A solo trip this time for one week, travelling from Edzell (near Montrose) on the North East Coast of Scotland, across to Forres (near Elgin) on the Moray Coast. A traverse of 200kms, several times travelling at heights of over 700m in the mountains. I mostly camped or stayed in bothies (stone hill huts) and was self sufficient for the whole journey (apart from drop off and pick up by my wonderful husband!).
The horses were fit from their previous trek last month and seemed to be unstoppable. We just picked up where we left off a few weeks ago. Thankfully however, we had much better weather than experienced during the previous Cairngorm Circular trip, with only the last day throwing some atmospheric drizzly weather our way. We met some lovely people on our travels at the Mark House at Invermark as well as in Bob Scott’s bothy and Ryvoan Bothy, not to mention those I got chatting to on the trail side too!
That said -the trip didn’t get off to the best of starts and took a few days to “warm up” into an enjoyable experience. I stupidly did an extra night shift the night before setting off -I was mostly ready and packed with just the saddles to sort out… Sorting out ANYTHING after only a few hours sleep should be totally avoided!
Dave drove me and Team Swogi to the start… a 2hr drive with a planned 6km evening ride and camp for the night… only for me to discover when throwing the saddle up onto Yogi -I had nothing to secure the cinch (girth) to! I’d forgotten a Latigo… I wasn’t all that surprised that something had got missed in the sleep devoid stupor but I was very angry with myself as this was something I couldn’t set off without and we were now a long way from home.
The horses were found local accommodation for the night and we set off back for home, to return in the car the next morning with Latigo firmly in my hand… least that was the plan, but shortly after settling the horses in a field, a lorry wheel blew out and we were then stuck at the side of the road for a few hours whilst that got sorted.
The next morning after more hours on the road, I rode up the Glen with a slightly changed plan due to the delayed start, only to have my plans completely changed again about 10kms in, thanks to a newly installed cattle grid with no side gate. I had to back track and carry out the deepest river crossing the team has ever done. Yogi and I had a slight disagreement about stepping into the river… it was nothing really and Swift was happy, but he was adamant that the ground wasn’t safe (it was). I tried convincing him instead from the ground, but the battle continued and my finger lost when he suddenly pulled back on the reins. Not sure if my finger was broken or just badly sprained but it very sore and was bleeding everywhere too.
I eventually persuaded Yogi to approach the river from a much more difficult angle (typical bloke!) and we crossed without incident. We had to spend the rest of the day on tarmac playing in traffic (which I hate) but thankfully every single driver was patient and courteous. That night was spent in delightful company at the Mark House B&B which cheered me and my finger up no end. The next day, however, half way up the next Glen, I developed a sickness bug so couldn’t eat for the next 24hrs and felt very weak and shakey. I must point out that I was probably harbouring this before staying at the B&B… it was nothing to do with them, particularly since I ate my own breakfast lol!
I felt so rough and with the challenging start I almost pulled the plug at this point, but as always my rock (husband) reminded me that I could in theory just sit tight for a few days until I felt better, as I wasn’t under any time pressure. I was camped in a beautiful spot with plenty of grass for the horses, so this wouldn’t have been too much of a hardship. Thankfully though, by the morning all felt good and I was starving enough to eat my missed main meal for breakfast. I figured curry would give me more energy for the day ahead than a small helping of porridge!
The trek then settled into a good place, with relaxed and happy vibes. No more issues to come and the weather was kind. We camped in beautiful places and enjoyed Bothy Banter some nights too. The horses were incredible as always -tackling anything I put in front of them (the Yogi/river incident the first day was a very rare blip) -we walked over metal gridded bridges through which you could see the river far below, went up and down steep flights of steps, rocky river crossings, bog negotiations and narrow gates. These obstacles on top of negotiating the standard challenges that the hill trails have to offer.
We all came home looking a bit trimmer, a bit fitter and a little bit wiser! Can’t wait to do it all again -hopefully off somewhere next month too. A big hello to those now following the blog after meeting me on the trail during this trek.
Day 1 Edzell to Invermark:
Day 2 Invermark to Shiel of Glen Tanar:
Day 3 Shiel of Glentanar to Gelder Shiel:
Day 4 Gelder Shiel to Derry Lodge:
Day 5 Derry Lodge to Ryvoan:
Day 6 Ryvoan to Cromdale:
Day 7 Cromdale to Forres along the Dava Way: