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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The 2004 Challenge, Day 8: Down Through Grantown To Nethy Bridge

The morning was cold and drizzly; but the cloud base was high and visibility good. I struck camp and considered my options, given that I was in the wrong place but knew pretty much exactly where I was. There seemed to me to be three alternatives:

1. Head back down the track towards Lochindorb, find the path off to Loch an t-Sichean, and follow it. That would add about 4 km to the day. Since it was supposed to be a shortish day of only some 17km, this was hardly what I'd call a disaster.

2. Climb the hill to my east, Carn Sgriob, and drop down the other side onto my intended route.

3. Skirt round the southern side of Carn Sgriob and rejoin my intended route where possible.

OK, so I don't like retracing my steps where I can avoid it, particularly where it involves breaking Wainwright's Rule, so that ruled out option 1. Option 2 involved not just ascent, but ascent into some pretty spiky looking outcrops. Not necessarily a good idea with a whole load of expedition kit on your back. So that ruled out option 2. What remained was a pleasant little jaunt round the south of Carn Sgriob which added no more than 3 km to the day's proceedings. They weren't a particularly difficult 3 km either, as there are some old drainage cuts which give you nice easy straight lines to follow across the hillside, walking on the little embankments where the spoil was thrown aside.

I guess the drainage cuts date back to the days when Easter Rynechkra was a working farm. Now, however, it is no more than a ruin - and a dangerous ruin at that. I took a good look at it to determine whether it might be usable as an emergency shelter should conditions require it. My conclusion, however, was that it was in too bad a state; and that any storm which was bad enough to compel me to search for an emergency shelter was also likely to bring bits of it tumbling down on my head. Which is a shame, because once upon a time this was a rather attractive little steading.

From Easter Rynechra I took the path north. I cannot recall now whether or not the more easterly path was apparent on the ground; but it drops 50 metres to cross a stream, only to gain it again straight afterwards. So Wainwright's Rule guided my thinking. I then turned right onto the path that I should have been following from Loch an t-Sidhein, and followed it down past Foal's Well to Wester Gorton. This is a good path I made excellent progress.

From Wester Gorton my planned route was to follow the path to the south and so into Grantown-on-Spey; but in the event I took the path through Dreggie. I cannot recall my exact reasoning now; but I think it may have had something to do with the fact that this path took me past the Caravan Club campsite where, being a member (I know ... how sad is that? But it comes to us all eventually) I made use of the ablutions block then bought myself a white chocolate Magnum from the freezer cabinet in the club shop. As I sat there eating it, I remember reflecting on the fact that the marketing people over here all made a big thing of "the moment when the chocolate cracks", and yet I had heard a story that they employ a food scientist whose sole purpose in life is to find a way to STOP the chocolate on a Magnum from cracking. You see, they sell these things all over the world, and in some hotter climates the chocolate doesn't so much crack, as shatter ... and then fall straight to the ground in little pieces. Not good. Just don't tell the marketing men!

I walked through Grantown with scarcely a second look, through the forest to Anagach and on to Speybridge. After a short stop at the estate office to beg a refill for my water bottles (I usually find that estate offices are very firendly in such matters; and will generally provide you with valuable intelligence on any shooting paties that may be out at the same time, which is always worth knowing) I crossed the Spey and headed up towards the smokehouse. From here it was just another 7 kilometres on the Speyside Way; which at this point follows the route of the old Great North of Scotland Railway line from Craigellachie to Boat of Garten. The Great North of Scotland reached Boat of Garten via running powers over Highland Railway metals from a junction just to the south west of Croftnahaven. This section of the Highland Railway's line has been restored as the Strathspey Railway; but the Great North line is unlikely to rise again, alas.

The walking along the old track bed was easy, and I watched the fishermen down in the river seeking out the salmon. Can't say I saw any of them catch anything, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves at any rate.

I reached Nethy Bridge about mid-afternoon, and sought out my guest house. I'd wanted to stay at the Nethy Bridge Hotel, but they were fully booked. My guest house, however, was right next door, and I soon found why the hotel was fully booked: it was hosting a gathering of the Rolls Royce Owners Club of Scotland. When I arrived, there were already about three or four dozen classic Rolls Royces and Bentleys, many from the 1960s, the 1950s or even the 1930s, all neatly drawn up in the hotel car park and lining the road in front. And throughout the afternoon more of them kept arriving. Beautiful machines, the cream of British engineering, a joy to behold. And worth being kept out of the hotel to see. Not, of course, that I had any complaints with my guest house. The proprietor was a lovely lady who was more than happy to let me pitch my tent on her front lawn so that it could dry out, and her 8-year old son was fascinated by the proceedings - more so than the cars, if truth be known. He had never seen a tent so small, and was absolutely delighted when I told him that his reward for helping me peg it out was to be allowed to sit in it if he wanted. How easy it is to please small children!!

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