Ian is gone around 7am, and the site is mine alone. I’ve been having a lie-in since waking at 4am. There’s limited signs of life elsewhere. I pack up in my own time and am still away by 9am. It’s about 15 miles to the coast and a further 6 to Montrose. That makes it a pretty easy walk over 2 days. I set off knowing that, injury or accident aside, I’ll make it. This is a good feeling to have.
The campsite office doesn’t open until 10am and I leave payment wrapped up with a note. The A932 is my companion for a short distance before a side road and the B9113 take me the other side of Rescobie Loch. This is after I’ve scouted out the disused railway shown on the map to see if it is actually a path in disguise. It’s not – it’s an obstacle course of fences and trees that’s not worth bothering with.
The day is warm and with me heading east and south I’m in the full force of the sun. The early wake up starts to take its toll – I’m tired, not so much from walking but from just being stood up. I’m also carrying an immense amount of water as I have no idea where I’m going to camp (although with the seed of an idea germinating in my head). This actually takes my mind off the hard surface under my feet. I walk semi- trance-like towards my goal.
A break is taken at Friockheim, and it’s a full-on boots and socks off type break. I even get my Kindle out and have a read. My feet feel as well as can be expected when they’re reinstalled in boots. A dull slog along the road east of Friockheim is rewarded with a slightly less dull slog along the road through Boysack Mills. Six long miles later I’m in Inverkeilor, where there’s nothing worth stopping for. I push on.
The 2 miles to the Red Castle seems a lot less than that. Perhaps it’s the realisation that I’m almost done. Perhaps it’s a slight moistness in the ocular region obscuring the path. The castle itself becomes visible soon after leaving Inverkeilor. In no time at all, I’m climbing up to the symbolic end point of my Castle to Castle Crossing, and there’s a bit of dithering taking photos and looking around for ideas for where to camp.
I roll into Lunan Bay itself two minutes before the beach diner shuts. Ice cream and a cool drink are secured and enjoyed on the verandah. Time is of no consequence now – I have loads in hand and indeed need to waste a bit to achieve a relatively undisturbed camp tonight. Finally, I walk down onto the beach and out to the waves to scratch my achievement in the sand and wet my shoes.
Despite my view from the Red Castle suggesting a place to camp at the southern end of the beach, it’s northwards I head in the quest. Partly this is because I’ve got the time to scour the whole area, partly it’s because the dunes look inviting. I walk along the beach and explore the extremities of the shoreline. Significant patches of grass offer several possible spots to put the tent. My choice is guided by being as out of the way as possible whilst still being able to see the sea. There’s a bit less passing traffic right at the end, but even so the cave in the nearby cliff proves an irresistible draw to the locale’s younger contingent. A few of them even pass by the tent, curious as to what’s going on. I’m really just chilling out with a beer.
The light fades and I’m left with the sound of the sea gently sawing at the beach. All of a sudden I’m disturbed by the guy locking up the car park, rounding up stragglers. He doesn’t bat an eyelid at me camping here (this is Scotland after all) but does comment on what a nice night it is for it. I’m left again with the diminishing light and the sounds of the North Sea.
I wake suddenly to the sound of rushing waves. That moment of panic when your subconscious tells you you’re about to be washed away. Although I know I’m safely above the high tide mark, I still take a look outside. The tide is in, but nowhere near me. Sleep returns.
A couple of hours later, light wakes me and this time I’m quick to look out. I’ve not had a sunrise on this trip and I’m desperate for one. This leads to me being packed and ready to go for 7:30. At the car park, I encounter the same guy from last night and we chat. He has a couple of Challengers in his bunkhouse. Why you would pay for a bunkhouse when you could sleep on the beach beats me. Another chap offers me a lift to Montrose but I decline. It’s breakfast time and I’ve got 2 days to walk just over 5 miles. I think I can manage it. Part of me doesn’t want the adventure to end.
The cafe doesn’t open until 10am and there’s no way I’m sitting around for 2 hours. I can be in Montrose by then. I head northwards through the lanes, there’s no pain in my feet at all. Soon I’m entering Montrose and heading for the Park Hotel, where the people manning Challenge Control fall upon me like a pack of ravenous hyenas. With so many people expected today, they seem pretty glad to see someone now off-peak to alleviate the boredom of waiting around to panic. There’ll be another 200 to follow behind me.
A cup of tea and a biscuit while there’s an extended search for my clothing parcel – a tense moment as within that small package lies everything I’ve been dreaming of since Soggy Sunday. It’s finally located but in the meantime Martin Rye and Keith Willers come in. They camped on Rossie Moor last night which was my alternative idea, so I could have had company. But I’m happy with my beach camp as a fitting way to end the Challenge. I leave them to it and head off to sample the delights of downtown Montrose…