TGOC-2015: My route – Lochailort to Stonehaven

I started doing the TGO Challenge – a cross Scotland walk – a couple of years ago. About 300 people of all ages spend a couple of weeks walking from the west coast to the east coast of Scotland. Start points are between Ardrishaig in the south to Torridon in the north and most Challengers finish somewhere between Aberdeen and Montrose.

One of my motivations for taking part in the Challenge was to revisit some of the places that I’d been to many years ago. In the 1970s, I stravaiged all over the Highlands but then family and work considerations took over and for many years, I only managed an odd weekend in the Highland hills.

I therefore chose my Challenge routes with the aim of revisiting some of the old haunts that I haven’t been back to for a while. I don’t worry too much about bagging Munros – I’ve done lots of them and I enjoy being ‘in’ as well as being ‘on’ the mountains.

This year, my ‘must go to places’ are Glen Pean, Loch Ossian and Glen Tilt so, I’ve worked out a route that links all of them.  Unfortunately, there’s more road walking involved than I’d like but that’s the price for a wandering south then north again. Going via Dalwhinnie would probably make more sense

In previous years, I’ve tended to bash on, irrespective of the weather. This year, if I get some good weather, I plan to hang around places and do some hills without a heavy pack. Hopefully, there will be a good weather window at the beginning and this will be in the west around Glen Pean but I’ll need to be flexible here. Basically, head down and bash out the miles if its wet, but take it easy if it’s sunny.

Day 1: Lochailort – Glen Pean bothy (Fri)
Over the hill to Loch Beoraid, then to Oban bothy. If decent weather, then a late afternoon trip through the magnificent Glen Pean to the bothy.

Day 2: Glen Pean bothy (Sat)
Either an early morning walk through the glen followed by a short day on the hills or a longer day in the hills. Staying on in the bothy one way or another on Saturday night.

Day 3: Glen Pean to Loch Arkaig. (Sun)
More walking around Glen Pean. My plan today is to do a hill (maybe Sgurr Mhurlagain) then head down Loch Arkaig in the late afternoon, stopping about halfway along the loch.

Day 4: Loch Arkaig to Spean Bridge (Mon)

Quite a bit of road walking to Spean Bridge.  By now, I’ll need a shower so I’ll plan to stay in a B & B there.

Day 5: Spean bridge – Corrour Old Lodge (Tue)

90K to cover in the next 3 days so it’s roughly 3 x 30K days but this may change depending on the weather. I have a day in hand at the end so not a disaster if it takes an extra day. Today, I’ll follow the Lairig Leachach to Loch Ossian then go on a bit to camp.

Day 6: Loch Ossian – Loch Rannoch (Wed)

Today’s a bit of a flog. Track down to the road then bash out as many miles as possible along Loch Rannoch. Hopefully, find a campsite somewhere just west of Kinloch Rannoch.

Day 7: Loch Rannoch – Blair Atholl (Thur)

More road walking then forest tracks to Blair Atholl. Time for another shower methinks so I’ll stay on the campsite at Blair Atholl.

Day 8: Blair Atholl – Falls of Tarf (Fri)

I don’t know how many years it has been since I’ve been in Glen Tilt – at least 30 so I’m really looking forward to this part of the walk. It’s a relatively easy 2-day walk to Braemar. I’ll find somewhere to pitch about half way. My backup plan if its wet in the west and I don’t do much in Glen Pean is to have a day in the hills around here.

Day 9: Falls of Tarf – Braemar (Sat)

Not too far in the Glen to White Bridge then via Mar Lodge and the Morrone birch wood to Braemar. Sadly, it doesn’t look like there will be tea and biscuits at Mar Lodge this year.

Day 10: Braemar – Ballater (Sun)

I’ve never done this before. Seems a bit of a trudge but the alternative is to go over Glen Gelder to Glen Muick and I’ve done this for the past 2 years.

Day 11: Ballater – Mount Keen hills (Mon)

The first bit is over the hill to Glen Tanar but then the dilemma. My thoughts were to head to Mount Keen then stay high as I go east to Fetteresso forest. But the blog posts I’ve read on this walk talk about how the landscape has been ravaged by new roads and fences so I’m wondering if its worth it or should I take my FWA down Glen Tanar then to Castle of Birse.

Day 12: Castle of Birse (or a bit higher) – Fetteresso forest

If I go high, stay on the hills to Clachnaben, then through the delightfully named Millers Bog to the Bridge of Dye and cross country to Fetteresso forest. Otherwise, follow the Feuch to Strachan (which, for non-locals is pronounced Straan) then to Fetteresso.

Day 13: Fetteresso Forest – Stonehaven

Today is the navigational nightmare of getting through a forest with new and unmarked roads. Hopefully, my phone will have enough charge for the GPS to work. I aim to get to Stonehaven for a late lunch and beer in the Marine then bus or train to Montrose.