TGO Challenge 2014- Day 11 Braemar to Ballater

We are back on the trail! Anyone who has ever been forced off the trail by injury knows the anguish of being off the trail and the excitement in being back walking again.... For me, I just needed to put in miles and was glad to stretch my legs,  Scotland is a beautiful country but I didn't come to see it on a train or bus or browsing the street shops around towns. I wanted to be out in the woods. For Vicky I am sure it was a great relief as well to be walking again, but also to prove she could finish what she started.
However I was still not going to just let her strap on a pack and start walking as if nothing had happened. She had on her knee brace and I took everything out of her pack, she protested but I did it anyway! Giving me about 33 pounds (still a very light load compared to some of the packs I saw on the challenge....) and her about 5 pound total with a 1/2 liter of water.
Our goal today was ambitious and Vicky knew it. 19 miles from Braemar to Ballater. the walk was not strenuous but having now been off her knee for 5.5 days, I warned her it might be like starting over in terms of stamina.
Off we go
 We are ready to go outside the Fife Arms Hotel that was a very pleasant way to spend the last couple of days rest. (above) We started out very early, out the door by 7 am, as I knew it might take us a long while to cover the 19 miles and several other challengers were coming on the same route today (As I will explain later)
The day before, as I was wondering around town, I had scouted out the start of our hike today (below)

The first hour of our day was really the only climbing and it was a minor hill around the "Lion's Face"
the day was overcast with a nice temperature for walking and the low light made all the green colors come alive again.
 There were several paths in the forest, but we managed to stay on the right one to get us started (above) and everywhere was our friend the black slug. we have seen these giant slugs since the start of our walk getting off the ferry in Inverie.

 At the top of the hill was a great vantage point for viewing the Invercauld House (castle!) and their estate grounds
 The Lion's head.  Can you see it at the top center of the rock face?.....

 After a brief walk along the A93 we crossed over the Invercauld Bridge and the River Dee. We would follow the River Dee all day and indeed for the next couple of days. This route is a jumping off point for Gelder Shiel Bothy and the Spittal of Glenmick which had been part of our original route.

In the background  of this and the pictures above you can see Lochnagar Mountains ( Munros)

After the Invercauld Bridge we entered the Ballochbuie Forest. This area that was in the process of being logged, but also had a large hunting lodge and a field full of deer.  It was very lovely forest and nice path to walk on for several miles 
We also passed through the Woods of Garmaddie 

 The forest gave way to some farm field where we again saw the Highland Cattle (Hairy Cooz)

I can't help it but every time I see these guys I think of my 22 year old son Taylor when he needs a hair cut!

After our lovely walk today through the forests and fields we knew we were getting close to Balmoral Castle when we came across this open gate and sign. 

We continued on and soon found ourselves at Her Majesties front door. In fact we walked in from the western side and didn't see another soul on the grounds. It was a Monday, but we felt like we had the entire grounds to ourselves and we were just outside our own weekend house.... nice. 

The Gardens and the grounds are very lovely and well maintained... obviously
 While we knew that the Queen was at the Chelsea Flower Show this week we still had to stay for tea.
We only started to see a few people when we actually got close to the restaurant and the gift shop area.

We enjoyed our lunch break with the Queen  and we stayed and rested for about 40 minutes and then headed for Easter Balmoral. I am not sure what purpose Easter Balmoral served other than maybe being the residences of those that served the castle, but now it is a golf course and several really fabulous cottages all of which we admired greatly.
These all had cars parked around them as if regular people lived in them and Vicky and I both hoped that was the case as we could imagine living in them also.

We continued up a minor road after Easter Balmoral to the royal distillery. We didn't go in as neither of us would know good whiskey if it bit us, but it was a quiet road that cut off some of the traffic we would have encountered on the "B" road we had been on.

We followed this minor road around and went by fields of new lambs (above) 
 We picked up the "B" road again with about 6 miles to Ballater and it was quiet with more flowers
and fabulous cottages along the way 

In the middle of nowhere a royal mail box (above) and and a phone box (below). 
Actually in a little village of Littlemill 
 At mile marker 236 (they don't put mile markers on the road, so you have to use a map) we veered off onto a foreset track in Dalhefour Wood to walk along the River Dee again
 The colors in the forest we again the mix of every green imaginable

 The River Dee
 We walked to the Polhollick Bridge to cross the River Dee

After the bridge it was another short walk on the A93 and then onto a river path at followed the River Dee and beside the Ballater Gold Course. Our second golf course of the day. The Gorse was fully in bloom with the yellow flowers.

Wildflowers were blooming and several fisherman were casting in the river. 

More Gorse edited (this is not Gorse but Broom- Thanks Alan S.) lined the path as we entered the Ballater Caravan Park. 

 We made our pitch on the very flat and soft grass under a tree by a picnic table. It was about 4:30 and we had covered the 19 miles in just 9 1/2 hours.

 Vicky was very tired and after a little doctoring of her feet we decided that we would eat at the picnic table. I went into town and found a Co-Op and bought all sorts of fresh foods for dinner. 
 So the reason I mentioned we left Braemar so early is that Vicky and Toby (the younger) were also coming our direction and I was determined to not have them pass us today, since they said they would not be leaving Braemar till around 9 to 9:30.  While I certainly didn't push Vicky with any pace today, we did arrive a couple hours ahead of them. We shared a picnic table dinner with them and chatted about the day.
It was a long day and considering the monster day Vicky put in to get back on track a great day for us on the Challenge. 
A lovely evening in Ballater

Day 11
18.7 miles in 9 1/2 hours
Slugs, Hairy Cooz, Deer, Sheep, Lambs, Tourists

Elevation Profile Day 11 


  1. Well done, Vicky
    That gorse was in fact Broom.

    1. Alan, Is Broom the Gorse without thorns?

  2. That's a good enough description

    1. Thanks, I have made the edit and given you credit. :-)


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