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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The 2009 Challenge ... Getting to the Start

Now, when you have got your Challenge place late in the day off the standby list, there are a number of considerations which affect your route planning. First of these is that there is no point planning to finish on the Thursday and hoping to get a room at the Park ... or a place at the Thursday dinner.

And second of these is that you need to avoid being in the main "wave" of Challengers at the start ... as they will have booked out all the overnight accommodation at your start point, and at any hotels you might have hoped to use early in your crossing.

So I thought I should start as late as possible - on the Sunday - and aim to finish on the Friday. This gave me a chance to use a remote and difficult to access start point: Glenelg. I took the Friday night sleeper from Euston to Inverness (being lucky to get a berth, methinks) and then the early morning train to Kyle on the Saturday. It was lashing it down with rain all the way, and I was subsequently to hear sorry tales of soggy starts from all manner of Challengers.

Arriving in Kyle, I set out on foot across that bridge thing. The rain came and went as I trudged the roads of Skye; but a kindly motorist stopped and gave me a lift shortly after I had started on the little side road to Kylerhea, and took me the whole way. The wee turntable ferry (which I had last used in 1988) whisked me across the kyle, and then a short walk had me in Glenelg.

I had originally intended to camp seemwhere ... possibly at the barracks ... but the ground was wet and the hotel was inviting, and they had a room, so I thought why not? I settled in, walked round to the signing-in point and signed the Challenge register, dipped a pole in the sea and retired to the hotel for supper.

After supper the rain cleared, the sun came out, and I stood in the garden, whisky glass in hand, watching the sun slowly setting behind the mountains of Skye. The waters of Glenelg bay were smooth as glass. Save for just one thing, it was the perfect start to a Challenge. Then, somewhere far away to the West of me, somewhere on Skye, a solitary cuckoo called. Perfect!

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