Wandering across Scotland the wrong way. There is a fantastic challenge that hikers under take in May every year called the TGO, the aim is to cross Scotland from West to East in less than 15 days by a route you have designed yourself. Participants have to be self reliant and prepared for anything the Scottish weather throws at them.
I didn’t do that. I hadn’t even heard of it at the time but I did want to walk across the country and did so by linking a number of long distance walking trails thanks to walking highlands website which has to be one of the best walking websites on the internet.
- Dava way from Forres to Grantown on Spey.
- Speyside way Grantown to Bridge of Garten
- East highland way Aviemore to Laggan
- Affric Kintail trail from Drumnadrochit to the Glen Affric YHA (highly recommended)
- YHA to Strathcarron on the cape wrath trail
I want to focus on the Corrieyairack pass section for this post as it was certainly the most memorable. It runs from Laggan to Fort Augustus over 40km over a 770m pass to link two fantastic trails.
I actually wild camped in Camping up Glen anchor, near the Rowan tree used for directions where there are the ruins of an old croft and a wee stream. The wind blew a
Huley all night but my tent held firm and I was dry and comfortable all night and even had some deer for company at one point.
In the morning it’s only a few short Km to laggan, where there were no services. The next 17km you follow a single track road which takes forever until you reach the pretty Garva bridge and you know you are nearly done with the plod. A couple more kms and the road is closed to traffic and you soon reach Melgarve Bothy. When I walked the last few kms of the road weather rolled through in waves. One moment it would be sunshine and blue sky and the next snow driven by strong winds and this would repeat every 20 mins. Incredible.
I arrived around lunch time and debated heading over the pass the same day and finding a camp over the other side, but each time I got up to leave another snow squall would blow through and in the end I took a nap instead while taking time to dry out my tent and boots. Which was a much better choice than pushing on that day because in the evening some guys came past and gifted me some firewood, homemade chicken soup and a beer or two!
The next day, well fed, drier and well rested I strode back out into the continued snow showers. Hiking over the pass I felt strong and comfortable even in the snow and cold. I was impressed that although slow I could easily pass what should be one of the toughest section on my route. Reaching the top, the sun came out briefly. I arrived in Newton more looking bedraggled and getting confused looks from the tourists.
Certainly I earned my pint in the pub and an evening in the camp site rooms which had heated floors to help dry my gear out again. Certainly the first time I’ve felt confident and happy even in poor conditions and massively boosted my confidence of hiking alone.
On this section there was no challenge of route finding there was a clear path all the way although there were a high number of unexpected streams due to the high rainfall so I had to remove my shoes several times. Only one was fast following and over my knees, but it was crossed in 2 steps so I felt safe using my poles as balance.
Free beer! Meeting the guys who were up to maintain the bothy and have a wee chat while we got the fire going, the kindness of strangers out in the hills is always heart warming.
The Bothy was in good condition and comfortable to stay in especially when it was wild outside, I feel no guilt at not camping out that night.
The 17km hike along the road, The loch side section just stretches forever and feels like going nowhere.