In the original itinerary today it was supposed to be a simple cruise into Blair Atholl by the evening to stay at the very nice Atholl Arms hotel. There was a lunch spot and then also a stop at a market for tea and ice cream in the afternoon....However with me on my own, while all that sounds nice, I was going to now take the train north to Aviemore to meet Vicky to see how she was feeling and plan the rest of the TGO.
The route for today (below) shows me starting in the forest and then ending in Blair Atholl. However it shows many different paths that I worked through before our trip depending on conditions and fitness level when we arrived at this point.
(click for larger view)
A reminder of last nights camp site in the woods.
The forest track is very easy walking and it was all down hill from my campsite
In just a mile or so you exit the forest (at some lovely homes) and I am faced with my first choice of the morning. I can make a left on the road or I can go right and head up to the tops of the hills. (see previous map)
there was some forestry construction on the hillside, so I choose the road, it was early, and not much traffic at this time. Later on I would probably regret not taking the hills, but at the moment I was thinking about my lunch stop at the Struan Inn and if I took that high path I would miss it all together.
Above you can see the hill path I would have been on instead of the road.
The road was pleasant and not too hard on the feet. I did see quite a few chickens, and I got to see a very small deer species that I actually thought were big dogs for a moment, run in front of me and then jump high over a rock wall. Of course there are the sheep!
On my own again I ate up the miles covering the first 9.5 miles in just over 2 hours. I found myself in the village of Struan at the Struan Inn early (way early!)
I had originally planned to be hear at noon! I am here at 9:45 am and I am just gutted. To add insult to injury they only serve breakfast to guest staying in the B&B section. I remembered that Lynsey was staying here last night and pressed my face against the window to see if I could spot her and maybe "Yogi*" some toast and tea! But no the remaining guests and the waitstaff simply stared at me like I was an animal on the wrong side of the cage and the front door remained locked!
*For those of you not familiar with the term "yogi" in the hiking world, think of the old cartoon Yogi Bear and what he used to do to tourists and their picnic baskets. It is the art of the hiker to acquire food from strangers but in such a way the stranger offers the food to the hiker. (it is a skill)
So I sat and had a snack out of my bag! I had already decided that I was not going to take the very busy B road that passes by the tourist stop of House of Bruar. The HOB is a touristy area with clothing, souvenirs but most importantly a deli and ice cream store along the road toward Blair Atholl castle, so naturally it has lots of tourists in cars but also big buses! Alan Sloman had mentioned, but not explained that there was a hidden bike path leaving Struan and that was the prefered method.
So the hunt was on for the quieter bike path. In the meantime Vicky and I alway look for the quantist cottage of the trip. We had already seen some nice ones, but this one certainly wins. The name of the cottage is Dail an t- Sagairt the date on the building says 1879. It appears to have been a school or church as it has a bell up in the tower on the end, but just looking in from the road you can see it has been completely remodeled inside to a very high end home. Well Done!
Finding the bike path through Old Struan was not a problem. I found it on my into the Struan Inn and so I had to back track to here. Hikers hate to backtrack!
The old road "bike path" was lovely though and quite. Much nicer than the previous 9 miles on the busier road of the morning.
Old Struan church and cemetery
It turns out there might have been an even quieter path to this point that could have left from right across of the Struan Inn. To be honest I did see this on the map but it didn't show it going all the way through so I didn't take the chance on it, but if you do this section, take this path from Struan to Old Struan along the stream.
Panorama of Old Struan
The paved road comes to an end and the dirt begins again. "Access path to Invervack" (I should have done what it said!)
The access path to Invervack goes under the highway (A9) on the north and follows it for a while, but eventually it allows you to cross back over to the south side to get back to Invervack. I missed this crossing (well I saw it and ignored it, thinking I could make my way to Blair Atholl completely on the north side of the A9.
I was wrong!Soon after I see that this is going to be a challenge as the path actually falls into the river (above) and you are forced onto the dry river bed just beyond (below)
The path is now truly just sheep trails and you end up in open fields with the actual sheep
(note: I did not have to open any closed gates or walk onto any obvious private property to get here)
The map below shows were I went astray. The first arrow (top and left of center) shows were I should have crossed back to the south of the A9 and second arrow shows were I did cross this time running across a very busy A9
Just before I crossed the busy A9 the path had gone to a well defined sheep path, but only tall enough for sheep. I was bending over the entire time I was walking as the branches were at 4 to 5 feet off the ground.
So I climbed a steep bank and got to the shoulder of the A9 and immediately saw were I was suppose to be. Played "Frogger" and crossed to a nice wide path on the other side.
Now from the opposite side of the A9 I get a good view of Blair Castle
Crossing the A9 one more time back to the north side (at the official location) I get across the river and into Blair Atholl
I had planned to eat at the Fish and Chip shop as I had been told it was excellent, but the one thing I wanted to find was the Watermill Bakery. I had been following them on Facebook and watched as they refurbished the building and the business.
It was directly on my walk into town and I was amazed at how upscale it was and also how busy it was! I felt a little self conscious of my appearance and probably smell when I went inside. I got a few "hiker trash" looks from the tourists.
I got a cheese scone and a coke as my reward. it was the first real food I had had all day.
As I mentioned that the original plan was to have fish and chips and then meet Vicky in Aviemore by the late afternoon. However when I walked to the train station in Blair Atholl to buy a ticket, I found out it doesn't have an attendant and you buy your ticket on the train, and just at that moment the train was coming into the station.
I hopped on and was whisked on a lovely train ride to Aviemore and the Cairgorm Hotel (below) were vicky was waiting.
I satisfied my craving for Fish and Chips at a shop in town and then after a rest and some drinks we had a very nice meal in the Hotel.
So ends the solo portion of this years adventure... more to come