TGO Challenge 2022 – Days 7&8: The Blair Pitch Project

Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

We opt for an 8am start due to the amount of ground we’re aiming to cover. It’s an easy 3km down the track to meet the road. Darren has forged ahead while I dither taking photos and generally faffing about.

I reach the road and he’s nowhere in sight. I compound the deficit by stopping for 5 minutes to take advantage of the first bit of phone signal for 2 days. I set about trying to catch up.

Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

At the entrance to a forestry plantation, I catch Darren – he’s stopped for a comfort break. Today is one of those days where we’ll have to go at our own individual paces to get the distance done, rather than wait every time one of us stops. I carry on with an agreement to stop at the junction for the road south of the loch.

We take the road past Bridge of Gaur. It’s undulating a bit, but is at least pretty quiet. It’s time for some music and, earphones in, my pace soon ups. I surge ahead, fueled by melodies.

Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

At Finart, there’s some trail magic in the form of hot drinks and snacks, and trail nightmare in the company of Donald Trump.

The road beckons once more. It’s a pleasant walk along the south shore of Loch Rannoch. We’ve agreed to stop for lunch at Dall House, which removes any further constraints on pace or keeping together. Music pushes me on. I am in my element. Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

I duly wait for Darren at Dall house – he’s not actually that far behind, and we’re both making good progress unconstrained by each others walking pattern. We take lunch on the roots of a tree.

Progress in the afternoon is slower. Early afternoon brings a highlight in the form of a portable toilet – it’s day 7 and I’ve not yet had to use my trowel. Long may it continue.

We crawl along to Kinloch Rannoch, and briefly consider stopping there on a designated camping spot, although it’s already occupied and looks like it wouldn’t be a quiet night. Kinloch Rannoch at 4pm provides cafes and pubs that are closed, and we fall back on the village store for refreshment. Concerned about water availability (and quality), I buy a precautionary bottle. I needn’t have bothered – all it does is slow me down.

As we split off onto the B847, Schiehallion looms in the distance , a proper mountain shape. We pass through a wood and look around for possible spots. I’m starting to run out of legs and my standards for a pitch are pretty low at this point.

We do collect some water from a stream running under the road. It’s surprisingly good stuff. Up the crest of a hill, lies a spot we had our eye on from the map, and it proves to be a good one – largely flat with a good view down over the valley, and sheltered from prevailing winds by the wood. It’s sufficiently above the road to be unbothered as long as we don’t throw any wild parties.

Today we made a bit more than the 30km we were aiming for, largely because the 30km mark was at Kinloch Rannoch and there was nowhere we wanted to stop, so we just kept going. Hopefully we’ll reap the benefits of that tomorrow…

Day 7 Distance 37.99km | Ascent 308m | Cumulative Distance 164.12km

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yesterday’s 38km (my second longest Challenge day ever) has given us some breathing space. We’re about 1.5km from where we would have been if we’d stuck to our route card, and we don’t have quite as much to do today as yesterday. We could even rejoin our main route, but both of us are feeling the benefits of progress along the road. It’s hurting Darren’s blisters, but the feeling is that the certainty of progress is trumping that.

Today’s walk is a bit more lacklustre than yesterday’s – we’re really just focused on getting to Blair as early as we can to allow for more time chilling out, and also to try to get pitched before worse weather this afternoon.

Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

It’s road walking, so there’s not much to say. The pub at Struan is shut, which is irritating. We pass the House of Bruar which is teeming with people desperate to buy expensive country clothing and produce. In my disgust at this place intruding on the walk, I miss the fact that there’s an ice cream shop, much to Darren’s dismay, as he sees me ploughing on past it. Close the gap. Don’t stop. Don’t look back.

We take our brew stop outside the lodge of Blair Castle.

The last bit into Blair itself, is the usual “when will it end” crawl. We finally get ice creams in the village store before heading along to the campsite. Our booked pitches are nowhere near each other, despite us having coordinated booking them at the exact same time. I strike sort of lucky with a pitch on the periphery within easy reach of the facilities. Darren’s right in the middle of the site, but does at least avoid the annual who can make the most noise corvid convention that I have going on in the trees above me.

In the evening we decide to try the food place signposted just outside the campsite. It turns out to be a chip shop with covered seating area and bar adjacent. It does nicely. As we sit there, the rain chucks down and gives us a good soaking on the run back to our tents.

But we are now back on plan.

Day 8 Distance 21.08km | Ascent 94m | Cumulative Distance 185.20km

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