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.