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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Scottish National Trail: Loch Freuchie two day trek – Let’s get wet baby (day 7 & 8)

Today: 53km | Total: 236km

Before we left Comrie on day 6, we did a little planning and figured the next 50km or so are a two-day hike without option to resupply (unless begging farmers). So we did some late night shopping and downloaded relevant offline maps (I use the ViewRanger app, stages for the trail are here) before hitting the sleeping bags somewhere outside the town.

Laura’s comments

Día 6: Un día para recordar. Sólo lee el blog Scottish National Trail: Novia Perdida (day 6). 😔😂

Día 7 y 8: El día 7 fue un gran día, mucho sol, muy caliente y paisaje increíble, perfecto, similar a mi ciudad, una noche increíble y con mucho tiempo para descansar.

Para el día 8 hubo mucha lluvia, mi chaqueta no es a prueba de agua, por lo cual caminé todo el tiempo con la ropa muy húmeda, afortunadamente Ronny tenía (hand warmers) y obtuve un poco de calor, el frío en Escocia es muy fuerte para mí. Afortunadamente unos kilómetros después encontramos una pareja qué muy amablemente se ofrecieron a darnos un chance hasta nuestro destino, el pueblo de Aberfeldy. 😁

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THROUGH THE 200KM MARK (1/3rd DONE) 😀 🏕

Day 7 started a bit slow. We either missed a path for it was overgrown and invisible or for lack of map reading skills on my side. Time went by, but the mileage didn’t budge much. It also involved fighting our way (literally) through spaces with loads of plants… Just like in the jungle. Hello Jane & Tarzan!

Well, we got ourselves sorted eventually and enjoyed a beautiful day out. A lot of uphill again (700m ascent) crossing over from one valley into another on our way to Loch Freuchie.

With so much delay we called it a day much earlier than usual after only 19km, took our time to wash in the cold but clean river water, had egg & cheese omelette as well as soup and just a little more time with sunlight than usual. A little luxury.

Scottish readers of the blog might have missed comments on midges. Well, they were not worth mentioning so far. They are now. Nasty little things. Thankfully the repellent (40% deet) works and the tent has a good insect cover.

Our second day was the exact opposite of the previous day. We woke up with rain banging on our tent. I just managed to rescue Laura’s shirt, which she washed the night before. We were tempted to stay in the tent all day. But then, we only had food for a day and don’t have much time to spare.

So we packed up in rain and got going by 10am. It was not too bad and to our surprise busier than usual. First up a group of scouts, then a group of mainly german tourists. So far, so good.

The rain was non-stop. It didn’t take long for the gloves to get wet, our pants, then Laura’s Decathlon jacket. Just not made for Scottish summer. By lunchtime we reached Loch Freuchie… In hope of a warm meal. Laura was soaked and now the gas canister empty. Shit!

So back to emergency supplies like HUEL (meal in powder form… Today with pineapple & coconut flavour), crackers and a bit of leftover red wine. We had a few spare clothes too and handwarmers to get going in good spirits again.

And so we trodded on. After some 24km we were on the final stretch into the town of Aberfeldy when we met two other hikers. They spent the weekend in a bothy with their dogs and offered a lift into town. How could we say no? ☺️🙄

Fun ride with these two – a Scot and his Slovakian partner. Turns out he has been extensively in South America including Colombia. What a coincidence!

Anyway, we enjoyed a great pub dinner at ‘The Fountain’, booked a room for the night and were happy ever after 😴😴😴

Tomorrow a bit of shopping to get done before hitting a three-day trek across the Cairngorms. Can’t wait!