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Since we moved back to Scotland after many years working in the north of England, I’ve had a hankering to do a coast to coast walk across Scotland from the west to the east coast. May is the month to do this – the weather is often better than later in the summer, there are about 18-19 hours of daylight and, most importantly, the midges are not normally too bad.

But work always seemed to take priority – May is a favourite time for meetings and conferences and I always seemed to be involved in these – my ‘big walk’ was something that was just a dream – or maybe one of the many things that were stacked up for ‘retirement’. Then, in 2011, my world changed – I was diagnosed with cancer and (so far, fingers crossed) successfully treated – thank you NHS. But this changed my outlook on life – I enjoy my work but in truth it really doesn’t amount to much more than a ‘hill of beans’ (Casablanca fans will recognise this). So, I decided that from then on I wasn’t going to put things off because of work but that I’d get on with doing things that I really wanted to do.

Walking across Scotland is something that a remarkably large number of people have a mind to do. In fact, there is a semi-organised event held each May that was started in the 1980s by Hamish Brown – a legend in the Scottish outdoor community. He proposed what was then called the Ultimate Challenge – an unsupported walk from coast to coast starting at a number of different places but all eventually ending up in the same place on the east coast for a party and a piss-up. Sponsorship of this changed and it is now called the TGO Challenge (TGO being a hillwalkers magazine).

At first, I was a bit dubious about this. I didn’t really fancy an organised event but the more I read about it, the more it seemed appealing. I wanted to walk solo but was a wee bit concerned about walking for a fortnight without much social interaction. The TGOC allows people to do their own thing but also offers the chance to meet up with like-minded souls and interact with them as much or as little as you like. Organisation is pretty informal and mostly intended to provide some safety checks and a final dinner. From the blogs I read, many participants seemed to share my view that Guinness is an essential nutritional supplement if you are walking so I decided to give the TGOC a go.

I thought of signing up for 2012 but as I was having platinum pumped into me at that time, decided this maybe was tempting fate. As it happens, all would have been OK but I thoroughly enjoyed a week in May walking the West Highland Way. So, I applied for the TGOC in 2013 (it is pretty heavily oversubscribed) and I was delighted to find out that my application had been accepted. It’s a wee bit daunting – walking 20+km every day for a fortnight is not easy, especially if the weather is bad and I’m not at all sure how I’ll get on.

But, if it was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge so now I’m planning my route. Probably starting in Mallaig and ending in Aberdeen but I’m also tempted by a start in Dornie or Shield Bridge – I’d like to go back to Glen Affric where I haven’t been for many years but the same is true for Knoydart, which pushes me back to Mallaig.

So, this is the first of what I hope will be several posts on TGOC 2013 – and I will join the ranks of TGOC bloggers such as Andy Howell, Alan Sloman, Mike Knipe and several others. Maybe I’ll meet some of them in the pub.



7 Responses to “TGOC 2013. Walking across Scotland”

  1. Alan Dx says:

    Really looking forward to hearing more about this as your plans progress. I’ll be round North West Wales by then, so will be thinking of you climbing up and down those mountain passes as I stroll along the sand 😉

    Are you planning then to blog along the way?

  2. Andy Howell says:

    Dornie is a nice start and it gets you to Affric. Knoydart is wondeful but if starting from Mallaig think had about avoiding C Pass and flat bits thereafter!

  3. margaret sommerville says:

    Hi brother,
    Sounds like a great enterprise. Don’t remember if I told you but I walked the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain in 2006/2007 and walked 20-30 km each day no problem. The first year, I did about 350 km and the next about 600 km. The weather had it’s own challenges in Spain – heat rather than rain, however. I do have to admit that the rainy days were the most challenging, but soon put right at the end of the day with a hot meal and a bottle of wine. I found that you just got into a rhythm each day, and really missed the walking when I reached the end (I actually went to Finisterre and didn’t stop in Santiago). I guess I’ll have to put walking across Scotland on my bucket list. I have had a hankering for ‘home’ for some time now which has been hijacked by the kid’s kayaking. Hope to see you soon – good luck with the planning.
    Love Margaret

  4. alan.sloman says:

    Hi Ian, and welcome to the TGO Challenge!

    Wherever you start or choose to finish you’ll have a whale of a time. It’s a life affirming event & you will get hooked, and before you realise it you’ll be planning your next route before you’ve even finished your walk.

    You’ll not be alone in recovering from cancer – there’s quite a bunch – all of whom have made the same decision as you and have just decided to go for it!

    Well done. Happy planning and I hope to bump into you along the way somewhere. (You can always come along to the cheese & wine parties and say “hello”)

  5. Mike Knipe says:

    All TGO-ers live with the prospect of failure which lurks in the back of their mind up to the point where the tootsies experience the cold salty shock of the North Sea, so if you have nagging doubts, join the club.

    You’re supposed to stop at the North sea by the way. Just a tip, there…..

    See you in the boozah in Montrose.

  6. […] 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, […]

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