Scotland Day 19 - Ewich to Bridge of Orchy
I'm delighted that my fundraising page has now exceeded its target of £1000 so I'm considering extending it to maybe £1500. I've had the most generous offer of sponsorship to come too. It's not the main reason for doing this trek, that was always about the adventure, but to know that in doing it there is a good cause that will benefit makes it additionally satisfying. My Samaritans colleague Noreen took this photo on holiday in Ireland which I think is a wonderful representation. If you're interested in adding to the pot then the website address is at the top of this post
Our B and B today was everything you'd want, with kindly and welcoming hosts, a friendly border collie, a brilliant electric boot dryer and fresh eggs from their own chickens. An unusual extra that I wouldn't have necessarily expected was the whisky and honey scented soap. I try to wash many of that day's clothes when I arrive at the accommodation, so it meant that today I was faintly redolent of a wee dram.
The forecast for today was the poorest that it's been since I started. Rain all day. But to our delight as we left the B and B things were dryish, and we reckoned that every dry minute was a bonus.
The first section of the walk started on a busy bit of road, but soon peeled off on a couple of loops that took in some great historic sites, mainly involving Robert the Bruce. The first was the remains of St Fillan's Priory. R the B endowed this in the thirteenth century, but St Fillan started a church in the area 400 years before. The priory was very large in its heyday, but only some moss covered walls remain visible now, with an ancient graveyard opposite.
Later the path went past the Holy Pool. St Fillan is the patron saint of the mentally ill, and this rather murky part of the river Fillan was used for a grim sounding ceremony to treat mental disorders. It involved being immersed in the water, gathering stones and walking round in circles dropping articles of clothing, then finally being tied to a wooden structure with a large bell over your head, covered in hay and then left for the night. If your ropes became loose in the morning then you were cured. If not then your family would start the process again. We agreed we were grateful for the NHS.
The path went under the busy road, on which were the very good marketing signs for Pat the masseuse. What an excellent idea, suggesting this to weary walkers. She has a treatment room in the pub - double bonus. Then past a waterfall with intriguing large broken sections of pipe immersed in it, and then circled around more interesting places within the Tyndrum Community Woodland.
The first was the site of the Battle of Dalrigh, a battle between Clan MacDougall and Robert the Bruce. I realised how little I knew about him or this period of history, most of my knowledge is from a ladybird book about him in a cave with a spider. We gave it a good go at imagining the rampaging armies on what was otherwise a rather tranquil if damp field.
After R the B got beaten at Dalrigh, the legend has it that he and his armies threw all their weapons in the nearest lochan. Through a cunning plan or a fit of pique was not clear. But amongst the metalware was supposed to be Robert's long-sword, Claymore. The lochan was very lovely. It seems the likelihood of the story being true was not.
The path was easy walking on to Tyndrum. Last night we got a taxi into this village for dinner. Ian, our taxi driver, was chatty and informative about the area, having started work as a signalman on the tiny railway stations 40 years ago from Glasgow and never wanting to leave, even after the signals were automated and he was made redundant. He sorted out our concerns about the pronunciation, it's Tinedrum instead of Tindrum. It's not a big place, a few buildings on either side of the A82, but it's busy with tourists and many walkers. On the outskirts was a collection of cairns that had no obvious point. Didn't stop me trying to add to the one on top of a large pole though.
As we arrived in the village it started to drizzle, which meant that we had had over an hour of dry weather. Such a bonus. As Magda said, who could believe that we could talk about the weather so much? But when you're out in it for 6 or 7 hours a day, with the combination of walking, looking, resting and eating, then the weather becomes everything. You rejoice when it's clear, labour when it's hot, struggle when it's windy and endure when it's wet. You look ahead to see what's coming, and your clothing us constantly adjusted to accommodate what is being presented to you. Having a period of time when it's a bit better than you had factored for feels joyous.
Flo and I were laughing affectionately at the notable change of pace that Magda had initiated when she could see the village and therefore a coffee became within sight.
We powered into Tyndrum, aiming for the first cafe we could. This was steamed up full and fuggy with damp walkers, so we went on to look for another. TJ's Diner was not what the adults would have chosen, but Flo was very keen, so we followed her lead. It was unexpected to have a full American style diner, replete with giant portrait of Michael J Fox, in a tiny Scottish village in the Highlands. But Flo was as happy as possible with her chocolate milk shake, and Magda and I settled into the vibe.
They ordered churros, which were brought by a diminutive waitress, maybe Jeanette Krankie's mum, who had an unnervingly gravelly voice. When she came to clear the table she saw a bit of churros left behind. She growled 'what happened to that wee one?' and I was so intimidated that I ate the greasy chocolate in front of her.
I was keen to see The Green Welly, about which I had heard good things from other walkers. It is essentially a service station, with touristy stuff, a food shop and then a fantastic outdoor shop. I'm never happier than when I'm browsing waterproof socks. I bought a knee support to get me through a day coming up that I'm aware will be a challenge, in the hope that I won't need it.
On past Tyndrum, onto another military road. Clear straightforward walking, where although we were ascending a few hundred feet it was barely noticeable. But sadly the rain started up, so the views were a bit murky. We could see the summit of Benn Dorain coming in and out of view, tantalising. But even without the big open landscapes, these hills are magisterial. It was easy to imagine ourselves as wildly remote at this point, were it not for the rumble of the A road and the periodic trains.
We agreed that we would stop for lunch either at some shelter or if the rain stopped. Brilliantly it was the latter, so we ate in the shelter of Benn Dorain on a bridge over a heck, watching the skies lift and drop, but gradually clear a little and then, astonishingly, the sun came out.
It made us giddy with excitement, being able to see the colours and the wrinkles of the hills.
Flo and Magda had come equipped with midge helmets, but we had fortunately not had to wear them. Would have been a waste not to get a photo though.
Only three or four miles later and we came to Bridge of Orchy. This is the tiniest village so far, with a station, a fire station, a couple of houses and a very welcoming hotel. My room had the holy trinity - a bath, a heated towel rail for drying clothes and a Tunnocks wafer.
It was a good job we hadn't got lots of places to explore nearby, as it hammered down for the rest of the day. We saw people arrive drenched and shivering, and one poor girl looking close to tears with a camping rucksack as her partner asked if there was by any chance a room available. It must be so wearing camping and hiking in this weather, always being wet and cold. We were warm and cosy, with my clothes washed and drying, so we spent the afternoon failing to beat Flo at Trivial Pursuit.
After a last meal together, they left this evening to catch the sleeper back to London. It has been a joy to have them share my journey for a bit, and they have been wonderful walking companions. I was very sorry to see them go.
Now it's almost three weeks on my own before David comes back up to be with me for the last few days. Another awful forecast tomorrow, so I'll be up early to try to dodge the rain near Glencoe.
Distance travelled: 11 miles
Total ascent: 838 feet
Calories burned: 1441
Local tipple - Bridge of Orchy lager from Harviestoun Brewery
Dinner at Bridge of Orchy hotel - fantastic
Cauliflower and blue cheese soup
Sole with shrimp with new potatoes and broccoli
I've had sponsors, but no music suggestions today - hopefully some tomorrow!
Video of the day