I’m back! My first coast to coast TGO Challenge is done – 2 weeks walking across Scotland from Knoydart to Aberdeen. I have lots of notes and photos and plan a day-by-day blog but I thought that I would get down some short initial reflections before I forget and my brain gets swamped by emails.
I had my reservations about the Challenge (see this post) but for me it worked really well. Walking solo meant I could please myself where and when to go, how fast to walk, when to stop, etc. but apart from my final day, I always met some other Challengers. This can make a big difference as you can get pretty dispirited when you have bad weather on your own for a few days with no-one to talk to. The Challenge reputation for inclusivity and friendliness was absolutely justified and sometimes, walking with someone really made a difference when grinding out the miles.
I more or less followed my planned route. It took me back to parts of Scotland that I hadn’t visited for many years such as Knoydart and Glen Roy and it was good to see that they haven’t really changed much – except that the beer in Inverie is definitely better. It also took me to places where I’d never been and will never willingly go again. I walked over the hills from Glen Muick to Glen Tanar and have rarely walked in such horrible conditions – peat hags and bog in a featureless landscape. Although there was good visibility, there was no way to navigate without a map and compass.
For me, this walk was more than a nostalgic trip around old Highland haunts. I’d wanted to walk across Scotland for a while but after surgery for cancer, I decided to stop putting it off and just get on with it. You never really know what life will throw at you and if you put things off too often, you may never be able to do them. Serious illness has debilitating psychological as well as physical effects and this walk was about convincing myself that I had recovered from these. Now, I feel able to take on a new set of challenges and put this unpleasant episode in my life behind me.
Would I do this again – definitely. I had a couple of low times – surprisingly, not when bog-hopping but during road walks- but the general experience was so positive and enjoyable that I will surely be back. Maybe not next year – I’d like to spend some May time in Sutherland – but before too long.