge and skirting round to Lagbuidhe where I intended to camp. I was early, the site windy, cold and no obvious camp spot. I was now 4km from three rivers stated as impossible to cross in spate while the sky to the south was still black. I kept going. Through an old iron gate where the catch had me, third blood to the trail, the second was a couple of days earlier. NE for a kilometre, a faint path along the fence and then across the moor, dodging bogy bits, to join another good track. A chat to two walkers making for Shiel Bridge to join the CWT who warned me about the wind and bogs ahead. Having spent most of the day walking into the wind I thought I knew all about it, how wrong can you be. As soon as I turned the corner into the Strath an Eilich, the full force of the wind hit and a run to catch my cap that had blown off. After 2km of this I reached Dail na Seilg bothy, not very suitable for sleeping but good to get out of the wind. Approaching the bothy, I recognised the area as familiar; I had been here before. 1966, arriving the day England won the World Cup. I was one of a group of RN apprentices here for a week to build a bridge probably in Gleann Lochain. It was not a bothy then but an empty building, we camped close by and used it in the evening as our “social club,” we had brought a fair amount of beer with us to last the week. The fire then did not draw properly, whenever the door was opened the smoke came into the room, hence probably the wood burning stove now installed. On our last night we had heavy rain and the Alt Madagain went into spate flooding our camp site and writing off several of our tents. I had good reason for wanting to get the other side of the three rivers. I cannot say I got across without a problem, the second, I went crashing down, luckily, I did not get very wet. I was now making for the trees at Glenballoch in the hope of being able to get out of the worst of the wind. To get there the path is intermittent, especially in the frequent boggy bits. The only opportunity to get a rest out of the wind at the remains of the Township shortly after an old fence that is easy to climb over. Along Glen Banchor a lot of new deer fences have been erected in anticipation of planting trees to stabilise the river banks. Follow the fences but no need to go through the various gates. At Glenballoch although the trees were not as large or as dense as I had hoped I found a suitable camp spot. I had walked a greater mileage than planned with rougher ground and a pleasant stop at the Laggan café. It took me 9 hours. The weather had been dry, with the continual threat of rain and a cold strong wind.
Day 11 - Glen Banchor to Kinguissie - 15.4km/9.5m with 392mtrs/1287ft of climb
It had been a very cold night; I ended up putting on two extra layers during the night and my waterproof jacket under my sleeping bag as my sleeping mat had again partially deflated. The morning presented new snow on the surrounding hills. Being well ahead, and my next stop booked at a hotel, I knew I was in for a short day, so I was in no rush. I made my way past the abandoned Glenballoch farm house along the track to join the tarmac road to Newtonmore at the car park, that was already fairly full. Along the road are a number of benches to enjoy the fine views, unfortunately the cold wind did not make them inviting. So, it was into Newtonmore, ignoring my intended turn off on the Wild Cat Trail, to a café for a BLT. It became evident as I progressed from here through all the various towns to Aviemore, that various tourist trails had been created to enable tourists to enjoy short walks in the countryside. The paths varied in condition but many were waymarked. Suitably refreshed, a walk to the end of the village, up through a housing estate and a field to join my intended route on the Wild Cat Trail above the village on the edge of woods. Soon to leave joining the path to Kingussie, waymarked with a curlew, and heading north to the corner of a wood. Through a gate, to be welcomed by a beautiful seated shelter that had been made into the end of a stone wall, I stayed for a while soaking up the views to the south and east. Good tracks east, following the curlew, led me along the north of Creag Bheag to Loch Gynack. I cut across one section, it was very wet, should have stayed with the curlew. Leaving the loch, a finger posted junction with the option to climb to the top of Creag Bheag advising 100m distant. Time available so up the path. The distance was irrelevant, it is the steep 150mtr climb to the top at 487mtrs that is relevant. Much work has been done to position rough stones to form uneven steps. At the top another welcomed stone seated shelter with good views across Strathspey to the mountains beyond. I returned down the same way, care required if wet, to join, this time, the boggy Golf Trail to a caravan site. From here over the Gynack Burn, now the Town Trail with its various information boards about the Burn and how it affected the growth of Kingussie over the years. Well, I had managed to make the short walk last pleasantly 7 hours even though the weather had been cold with a couple of rain showers. So, it was on to McInnes House Hotel for the night and my third and last food parcel. I spent the evening checking the weather forecast and working out options. I had become aware the weather forecast for Day 13, Monday, was likely to be wall to wall heavy rain. The forecast now varied but only in the intensity of how bad, to be followed by a poor Tuesday. Could I still complete as planned at Blair Athol? If the Lairig Ghru was OK but the rivers in spate I could end at Braemar. Otherwise, it would be Aviemore.
Day 12 - Kingussie to Aviemore - 29.5km/18.3m with 438mtrs1437ft of climb
Sunday was a dry, pleasant day although again chilly as I walked out of Kingussie. The Badenoch Way has disappeared, I only saw one reference to it on the ground. Replaced by the Speyside Way, a new, often very high-quality cycle path for walkers and cyclists. Firstly, I walked along the road past the station to the remains of Ruthven Barracks to pick up the Speyside Way that runs alongside the road. To leave at the nature reserve car park and follow the Invertromie Trail around the pleasant nature reserve to Tromie Bridge. On this trail I talked to a local who advised with the present weather the Lairig Ghru would almost certainly have snow on the rocky path. Across the Tromie Bridge through the woods and again pick up the Speyside Way, now a poor track wet in places, through Drumguish, Inveruglass and past Insh for 4km to the road. Not joining the road but turning into Inshriach Forest, now a good forest track that becomes a clear path. When a staggered junction is reached leave the Speyside Way and East Highland Way and continue to the top of Creag Far-leitire with its views across the forest to the mountains. With a car park nearby plenty of families here enjoying the countryside. A mobile phone signal, weather forecast still bad. Looking across at the nearby snow-covered mountains confirmed I could expect snow at the top of the Lairig Ghru’s 844mtrs. Down the path, through the car park and along the track to the road. A short walk up the road to a path on the right opposite a house being rebuilt. This path soon joins a good forest track for 2km before branching off on a path, with a green post, down to the car park near Freshiebridge. Leave the car park on a clear path to Freshie Bridge, cross, then up the road to turn off just before the white house on to a gated track. Soon you are on more good forest tracks for 3km through the Moor of Feshie. Eventually you turn off the track on to a path. The path is clear but no waymarks so you need to be aware of your progress through the forest and turn off only when the main forest track turns to go north. The path goes straight on soon to reach an area of scrub, the path from now on is easy to follow but rough and often wet. When you come to a small area of flat grass on your right you will see the wooden Drake’s bothy beyond. Cary on and cross Allt Coire Follais, pass a small pond on your right, continue and before long Loch Gamhna comes into view through the trees on your left. At the far end you come to a major path and an increase in the number of families from the Loch an Eilein Gate car park. This was decision time, turn right for the Lairig Ghru, left for Aviemore. A check of the weather forecast, it is left for the 6.5km walk to Aviemore. This is an easy walk on good tracks, round Loch an Eilein, a brief stop to admire the ruined castle on the island and the snow-covered mountains beyond, to the car park entrance. Straight across the road to an estate track that leads you for 2.5km direct to Inverdruie for the short walk along a pavement to Aviemore. An 8-hour day. I stayed at the Premier Inn, suitably positioned to get back to the Lairig Ghru in the hope the morning’s weather would not be as forecast.
The morning was as forecast, very wet and chilly with poor visibility, I could not see the mountains. In the Lairig Ghru visibility would have been poor, I could say that I had walked it but I also wanted to enjoy it. Wild camping would have been unpleasant and any chance of crossing the Geldie and Bynack Burns about zero. As the weather was also due to be poor on Tuesday, I did not see the point in hanging around in hope. It will still be there next year so it was to the station and the train home. On the train south the burns and rivers were clearly in spate. Later I checked the SEPA web site for river depth at the gauge station on the River Tilt north of Blair Athol. Sunday less than 300mm, Monday over 1mtr, Tuesday mid-morning about 550mm while on Wednesday it was still 400-500mm. I think I made the correct decision.
Now my 74th birthday is approaching and I returned home after enjoying my walk and ready to start looking at the next. Other than my wild camping sites I stayed four times with a roof over my head, all are mentioned above and all I would highly recommend. I would also recommend the walk that I suspect would be even better if you are able to complete to Blair Athol.
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NB. This board is for reports on multi-day long distance routes - reports on simply long walks should be added to the standard boards.
NB. This board is for reports on multi-day long distance routes - reports on simply long walks should be added to the standard boards.