The X-Mid dweller turns out to be Immo, a chap we’ve seen before on the trade route into Braemar. He’s not in great shape and talking about getting the bus to Aberdeen. We make some encouraging noises about “seeing how you go”, and leave him to it.
Just along from the campsite entrance lies a path away from the A93 which we follow as it appears to join up with the Deeside Way in a couple of hundred metres. We’re hoping it’s passable. Actually it turns out that this IS the Deeside Way, although you’d never have known it from the signage.
However, its passability is limited. There’s a fair bit of ducking under low branches and then we are confronted by this…
The landowner has, however, put in a diversion through the adjoining field, and this affords us a good view of the extent of the fallen trees. It’s a large swathe that have gone down like dominos. Soon though we are back on the path itself.
The track that this eventually becomes is soon a hive of bovine activity as farmers are shuffling the beasts from fields on one side of the trail to the other. And trying to separate off an injured cow, along with its calf. We wait patiently – we’re not in any hurry, as the way the walk has panned out we only need to do 16-17km a day now. Slow down and enjoy is our mantra.
The next bit involves a twisting climb up through a wood and it starts raining as we emerge onto more open ground the other side. We’re cowering under a thin strip of birches to get what shelter we can. It’s another of those “raincoat or not” difficult choices. The rain pelts down and makes the decision a lot easier. But just as soon, it’s over. We descend into Kincardine O’Neil.
Here we investigate the village store cum snack bar. There’s a few people in, and service is leisurely, but we place our orders and are told they’ll bring it to us. We take advantage of the pavement seating by the side of the A93. It’s by no means as bad as it sounds.
The sausage and onion rolls turn up, along with coffee and they’re pretty good. The store is a popular spot, with several people passing through on the main road, stopping to grab lunch. We sit and watch the world go by for a bit. Strange as it may seem, this is my favourite cafe stop of the trip so far.
We do have to do some walking though and we set off again for a short stretch along the A93. We cross the river at Potarch and are then on quiet lanes.
It just so happens that our required 16-17km distance each day will get us to a convenient campsite tonight, and we’ve already booked Feughside. It’s now just a matter of how slow we walk to get there.
In the distance to the south and west we can see the ridge extending from Mount Battock, with the distinctive tor on Clachnaben. We’re now not far from where we would have been on our official route.
We reach the point where the Deeside Way strikes off east through a forest towards Banchory, and it’s here that we say goodbye to it. It’s served our purpose well, although it has been hard on the feet, especially for Darren’s blistered specimens. It’s a short walk down the road to Feughside now.
At reception there’s just a child on duty, and we’ll have to come back later to actually pay. For now though, we can go and pitch up.
We have now committed ourselves to rejoining our official route, which means today we’re headed for the Fetteresso. I’m looking forward to this – it was one of my favourite parts of my 2018 Challenge. I know not everyone shares this delight.
We have a short stretch of B976 to do before we hit a minor road at Strachan, and then it’s a case of looking out for our turn off. It’s another, largely fine, languid sort of day with no need to push. They’ll all be like this now.
Our path to the forest cuts almost directly south. It’s an easy track that gently climbs into the forest.
We reach the point where my 2018 route across from Kerloch joins, and decide to make this today’s brew stop. Why we didn’t take advantage of the two benches we passed a short while ago, I’ll never know. Leaning up against a gate it is then.
Now the path narrows, and we have to fight our way through in places. Trees are growing out to obscure our way, we have to step over a few things too. It’s also pretty muddy in places.
We spot a group of around half a dozen young people puzzling over a map at the next track junction. This is the secret to the way through the Fetteresso, or our way at least. As we head down it, there are other groups in a similar state of bewilderment. Or at least the ones that are mainly boys – the one group of girls that pass seem to know exactly what they’re doing and where they’re going.
We push down a small side path to emerge by the Burn of Sheeoch. This is my lunch stop from 2018, remembered with fondness.
Just the other side of the burn is a boundary stone marking the start of the next path. Last time I came this way, the path was bedeviled by fallen trees, and it was hard work getting through. But despite recent storms, this isn’t a problem today. I’m almost disapointed it’s so easy. We emerge by another, triangular, boundary stone and a view of the wind farm that inspired this painting:
Anyway, back to the walk…
We’re soon on the main track that follows the streams that eventually coalesce into Cowie Water. Now it’s just a matter of looking out for a spot to camp.
We pass the open grassy area next to the Cowie that I used last time. It looks a lot more unkempt now. Darren has in mind a spot further down, and I too recall a “better” one about 10 minutes further down from my last visit. We strike off path just after the bridge and fight our way across lumpy overgrown ground to find a spot that looks vaguely familiar to Darren. Others have camped here which builds confidence.
There is just one problem – it’s not exactly sheltered, and there is a decent amount of wind. Darren’s spot is a little bit better than mine. I struggle to get the tent up, and the pegs into the ground. What I end up with is one of the ugliest most inept-looking pitches I’ve ever achieved. The back of the Pioulou is getting well blown in from the wind. It will be an uncomfortable night – I’ve already learned that the Pioulou doesn’t like being arse into the wind – better to take it on one of the ends, but the ground doesn’t really allow for that. In any case, the lack of peg penetration is my biggest concern. After fighting to get a workable pitch and failing, I tell Darren that I’m going back to the other place.
There, it takes a few minutes to find a suitably unlumpy patch of ground and then the tent goes up fine. It’s still a bit lumpy underneath, but the wind is broken and the pegs at least go in.
It’s the last camp of the trip, so I don’t really mind it being effectively a solo one. Just 16-17km to do tomorrow and then we’re done.