It was pouring down and blowing a gale when I woke up. I could hear the others having their breakfast and packing up, but I didn’t fancy getting out of bed until I had to, so there was only one other tent left by the time I crawled out of my bag.
I found Stevie had lit the bothy fire, and was now preparing his breakfast, so I took advantage of the warm, dry bothy to sort my things out and try to dry my tent a bit. We hoped that the rain may let off but it showed no signs of easing, so I bit the bullet and set off along Loch Muick. Crossing the bridge to the north-east of the bothy, I noticed that the Glas Allt was considerably deeper and faster flowing than it had been the night before when I’d carefully chosen a deep and fast part to fill my bottle.
The walk along Loch Muick was horrible. The rain was bad enough, but the wind was incredible and seemed to make the rain even wetter. The OS map shows a footpath around the northern end of the Loch but there was so much water it looked like a causeway with a loch on each side and it was very difficult to tell where the water ended and the “dry” land started.
I didn’t know what to expect at Spittal of Glenmuick Visitor Centre. I certainly didn’t expect to find a park ranger attempting to force the door open because someone had accidentally locked it and a colleague had taken the key!
Eventually I was able to go inside and buy a cup of soup from the machine. It was not particularly nice soup, but anything was better that staying outside in that weather. Stevie soon arrived and so did a couple of Germans, including one wearing shorts(!), who were looking for a lift back to Ballater. (This was a very tempting thought for me, too, but I managed to resist).
The rest of the day’s walk was on the road as I had abandoned any thought of enjoying myself and just wanted to get to Ballater by the most direct route possible. There were a couple of points of interest, like the young deer who were only a few yards away (but behind a fence), and an interesting ladle on a chain which I presume was part of an old drinking spring (but didn’t look very appetising at all).
At Ballater I bumped into Byron (from the pub in Cannich) again and he recommended I try the Habitat hostel. I’d heard good things about this hostel and I was very pleased to find they still had two beds; the last one was taken by another Challenger shortly afterwards. Most of the women in my dorm were taking part in the Ballater Walking Festival and, although they were obviously keen walkers, they had some really strange kit with them . . . . like clean clothes and hairdriers. Weird!