Day 1: Shiel Bridge to Athnamulloch

Originally it was the intention to start at Dornie, to see the Eilean Donan castle. However, it turned out that my route would be reduced by about six road miles from Shiel Bridge (Morvich). I stayed at Dornie, saw the castle, and got the bus to Shiel Bridge to sign out around 9:15am.

I met a few seasoned challengers on the road to Glen Affric; some passed while I was standing on the side of the road looking at my mobile (perhaps they thought I was lost already?). There was a guy, wearing shorts, who told me a bit about his previous challenges and that the most important thing is to be "adaptable". Wise words, I later reflected.

The weather was quite sunny for most of the day and suncream was neglected - this mistake became apparent on days 2-3. However, the sun did allow some wonderful views of the glen.

I met two American couples (John and Lenore; Stephan and Margret) and an English couple (Fred and Sue) later that day. After stopping briefly at Alltbeithe, the youth hoste…

Day 2: Athnamulloch to River Doe

Taking on some Munros (Sail Chaorainn, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Carn Ghluasaid) was the plan for this day, before finally ending up next to Loch Cluanie. Unfortunately a weather front had arrived and I couldn't see any of the tops.

Given this was my first challenge, I decided to go for the FWA through Cougie. I walked for a while with Rod along the side of the river. However, we eventually got a bit lost due to the poor signage and missing footpaths surrounding the hydro-electric power development site near the head of Loch Affric. We cut across a boggy field with no path (although there was a signpost, "To Cougie Lodge") before we bumped into Donna B. (?), Ian Harbert, Barbara Sanders, a younger couple (David and Aleks.?) and an older gentleman, who were also debating where the path was. Eventually we discovered it well hidden, leading steeply up from an access road before reaching the older track.

Getting to Cougie was fairly straightfoward. However, there was a very …

Day 3: River Doe to Fort Augustus

After having successfully broken camp and washed in the river, I managed to experience a river-based-water-refilling accident resulting in partial submersion; my fleece was a bit soaked and I got some water in my boots. Fortunately, my phone is waterproof. I was glad for a bit of sun that morning, which meant things dried out fairly quickly.

It was also at around this point that I discovered a leak in my collapsible Nalgene canteen. Not sure how it happened but possibly it was sat on, in my tent. Rather foolishly, I ended up throwing it in a bin later on in the trip. As a personal note, I might bring Duck Tape next time - it would probably have dealt with the leak. My hard Nalgene was used throughout the rest of the trip - a capacity of 1L of water appears to be sufficient.

I didn't see anyone following the road out from River Doe but I did go over a deer fence that said "Deer Farm - Please Shut the Gate". Eventually the road led through Ceannacroc Lodge and there were s…

Day 4: Fort Augustus to edge of Monadhliaths

I appreciated the chance to sleep in a proper bed and watch some TV in the Holt B&B that night (I know - a proper backpacker would use a camp site). I met a friendly couple (Robert and Becky?) there and saw them on their way out the next day in town.

This was the first "low" day I had and it felt difficult, especially late-on. The walk up along the track near General Wade's Military Road towards Whitebridge was quite steep and a bit tedious. This was broken, briefly by some nice views of Loch Ness.

Slightly depressingly, the roadside track ended up in a wind farm development site. It was at this point I remembered I should have phoned in the night before (how I managed to forget, I don't know). From there, I took the old road northeast, past the barren Loch Tarff area, to a high point along the side of Carn an t-Suidhe, where it was extremely windy. Just about managed to get a signal and sent a text to TGO control.

Following this was a long walk down towards Whi…

Day 5: Edge of Monadhliaths to Coignafearn Ruins

I felt fairly OK after waking up near the weir and packing up my tent. The weather was still a bit breezy and overcast but I made reasonable progress through the remaining parts of the wind farm.

Going past Carn a Saobhaidhe along the Allt a' Ghille, I did eventually find the "lunch hut" about 3km from my overnight camp. Had I known where it was, I think I would have made the effort - it was quite clean inside and plenty of space.

After a bit of clomping through a boggy area, I found the Allt Odhar where it intersected with some smaller burns. Quite a nice spot for a break.

After what seemed like quite a long time, using the hare tracks alongside the river, I eventually met with the track which lead past the newer Coignafearn Lodge building after a mile or two. Following this northeast an extra two miles, alongside the Findhorn river, led me to the older lodge; a courtyard-shaped building, which appeared to still be occupied. The weather was brightening up at this point.

Day 6: Coignafearn Ruins to Aviemore

I was glad that the wind had calmed down that morning and it was fairly sunny.

The first part of the journey required crossing the Allt a' Mhuilinn. I eventually figured out that I had to go through a gate, and alongside the river to the north for a while before it became possible to ford it. This lead to a hidden path on the opposide side, going south, which went back past the gate (now on the opposite side).

Following the track for a few kilometres was possible, despite it not being marked on the OS maps. Possibly I could have followed it all the way to Red Roof Bothy but I was not sure. I decided to stick to the plan and followed a dried-out river bed up the side of Carn Caol.

After climbing a considerable amount over rough ground to reach a track, which then descended for a while and then went northeast, on the level, I eventually reached Red Roof Bothy. The inside was quant, with the rocking chairs and fire place. I noted from the log that the two Americans had stayed there t…

Day 7: Aviemore to Glenmore Lodge

The weather forecast was good for the next couple of days, so I went on the planned route through Ben Macdui. However, this was a three day route and Day 7 was a scheduled "rest" day; I walked just six miles from Aviemore to Glenmore Camp and Caravan site, along the Old Logging Way; quite an easy walk. I didn't see any challengers that day but there were a number of single-person tents in the camp site.

I had some fish and chips in the Glenmore SYHA. Also the Caingorm Gold they sold there tasted good.