Awoke early and had to put my down jacket on in my sleeping bag after what was the coldest night so far. The water in my Platy had started to freeze. The weather was fair again, and I wandered around, not too long after dawn, admiring the Glen and the river and the hills whilst drinking tea. I can’t do much in the morning until I have a couple of mugs of tea inside me. Another tent had arrived after I had gone to bed, and its occupants were already packing up and heading off for an early start. It was David and Margaret Brocklehurst who I had not met before. I realise that “lovely” has been an overused word on my Challenge write-ups so far, but David and Margaret are another lovely couple of Challengers.
By 7.40am I was packed and walking up the good path come Land Rover track towards the top of the Glen. It was here I met David and Margaret properly for they had stopped by a stream for a second breakfast. I was about to ford the stream when David called me to a spot where it was possible to boulder hop and keep my feet dry. This was kind of him. As it happens it was a bit of a waste of time as within half and hour they were soaked anyway as the path was quite boggy in places once the LR track had petered out, and the stream just before the old pony hut had to be forded anyway.
|The bridge over the Eidart near the top of Glen Feshie|
That's Phyllis under the big pack approaching the bridge
I lost the path at this point but the way up to the bridge at the waterfall was clear, not least because I could soon see up ahead the walking rucksacks of Phyllis and Lou and I passed them near the bridge. They hadn’t reached the pony hut on the previous evening when tiredness had set in so they had a longer day to complete today – and they were thinking in terms of getting to Braemar, a few km beyond my target of Mar Lodge. I felt huge admiration and respect for them as I headed off towards the watershed between the Feshie and the Geldie, with magnificent views all around. The walking was easy and delightful, with magnificent scenery in all directions. Despite a stiff breeze it was also warm enough to take off my micro-fleece and walk in merino shirt alone for the first time – quite a change from a few days earlier.
|Looking back towards Glen Tilt (I think), near the Geldie Ford (I further think)|
I will not bang on too much about the rest of the walk. It was great, although the stretch from the Geldie Ford to Linn of Dee via White Bridge was far further than on the map. Certainly it was. Without a shadow of a doubt. Clearly my map was wrong. The OS cartographers had cut out a few km from this section of the walk. I may write to them and demand a refund. By the Linn of Dee I was flagging and resorting to another Snickers (bloody stupid name and why did they turn a singular into a plural) for energy when along strolled Ian Sommerville, who is exceptionally nice and exceptionally clever, what with him being a real life professor at an ancient Scottish University, and the company made the last couple of miles to Mar Lodge fly by. We arrived at 4.15pm to be met by other Challengers with free tea and coffee in the Gun Room.
|Not a bad camp spot|
|Mar Lodge Ball Room with its 2500 antlers|
My first experience of Mar Lodge. What can I say? Stunning yet bizarre. Half a dozen Challengers camped on the splendid lawn by the Ball Room, whilst others used the bunkhouse and apartments. Gate crashed the Ball Room to see the ceiling when some Americans were being shown around. Marvelled at the Duke of Fife’s seemingly unlimited ability to massacre deer. Had dinner in a grand room with 20 or so other Challengers. Venison casserole and apple crumble for a tenner. Yum yum. Was supplied with free booze by Ian and AN Other because I hadn’t understood the alcohol ordering system (or so I claimed). And that was the second of two fabulozy days. Little did I realise that in less than 48 hours the strange incident with the duck in the Fife Arms would occur.
|Challengers dressed in their Sunday Best (although it was Friday) to match the elegance of their surroundings|