The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Day 4 - Drumnadrochit to Coignafeuinternich Ruins (River Findhorn)

Monday 15 May (0705-0800; 0910-1810)
Distance: 20.5 miles
Weather: showers, some prolonged, but all very light; very windy at times

What a tremendous day! Admittedly it didn't start entirely to my liking. I don't do boats, and (after a 2.5 mile walk from the campsite) we had a half-hour crossing of a choppy Loch Ness to make. I thought it was okay as we approached Urquart Castle, then we rounded the headland and it all became a bit bobbity.

Chatting to the other four Challengers on board distracted me, and when we got back onto dry land the other side we set off as a party of five. Five dwindled to three and for a few miles we walked with a chap called John (he did try to shake us off a few times, but circumstances kept conspiring to get us back together).

A little bit of a meal was made in getting past Dumnaglass Lodge (Vic: that's Sir Jack's place) then just beyond we caught John again just as he was frantically searching about his person. It turned out that he'd lost his map. He knew where, but wasn't moved to return to find it, so we all rumaged in our bags, John & Mick for spare maps and me for a spare A4 bag, before we all set off again.

A track was followed for the next 3.5 miles and, my goodness, it was unrelentingly steep at times. At least on the steepest parts the wind wasn't head on. We'd been battling against it earlier. Those steep bits would have been dreadful with a strong head-wind, particularly as it had started to rain too.

The top of the track was reached at sometime after 2pm, when it felt like lunch was long overdue. Lunch would have been quite unpleasant there, in the wind and rain, except that at the end of the track is a large wooden hut where we were able to get shelter, to brew up, and to have lunch. It was a good long break.

Whilst the morning (using the term loosely; I mean 'before lunch') had been in perfectly pleasant surroundings, it was the afternoon that really stood out. It was absolutely stunning.

It was a touch of a boggy yomp up to a pass (the highest of the trip so far, at a smidge under 2500'), but once we got up there the view opened out and there was absolutely no sight of anything man made. Just the folds of the land and the cuttings of streams.

Peat hags had to be negotiated along the line we needed to take, but they struck me as being particularly friendly hags, which didn't make us have to meander around too much.

The part that really took our breath away for sheer beauty was the Allt Odhar Mor. The stoney-bedded stream ran at times through a deep cutting, but along its entire length was a very generous quantity of perfect flat, firm grassy pitches. We knew that if we didn't find a good pitch at the end of our day then we would rue not stopping there.

Unbeknownst to us, the beauty of that stream was going to be equalled by the valley through which runs the River Findhorn. Absolutely stunning, once again.

Shunning the million potential pitches in the valley (scant exaggeration), we continued along having startled and then chatted with another Challenger called Jane. A few minutes later, we caught sight of the deer - a couple of hundred of them, which were streaming off the hillside to graze on the plain. Then we spotted a good handful of wild goats too.

The deer took fright as we walked past, but soon came back as we turned off up a side valley. By the time we pitched the tent they were all back within our view, and what a wonderful sight it was.

We're now camped just up that side valley, just along from another Challenger, who we've seen daily. He tells us that an eagle frequents this area too. We'll keep our eyes peeled.

Well, I think I've rambled on enough for one day, so I'll shut up and ponder some more on what an incredible day we've had (it's almost a good job the weather wasn't up to scratch - I would have run out of superlatives!).

Click here to go to TGOC Day 5

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