Scottish National Trail: Crossing Cairngorm National Park & Dinner at Di’s (days 9, 10, 11)

Today: 100km | Total: 336km

The three-day trip through the Cairngorm National Park took us past the 300km mark and close to halfway. We finished this stage with a super pleasant reunion with queen of the hills Di Gilbert. Thanks for having a ♥ for hikers and the amazing Scottish hospitality (and for giving Laura a bit of time to recover 🇨🇴 🙏).

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Laura’s comment día 9, 10 y 11: Estos días en el parque fueron muy agradables, un poco fuera de lo común en nuestro recorrido, pues el lugar es recorrido por muy pocas personas y en nuestro camino sólo encontramos 4 de ellas.

Para mí el dolor en mi rodilla es algo con lo que evidentemente no puedo luchar, un fuerte dolor que muchas veces me impide caminar y disfrutar plenamente los maravillosos paisajes que nos rodean.

Para nuestra fortuna al finalizar el recorrido por el parque encontramos a Di, una mujer con un hermoso corazón, la cual nos ofreció un espacio en su hogar, una deliciosa comida y una ducha de agua caliente 🙏🏼.

Entre todo el grupo decidimos que lo mejor para mí es descansar unos días y recuperar fuerzas en mi rodilla.

Ronny por su parte continuará su ruta hacia nuestro destino final… Te veo en unos días Amor. 🚀😘

Gear upgrade in Aberfeldy

After a healthy 🙄 Scottish breakfast, we started our day  with a search for the right gear. Scottish summer with at times sub 10 degrees days and rain en masse need addressing. In particular we needed a better hard-shell for Laura. Thankfully, the shop was conveniently located opposite our hotel.

The sales guy must have been happy! 🛒 After some deliberations we left with a new hard-shell, down jacket, waterproof over pants, waterproof gloves, cotton sleeping bag liners, a large gas canister and a second knee support for Laura (poor thing). Now we both feel well equipped.

Slight shortcut to start with

We arguably took a shortcut on our first stage of the day by using public transport from Aberfeldy to Blair Atholl. But we have to keep to a schedule somehow. Funny that we got picked up by the same bus driver twice, after the connecting bus just snubbed us. Thank you a$$!

Pitlochry was the end of our bus journey. A pretty little town admittedly. We, however, were just interested in the train station to take us one stop to Blair Atholl and the start of our three-day Cairngorms crossing. As the train warden said… Blair Atholl is a really nice stop. Indeed.

We should have sorted our resupplies beforehand though. Just a tiny grocer in the village. But heh! We got plenty of pasta, sweets, some fruit, 🥃 and other little things we might need. The bags were now significantly more heavy than in the last days.

 

Through the Cairngorms

And just a brief lunch (burger & haggis) later we were off to the national park that holds so many memories from earlier visits in Jan/Mar 2017 (see here). The path is pretty straightforward and follows the river Tilt all the way to our first wild camping spot. This time with a fire and the soothing sound of the river and waterfall nearby. Notably no midges 😊.

 

On the way we spotted a few folks fly fishing salmon (Atlantic Salmon runs all the way up to the waterfall near our campsite). And there were loads of mushrooms. Seems no-one picks them here. Below mushroom gallery is the result of 3-4mins of pictures along the main hiking path. Incredible. I think the last time i saw this was on the island Olchon (lake Baikal).

 

The weather was stable on our second day meaning neither rain nor sun. Just wind and loads of clouds hanging over the Cairngorm hills. We managed 28km today in at times challenging terrain. Pain level rising in feet, legs and knees. 😣

 

For lunch we stopped at the ruins of Bynack lodge. Fire, soup, pasta… Nice. Shortly after, we bumped into two other hikers walking in the opposite direction. The guy told me about previous stays at the lodge with hin son and that the place is haunted. He enquired if we had any strange encounters.. Mmmh no! 👻

 

We arrived at our overnight spot an hour before sunset. Once the sun went, we figured the camping was full off midges. Thousands. The deet spray helped to an extent, but hiding in the tent was still the better option. Nasty little things… And it will only get worse further North.

 

Our last day arrived with a nice breakfast (boiled 🥚 🥚 & 🥓🧀 🥪), a bath and midges. Mushrooms continued to pave the way… This time i picked a few like back in childhood days in Germany.

 

Weather remained a mix of sun and clouds, but thankfully little rain (just at night a little). On the way back to civilisation we passed through gorgeous valleys (glens) and, when approaching Kingussie (pronounced ‘kinnussie’ as i am told), a big rainbow over the park said goodbye in the loveliest manner.

 

Scottish hospitality at Di Gilbert’s

I met Di during my time preparing for Lhotse. Scottish winter is a great way to test yourself in harsh conditions and Cairngorms in winter is simply a stunning place. That was in March 2017 and hadn’t met since.

 

We had agreed to meet Di at some pub in Kingussie and, tired as we were, picked the first one that we passed – The Silverfjord Hotel and Restaurant. We didn’t have to wait long for Di. All ☺ and 🤗.

 

Di offered us to stay over in her place in Grantown-on-Spey and recover for a bit. It gave us also the chance to sort out gear (a washing machine!) and ourselves 😀🚿

Much to chat about over dinner and a bit of map reading and planning (in particular the increasingly difficult issue of resupplying as you head farther north). Fact was that our schedule is pretty tight. Laura also needed a rest. Her knees in particular.

 

So we decided that i continue solo for a few days to cover some ground and meet Laura 3-4 days later in Ullapool (180km on our route). So one more day for Laura at Di’s (together with lodger Anna now a three member ladies gang… OMG!) and then a little spare time to go sightseeing in Northern Scotland. Enjoy.

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