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Saturday, 13 November 2010

The 2009 Challenge, day 10: Corndavon to Ballater

Breaking camp after breakfast, I continued down the River Gairn, noting a byre at Daldownie that could offer basic shelter in an emergency, then crossed the bridge to Tullochmacarrick. This once fine house is now in ruins ... but I couldn't help ponder on what might have been. If it were still in usable condition, it would be a truly wonderful base for an outdoor activities centre. Hmmmm ...

Beyond Tullochmacarrick, the path to the bridge at Gairnshiel Lodge is one of the more optimistic examples of the map-maker's art. It is there to begin with, alright. But once you drop off the hillside to the valley floor, it is far from clear that there is anything here which may properly be called a "path" or, if there is, what route it follows. By the time I reached the road I had very wet shoes and feet, and was glad to be able to change my socks and put my sandals on instead!

From the bridge, there is a path along the north side of the Gairn. It is not shown on the map, but I decided to follow it a while and see where it got me. I ended up scrambling round all sorts of barbed wire fences overhanging the river's edge and eventually had to tramp through soem pathless, open woodland and find a place to cross the odd dry stone wall. I'd have been better using the road. But it was a pleasant day, and I had time to amble - having covered 9 km of the day's planned walk the evening before - and in due course I reconnected with the track to Tomnavey.

Sitting enjoying the sun, I was pleased when a couple of other Challengers - a husband and wife pair - chanced along. We walked together along the lovely track past Tomnavey and down through the woods past Balno to Inverenzie. Here they wanted to press on, whereas I was all for stopping and takign lunch, so we separated and I enjoyed my lunch. Then it was an easy bit fo road walking down Glen Gairn through Morvern Cotts, and finally into Ballater past the Craigendarroch hotel.

I reached Ballater mid-afternoon, and although I had originally planned to use the camp site, I decided that perhaps my feet deserved a bit of pampering; so I booked myself into the first decent hotel I encountered and strolled into Ballater, sans backpack, in search of a pharmacy where I could replenish my supply of painkillers. Then, after supper, I took stock of my situation and decided that from here I should ditch the remainder of my original planned route (through the Fetteresso forest to Stonehaven). With my feet in the state they were in, and this close to the East Coast, all that mattered was finishing. And if that meant a bit of a drudge down to Aberdeen, so be it. I reckoned three days' walking would do it. Overnight stops at Kincardine O'Neil and Peterculter, then into Aberdeen. Train to Montrose. Job done.

I rang Challenge Control and advised them that this was what I now had in mind.

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