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TGO Challenge 2009 - A Third Walk Across Scotland

Day 5 - Tuesday 12th May
Errogie to River Dulnain
(19 miles/1,284 metres ascent)

TGO Challenge 2009 - Part 4

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I slept well during the night, except that at about 0200 I was woken by the sound of a bird screeching outside the tent, repeatedly. At the time I assumed it must be a screech owl, but a look through Google suggests that we don't have screech owls over here, and that it was probably a barn owl. It went on for so long that eventually I sat up and recorded it for Bob. After that I felt wide awake, and so I read for about 45 minutes and then went back to sleep.

I woke again at 0600 and sat up to make a drink. I opened the flysheet with bated breath, and could hardly believe my luck to find yet another beautiful morning! The sky was clear, and there was frost on the outer, but the sun was already up and the grassy morning breezes were scented with the promise of another hot day.

Morning at Errogie

I wasn't sure where Andy, Kate and Colin were heading, and I resolved to pack in good time because the prospect of navigating across the Monadliaths lay ahead of me and I wasn't entirely sure I was up to the task. There were already muted conversations from some other the other tents, though, and it soon became clear from chat over packing that we were all heading off in the direction of Farraline. "Oh, good!" I thought, and packed the compass away for a little while longer :)

Tents at Errogie

Having made a good start on my packing, I wandered across the field to a quiet spot near a little stone circle, in order to record a morning update for Bob. The rich birdsong almost drowned me out, and when I'd finished the update I'd happily have lingered on in my sunny seat. The vast prospect of the Monadliath lay before me, though, and so I gathered my things together and returned to the tent.

Phil was already packed and ready to go...

Phil Turner waits patiently with his lightweight load

...and the geese were foraging for their breakfasts...

Geese eating breakfast

...and so I finished packing up and pretty soon was ready to leave.

There are a number of very interesting sculptures scattered throughout the grounds at Errogie, including Dyson Man, and as we left he'd already started his morning clear-up :)

Dyson Man at Errogie

We set off in a large group, just after 0800. Sadly, we passed the remains of a slow worm on the road. Clearly on this occasion the poor thing had lived up to its name, with disastrous consequences...

Ex-slow worm

...but as we made our way along the road to Farraline we passed sheep and lambs in a field. They were the first I'd seen since embarking upon the Challenge, and I stopped for a while to watch the lambs frisking.

Lambs with their mums

Soon after that we arrived at Farraline, and made our way through a farm yard.

Sue Oxley

Ali Ogden, with Steve Smith in the background

Then we set off along what started out as quite a good track...

Phil and Steve

...but it soon disappeared...

Andy Howell in contemplative mode

...and we were reduced to a period of pretty tough heather-bashing.

Eventually a path appeared, though, along with some conveniently placed little signs. Some were quicker to spot it than others...

Colin studies the map

...and we followed it down to descend, quite unexpectedly, through the rather grand gardens of an enormous house.


As the back markers made their way through the garden a woman emerged from the house, but apologies were immediately proferred and the owner suggested that the quickest way to where we were going was via a little path through a wood. We therefore followed it, and soon afterwards found ourselves approaching yet another suspension bridge.

The navigators had a quick confab about directions...

Could it possibly be??? Why, yes!!!

...and then we all made our way across.

Eventually! :)

Uh-oh... 3 faults for a refusal!

The bridge led to another magnificent house, and we stopped briefly to ogle and dream.

After that we followed a landrover track to the point at which it diverged, at which stage we stopped for a wee resty.

Phew, it's hot!

It turned out that Ali, Sue, Phil and Steve were heading south, but the rest of us planned to continue west a bit before dropping down to the River Findhorn. We therefore parted with hugs, and set off along our respective paths.

Caption courtesy of John Hesp :)


Caption courtesy of londonbackpacker :)

The fantastic weather continued, and eventually as we turned a corner in the track the Cairngorms hoved tantalisingly into sight ahead of us!

Whoohoo! The Cairngorms :)

As we wandered along we swapped places from time to time, beginning new conversations and picking up old ones that had been interrupted earlier in the walk. At one stage Colin and I went on ahead a bit, and when we stopped for a couple of minutes to wait for Andy and Kate we noticed a strange, coffin-like structure on a plank of wood spanning a small gorge below us.

The coffin :(

It was a trap, and I went down to take a closer look. I was very tempted to push it into the gorge, but, not wishing to cause trouble for the Challenge organisers, I didn't.

Animal trap

I checked that it was empty before I left it, though.

Eventually we arrived at a shooting hut, where we stopped and went in to have lunch. I ate one of my hideously expensive pasties from Drumnadrochit, as well as some bread, saucisson and garlic. I'd decided to try consuming industrial quantities of raw garlic because I've heard tell that it puts the ticks off, and I'm very fond of garlic. Coincidence or not, I didn't have a single tick on the whole of the crossing!

Outside the hut -- Piccy by Colin Ibbotson

Window picccy at shooting hut

We pressed on fairly soon, though, once we'd found the continuation of the path...

Path finding...

...with Andy and Colin leading the way.

Weirdly, as we progressed across the heather we thought we saw a backpacker walking some distance in front, always just a little too far ahead to be absolutely distinct, but whenever we got to where we thought we'd seen him he'd disappeared... Eep! Could this possibly be a Phantom Backpacker, we began to wonder?

Um... the Phantom Backpacker???

We came across a number of other odd signs, too :(

Unlucky rabbit's foot

Unluckier still -- the rabbit's tail!

Could this be the Phantom Backpacker's footprint?

And finally, the strangest sign of all...


The whole thing began to feel distincly spooky, and as I made a careful pictorial note of the evidence the others tried to run off and leave me behind!

Rufty-tufty Challengers leave defenceless Peewiglet behind

We continued past small pools of water...

Ooh, a bog! Hurrah for trail shoes! Not...

...and in them we found tadpoles!


It wasn't all bogs, though. There were some peat hags too, just to add flavour and spice...

Peat hags

...and on the skyline a herd of deer observed our progress.

Deer watching us watching them

At some stage in the middle of the afternoon we sat down next to the proverbial gurgling stream for a rest, and it was so blissfully lovely that Kate and I lay back on the grass while Andy and Colin blathered on tirelessly about blokey things. I fell asleep, and woke some time later to the sound of small, non-malignant insects buzzing in the grass behind me. It was truly one of the loveliest walking breaks I've ever had on the Challenge. More miles remained to be walked, though, and so eventually we got our things together and went on.

At about 1610 we finally arrived at the River Findhorn, to find a huge, flat grassy expanse that just cried out to be camped upon. I was a little torn, because I very much enjoyed the idea of a relaxing late afternoon lounging around in the tent with my book, but on the other hand I was keen to get to Aviemore as soon as possible in order to put my 'check out the Exos rucksacks' plan into action. Kate and Andy decided to stay there, but Colin and I chose to press on with the intention of getting to Aviemore as soon as possible the following afternoon.

Observing that we had three pairs of Terrocs and one pair of Roclites between us, I suggested a quick footwear photograph. We duly posed for one, and after that Colin and I set off in search of a good camping spot a little further along the trail.

The Fellowship of the Trail Shoe -- Group Hug Photo

We walked on for some time along a landrover track, and then headed off to the right in order to pick up a different track that would ultimately take us over the hills and down into the next valley.

Looking back down to the flat expanse upon which Kate and Andy camped

It was steep and tiring enough for me to get out my MP3 player at one stage, for a very necessary energy boost, but eventually we got to the top of the climb and set off down the other side. We soon came to a truly luxurious shooting lodge, and had it not been for the fact that we both wanted to get to Aviemore early the following day I'm sure we'd both have been very tempted to stay there.

Another window piccy experiment

OMG... a stove, and wood to burn in it!

A little further on we passed a truly treacherous snowbank. From the other side, there was nothing to suggest that a gaping cavern lay underneath, and we were both very glad not to have trodden on it.

It took us 4 hours from the point at which we left Andy and Kate to get to the River Dulnain, but when we arrived at 2015 all the tramping had been more than worth it. We found a flat and lovely camping spot, and we wasted no time in getting up our tent and tarp.

Lovely pitch by the River Dulnain

I quickly boiled water for carrot and coriander soup with bread, and then some more for macaroni cheese. Yum, yum, yum!

Dinner underway

We'd walked almost 20 miles, and we were both tired. I tried to read a bit of my book, but once again I fell asleep almost as soon as I'd eaten, lulled by the comfort of my down booties, warm sleeping bag, masses of virtuous excercise and ultra-comfortable NeoAir mattress.

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