The day started late on Thursday night with a train from Liverpool to Preston to pick up the sleeper train at Preston. The late-night train was very busy and my rucksack generated a mix of interest, admiration and concern from people who couldn’t really understand the concept of wilderness and wild camping.
This was my first time on a sleeper train and, being in the seated carriage with a reclining seat, I found it difficult to get any sleep. After a few passengers had disembarked I was able to spread out on a double-seat and get a couple of hours of fitful sleep. It was nice to stare out of the window and see the places that TGO Challengers would be passing through in a week’s time.
I had half-an-hour in Inverness, before catching my next train to Strathcarron, so that was enough time to buy a newspaper and a snack for the journey. There were a few people with rucksacks in Inverness station, but most Challengers will have passed through on the Thursday and I only spoke to one on the train. We travelled through some tremendous rain storms but the weather was generally bright and sunny…..until I arrived in Strathcarron and it started pouring down again. I wasn’t sure what sort of bus I was catching, or where it would be, but there was a mini-bus in the station carpark so I had a chat with the driver and he confirmed he was going to Shieldaig. So far, so good; I’d been worried the bus may not run anymore and I’d have to hitch.
The A896 is a road with beautiful views and I enjoyed the journey round Loch Carron, past Loch Kishorn and along Glen Shieldaig. The driver seemed to know everyone within 50 miles. At Shieldaig, I had lunch and some Real Ale (Skye – Young Pretender, I think) in the pub then started my walk to Torridon. I mainly followed the road but it was a lovely walk and, unbeknown to me, I had the best weather of my Challenge!
Never missing an opportunity for food and beer, I stopped at The Torridon hotel before the final mile to the Youth Hostel. The recent scrub fires were evident along the side of the road, but hopefully the fire risk was now much reduced due to the damper weather.
The Youth Hostel was expecting me as the last Challenger to check out from there; the others had set off that morning. I looked down the list of names and saw many I recognised (but only one to whom I owed money!) and I wondered how soon I would catch them up.