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Monday, 11 January 2010

The 2004 Challenge, Day 5: Lovat Bridge to Inverness

Day 5 was supposed to be a doddle - back roads past the Moniack winery, path up over the Aird, then the track through the woods from Blackfold to Leachkin and into Inverness. Easy, right?

Yeah ... right!

The first bit was easy enough (metalled roads with good big sign posts to see me right) and I paused just past Cabrich to watch a shepherd at work with his dogs the other side of the fence. He was training a youngster, and I could easily have sat and watched for hours. But I had to get on, and I am sure if he really wanted an audience he'd have entered One Man And His Dog. So after five or ten minutes, I gave him a cheery wave and continued on my way.

Well, I turned off the road and headed up on the forest track. Nice easy walking it was, if noticeably uphill at this point ... but the only thing was that the track I was following weren't the one marked on the map! It led me up to a building site in a clearing, where they were putting up a house with truly spectacular views ... and I had to figure out just where the Beauly I was! A little bit of reading the map, a bit of compass work to establish which direction was view and which direction was forest, not to mention the aspect of slope (woohoo! I've always wanted to actually USE that technique!), and I soon figures out that I was somewhere round about NH 566413, which meant that I needed to be walkign through the forest rather than the nice open countryside which constituted the views. So I followed an old boundary line which might once have been a dry stone wall towards Mam a Chatha, completely failed to notice the path that I had been planning to follow (it was THAT clear on the ground!) and ended up going up-and over a couple of ring contours (from which I hoped to be able to see something - ANYTHING - that would enable me to relocate) until I came to the unnamed little lochan north east of An-Leacainn. From here I was able to pick up the tracks again and, confident that I now knew where I was once more, I made my way down to Blackfold and rejoined my original planned route.

If you have never walked this track through the woods from Blackfold over Dulnain Hill to Leachkin, you're just going to have to trust me on this: it really is rather special. Nothing spectacular, you understand - not the sort of fireworks you get in the Cairn Gorm - but for a gentle stroll in the forest and on open heath at the Leachkin end, it is pretty hard to beat.

Finally, a handful of kilometres of easy urban roads brought me into the centre of Inverness, where I hunted down an outdoors shop and got a spare part fitted to my damaged walking pole. Then it was on to Inverness Youth Hostel and a nice, relaxing evening. (It is possible that I ventured back into the City Centre later in the evening in search of a dram or six of uisge beatha; but I couldn't possibly comment!)

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