It’s always “special” when the first job of the day is to remove slugs from your clothing, in order to put it on. The lubricative effect of crushed slug just isn’t for me. The clothing still isn’t quite dry and a few minutes of abject horror and disgust are experienced as my carcass adjusts to the sensation.
Patches of sun appear between breaks in the cloud. This bodes much better for tomorrow’s getting dressed. The speed at which the cloud is moving, meanwhile, doesn’t bode too well for a full-on recovery of my route. It takes me ages to decide what to do and by the time I set off I’m still not sure. I remain undecided all the way to Dalhally where faff with pathfinding, and signs about 12 foot high slavering dogs deter me from my course.
It’s not that the options aren’t reasonably straightforward – I can stick with the Glen as it’s quite pleasant, but that will leave me further west than I’d planned and give me more road walking to the finish; I can climb up over the ridge to the east of the Glen and from there either drop straight into Glen Prosen or continue upwards to recover my main route, and my Munro count, near Mayar. It’s here that I fall back into the pattern of my normal solo walks – I’m effectively safely off the hills, and this deep into the walk all I’m really interested in is getting to the end.
I continue down the Glen, even though I’m now on roads. A lapwing cruises lazily across my path, bunnies scurry across the road, deer have now given way to sheep and cows. I reach the bottom of the Glen and the point where the Cateran Trail meets it. I’m now on the multi-day official foul weather alternative I’d have adopted if the apocalypse had been raging the day I left Braemar. I’m not too bothered as this next part of the walk has a bit of hill and some lochs. The Cateran Trail is one of many old drove roads, and it is fitting that as I climb up the track, a couple are coaxing a bull down the track. He’s walking very much at his own pace and refusing to be hurried, but then so would I be if my bollocks were swinging from side to side that much.
The rain begins as I reach the “when will this end?” stage of the climb, forcing the donning of the raingear. I take refuge in the wood above Auchintaple Loch, and it turns into a fairly long stop. I’ve a good comfortable perch and the conifers do a good job of keeping me dry. It’s a good opportunity to start planning where I’m headed for to camp tonight. This causes a bit of a problem as the map doesn’t show anywhere convenient to my route that I actually fancy camping. I’m still mulling this when I exit the wood.
A pause for another shift of clothing layers and I have a brainwave. Just on the off chance I google for B&Bs in the area and come up trumps – there’s one for £25 near Balintore. It means walking a bit further than I expected, but at that price why not ? I book it. This turns out to be a masterstroke, as the weather now knowing that it can’t lash at me overnight, decides to do it during the daytime instead.
I pass Loch Shandra, have a bit of fun navigating around the farm at East Mill, and take to the roads. The road undulates alarmingly, it’s hard on the feet and for the first time in the whole trip they’re starting to feel sore. Even so, now I’m on firm footing I’m reluctant to take off across country and stick to the long way around by road. The rain lashes down with renewed ferocity as I see the B&B ahead and approach it.
The Scotland Shooting Club B&B is an odd place, consisting of a pair of bungalows in the middle of nowhere. The rooms are old fashioned, the bathroom is shared, but at least they don’t seem to care about how wet I am. I festoon every available hanging surface in the room with soggy gear. I’m soon tucking into Bruschetta followed by steak and chips and profiteroles (not all on the same plate), washed down by a beer. I’m so tired I fall into bed barely able to move. I needed this.