TGOC 2024 – 11 great pitches

2024’s coast to coast walk across Scotland provided great camping opportunities.

On previous occasions pitches were sometimes a bit hit-and-miss with uneven, sloping or wet ground, or midges to taunt me. This year something was working in my favour. Was it good weather? Or better planning? Or maybe a helpful route-Vetter from Challenge Control?

Taking the shortest route from Lochailort I would have arrived here too early, so I added a westward start to my path. Timing was perfect, arriving at the destination a bit before 7pm (although 10 hours walking was a bit much for the first day!) It was a risky gambit – would there be flat ground? Would it be boggy? As it happened I never went to the far end of the lochan where I planned to camp as this little hillock provided almost flat and almost dry conditions for a good night. The only disturbance was from a lonely grebe that cried for its mate missing on the water nearby.

On day 2 I stopped quite short from my planned camping spot – about 4 hours away I discovered the next morning. My wise vetter said about today’s route “this will take longer than you think!”. The weather looks good in the pictures but the wind was quite gusty and I was nervous about pitching on the ridge. It worked fine however with a bit of shelter from the munro to the west. The water source was not enticing, and I used my filter for the only time on this trip.

Day 3 found me pitched in Glean Mallie. A narrow bit of flat land by the river but close to the track. I’d taken my FWA because I was a bit behind the plan. The river here has a few pools suitable for a quick dip.

Day 4 ended at the Great Glen Hostel, and so this pitch is for day 5. A bit short of my plan but quite close to Creag Meagaidh at Uisge nam Fichead. The ground here looks perfect on an area with river on both sides. In the morning there was low cloud on the top and I decided to follow my FWA.

Day 6 brought me to the planned spot on Lochan na H’Earba. This was a suggestion from my vetter. I did much better than other TGOers in the area that night. The wind was fairly strong further down the lake. Here it was quite peaceful.

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The night of day 7 night was spent at Dalwhinnie Hostel so this picture is from Day 8. Taken north of Bruar Lodge, it looks comfortable, but below the grass were deep ruts from a wheeled vehicle. My defective sleeping mat could not smooth out these lumps and bumps. Despite reasonable weather this was not a good night.

I was prompted to take this route after hearing of the Tarff Hotel. This is a big bothy – quite the biggest I have visited with 3 or four sleeping rooms. I passed by here in the afternoon and did not stay. It seems a bit far from popular destinations, but probably good for some of the more obscure munros and corbetts of South Cairngorms.

At the end of day 9 I was behind again. A whole Munro behind, after a very long day’s walk. This pitch in Glen Tilt was on flat ground across the river from the main track. The grass was usefully nibbled by sheep. As a TGOer passing in the opposite direction said “a bit of breeze on that spot will keep the midges at bay”. The next morning I was in place for an interesting but pathless ascent to the heights of Beinn A’Ghlo.

This was not my first visit to Loch nan Eun. Last time it was bleak – windy and raining with hail stones, cold, grey, and most unhospitable. An unlikely camp spot. The end of day 10 should have found me about 5 km further to the north east, beside Ey Burn. When I got to the lake however, it was late. There were a couple of tents pitched beside the water and this encouraged me to stop early. I chose to face the opposite direction, looking south down Gleann Taitneach. While I watched the distant cloud rolled in up the valley until I was surrounded in mist. Then, a short while later, it retreated back where it came from. This was a rare spot – I was quite high at 800m and it seemed that birds had been roosting on my tent in the night. It required a good clean in several places in the morning. I planned an early start – to resupply in Braemar before moving on – but by the time I was packed-up the other campers had disappeared.

After Braemar there are several camping options within a couple of hours walk. From my first TGO I have been attracted to the Royal Balmoral Estate. On that early trip I was asked not to take my chosen route in respect for the Royals. Now the advise is not so black and white. My vetter advised me to change my plan if the building shown here was occupied. This wooden pavilion looked like a great spot for a large family picnic, but was not in use. There was not much flat ground and I ended day 11 by a track in a small layby used for parking horses. From past experience I know that young army types are continually driving the trails in their Range Rovers as if looking for interlopers. This area was exceptionally busy, not with security police, but with big fat slugs – one here keen on the remains of my orange.

Events, Places, Scotland, TGO Challenge, UK, tent

Glen Mark is an attractive valley, mostly pathless. It starts near the bothy at Sheilin of Mark, and leads down to Queen’s Well and eventually Tarfside. Day 12 ended beside a small bathing pool on the Water of Mark. It was just before the sun dipped behind the hills of Muckle Cairn and I paid the price of a quick dip with a lot of insect bites!

Events, Places, Scotland, TGO Challenge, UK, tent

The final day of the TGO is a trek through the road networks of Angus and so the last wild camp is often a bit uncertain. My plan for day 13 was a picnic spot designated Pirn Brig. This dramatic setting was something of a rubbish tip with large waste containers in the car park and half buried detritus in the earth around the picnic benches. The footpath was roped off with a warning sign and the bridge shown on the map no longer existed. I was not the only TGOer that inspected this site and moved on. Not far away I found this wildflower meadow close to an old cemetery and in reach of the river for a source of water. A peaceful final night!

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