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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Monday, 17 November 2014

The TGO CHALLANGE 2014.....DAY 13 (Windfarms and Fish Suppers)

Day 13
Spittal to Fetteresso Forrest 12 miles

A very early rise, due to the early and unexpected onset of sleep the previous evening

The early morning mist was just starting to burn off as I packed the gear away and wandered along to the bridge over the water of Dye, from there it was onto the B974 at the ruin of Spittal Cottage,  immediately after hitting the road theres a short, sharp climb until it flattens out after a hundred or so meters, about half a mile further along the road you turn into the forest. The next mile or two is a gradual climb up through the forestry plantations, nothing taxing, especially after becoming reasonably walking fit since leaving Mallaig. 

After a couple of miles you round Tire Begger hill and the skyline changes somewhat, where once upon a time you could turn right and head down through patons den, now profit margins forces you left onto the Builig heritage path north.

 To be honest that shouldn't have been to much of a problem as its probably an easier route overall,  the Builig is well marked on the map and even signed on the ground, unfortunately there aint really no path, there are a couple of marker posts randomly placed/sunken in various parts of the swamp which you notice as you trip over them, they were pretty much no help whatsoever, apart from the one you can walk along....

 Its probably only quarter of a mile from the track end to the wood, but it was in my opinion worse than the bog/swamp at sourlies, this one is waist high vegetation, with big hidden drops into holes or burns, the safe looking flat bits are constructed of floating vegetation that didn't take kindly to a wee fat chap standing on it. To cap it off, the sun was absolutely beating down on quite possibly the hottest day of the year so far, my previous good mood was disappearing as rapidly as my legs were. When i finally (probably only 20 minutes in real life) made it to the wee burn just before entering the woods, I sat down and spent a good 20 minutes cooling off and replenishing the liquids lost.

After sorting myself out I found something actually resembling a path and headed into the dark narrow passage through the pines, initially its pretty muddy but as it rises in dries out into a decent trail, before you know it you pop out onto a wide logging road, I hadn't really taken much notice of the gradient here before, but the climb straight up Kerloch is what known in the trade as a bit cheeky, especially on a hot day.

Taken from about half way up the climb to Kerloch top, I obviously decided a photo stop was a good excuse for a five minute breather, being as I was breathing from the wrong end by this stage

From the same spot and starting to appreciate the scale of the new windfarm as I slowly get above it.

Roasting hot day, climbing the east coast everest while carrying my hoose and still wearing a softshell,  must be soft in the heid, nice glasses though.

Another break, pretty much at the top of Kerloch and looking down on the industrial wasteland below, there’s loads of turbines,  and loads of work in progress on piles more

Looking back away across to the cairngorms

Just around the corner and thats the last hill of the 2014 challenge done.

Going down from Kerloch is a bit of a pain on the feet and knees, the track has obviously been washed out a few times, resulting in large unstable rocks being the main underfoot surface, its also quite steep, my dodgy footwear/slicks didn't help much either.  Halfway down I met a minister coming up, wow, I know I had maybe accidently sneaked the lords name into various blasphemous sentences while swimming the Builg path, but surely that didn’t merit the god squads mobile incident unit. He pulled me over for a wee chat and surprised me by asking if I was on the challenge, bugger, it was looking like a report would be sent to the procurator at challenge HQ afterall, but just as I started to think about dropping the bergan and running away he mentioned that he was something to do with St Drostins in Tarfside and was well aware of the 300 odd nutters who went out for a walk 13 days previously,. After our wee chat I continued down the hill, slower than he was going up it, that cant be right, I bet he doesn’t get wet feet at the Builig either...

Soon enough the hill levelled out at the bottom and I made good progress again through the forest, crossing a wee burn you could make out where quite a few tents had been pitched the previous night, there aren't too many decent spots in the forest for multiple tents, this is one of the better ones. It is also the spot i had debated pushing onto the previous day, rather than the scuttering about in Glen Dye i eventually settled on. The previous nights occupants were probably hammering the Stonehaven clubs by now, ach well, my turn tomorrow,  maybe.

A wee bit further on I came to the "main" Fetteresso thoroughfare, from previous experience I knew I had to pay attention here as there's all sorts of vehicles scooting up and down between the Slug road and the windfarms, thankfully they were all strictly adhering to the well posted speed limits (does sarcasim work in the written word?). As i walked I was passed by a few big fast things and some small fast things, i haven't a clue what they were as I couldn't see anything through the clouds of dust, i employed a buff as a makeshift shemagh, at least I hadn't carried it all this way for nothing.

I had previously earmarked a large track junction just short of Stonehouse as my chosen last night spot, just over the burn and up an embankment there's a grand spot hidden about 100m from the track that would be dandy for maybe two or three shelters. I arrived covered in dust but otherwise in fine fettle .

I sat on a big tree stump beside the burn and scoffed a melted snickers while having a reasoned debate with myself, it was only just after lunch time, it was only about seven miles to Stoney, i was feeling good although still sweating like a stuck pig in the heat, I also knew there wasnt another hill between here and the coast. I just didn't see the point of getting the tent up and doing nothing for the rest of the day, but I knew if i kept going i would definitely have to go the full distance tonight, if i kept taking in plenty water it shouldn't be a drama and my own bed had a certain appeal.

Day 13 1/2 Fetteresso Forrest to Stonehaven  8 1/2 miles

The debate didnt take long, I re slung the bergan and headed down past Stonehouse and alongside the cowie burn, a burn that empties into the north sea at Stonehaven, that thought further emphasised how close I was to the end.

There are a few routes from the Stonehouse area to the Stonehaven corner of the Fetteresso, the majority are pretty convoluted, there’s no such thing as a direct route anywhere in the forest, I had tried all variations when planning the challenge and have wandered a few of them during training walks, the route I had put on my route sheet involved one of these variations, but I made a snap decision to just follow the most straight forward one, even though it would entail a wee bit more walking on the road later.

As I wandered down the track I stopped a couple of times for water refills from the burn, it was coming out as quick as it was going in, just before I left the riverside track I filled the bottle for what would be the last time. A few hundred meters after leaving the burn the track winds its way through the stables at Mergie turning gradually into a tarmac surface. Another couple of hundred metres further on this little road joins the unclassified road that goes all the way to Stonehaven.

I gained the road and sat (more collapsed in a heap tbh) down in the shade of a tree to enjoy a drink and some boilies (sugary morale raising sookin sweeties), just as i was getting comfortable I heard voices approaching and looked up to see the Austrian duo of Markus and Philipp appearing around the corner, i had last seen them at Loch Treig on day four. They had come in off the Slug road, crazy loons. I come out in a rash just driving along it, bugger walking alongside it as every mentalist from Stonehaven south uses it as a racecourse, to cut over onto the North and South Deeside roads avoiding the southern routes into Aberdeen.

They looked how I felt, which was another instant morale booster (is that bad), they were also out of water so we shared my bottle before we all headed off together on the road to the sea, for the next three miles I walked faster than at any time on the challenge, we fairly raced along the road and I soon found myself in the middle of three folk trying to re-enact the retreat from Stalingrad, the lesson I learned from this is never ever promise to buy anyone (especially thirsty Austrians) a pint at the station bar when we get there. We did stop briefly to chat with a wifie at the Spyhill stables and drink a bit more of the water, then it was back to hammering the last few miles on tarmac

As we tabbed along the road I decided to make a call home, id be needing a lift in a couple of hours and I wasnt meant to be finishing until tomorrow,  hopefully the taxi driver was in or it was a train home, thankfully there was no dramas and we arranged to meet later in a fine Stoney establishment of ill repute.

The best stop of the trip, just on the edge of Cheyne hill where we got our first view of the north sea, it felt fantastic,  it was done as far as I was concerned,  a wee walk down hill (ok 3 miles to the sea) into Stoney to complete the formalities and grab a drink or two. There is a handy wee path just here that goes down past a row of houses and deposits you out beside the garden centre on the outskirts of town. I really enjoyed this bit and life came back to my weary body, we took the flyover over the dualer and headed down to the Station bar.

Ten minutes later we were safely ensconced in the beer garden of the Station, its now a proven scientific fact that one pint of Guinness = 10 litres of water and boy did it feel like it. A few locals came out to chat and use the smoking area, Markus and Philipp sparked up obscenely huge ceegars and it just felt so good sitting there I didn’t want to move. Unfortunately I wasn’t finished so I said my farewells and headed off through the town to the harbour, the two lads were going to head down later, the ceegars were probably good for another two hours at least.

I was still on cloud nine walking through the town and took a couple of the back lanes, popping out beside the Carron chipper (home of the deep fried mars bar and now the deep fried snowball), it smelt ace, unlike myself, across the road and two minutes later im at the harbour, last time I was here they were throwing fireballs into the sea after the famous new years fireball procession. 

Today the tide was in and I wandered straight onto the sand and into the water, trying not to look like a complete nutter to the folk around about enjoying their ice creams, a couple of feet in the water pictures and it was back to dry land.

End boots in the North Sea.

A recap of start boots and the Atlantic

And a final view back to Stonehaven from the Bay Chipper

Thats it


What a really odd feeling, I think I would have quite happily turned around and walked back to Mallaig, there was a kind of anti climax now that it was done, I think I was actually gutted to have stopped, the last couple of miles had been a great feeling but now that it had ended I didn’t know what to think, well I did actually, as 1 pint of Guinness = 10 litres of water I went and got a rapid 50 litres of Guinness flavoured water into me. My lift turned up and treated me to my supper, and an afy fine fish supper it was from the Bay chipper, seemingly the best chipper in the world (google it) I probably lost them a few customers that day, as I got the “your fairly reekin” message passed on while queuing.

As an aside My better half had been baking when I called earlier, as she expected me to finish the next day she had been casually making a cake to celebrate the crossing, me calling for a lift had thrown the cat amongst the pigeons for a couple of minutes but as usual she came out with a master piece before coming to collect me, when we got home it was there waiting, its now long gone now but the topper she made for it capped the whole walk off for me, although a wee bitty of hair might have been nice.


  1. Hi! Thoroughly enjoyed reading your Challenge write, a great route and made me chuckle too. And you're in next year! Me too, perhaps I'll catch up with you somewhere...although I'm usually bringing up the rear somewhere. Good luck with your route planning, enjoy. Mine's done :-)

    1. Thanks Louise, thought I had better finish it before the year was done. Aye I had next years route planned a couple of months ago (living in hope), not bad considering this year was meant to be a one off for me, I didnt realise how much i was going to enjoy it and the people I met. If your anywhere in the vicinity of oban, Aviemore, Ballater or Stonehaven next May and you see a wee chap whingeing about sair feet be sure to say hello

  2. I'll keep an eye out in Ballater then! ;-)

  3. I'll echo Louise's thoughts.
    I really enjoyed this trip.
    We might well bump into each other in Ballater.

    1. Thanks again Alan, hopefully. seems to be a few heading Ballater way, the barrel will be hoaching

  4. Aye Sir,

    that last stretch to the east coast felt more like walking the dusted roads to Stalingrad than to the sun-lit beergardens of Stonehaven. We looked like a rotten bunch.

    The crazy loons from Austria thoroughly enjoyed your company. You couldn´t ask for a better companion. Scots wha hae!

    Will be back to Scotland next May but doing my own thing. Hope to join the Challenge again in 2016 (maybe in Philipps company) and to meet up with you again.


    1. Ha, good to hear from you Markus, good to hear your doing fine, an absolute pleasure to meet you both, I think I would have had a wee sleep under that tree if you hadn't come around the corner. Please pass on my regards to Phillip