Breakfast seemed to be a drawn-out affair with the Challengers enjoying the luxury of the hostel and discussing how they could shorten their approach to the coast. I was quite surprised at some of the conversations as there were some very experienced TGO-ers who just seemed to have had enough of the dreadful weather and were openly planning how to get to Montrose as quickly as possible. I suppose I’d always thought it was just me who ever felt like that.
Today, however, the sky was blue and people were in good spirits as they started on the Deeside Way out of Ballater. This had been a FWA for me but it now seemed daft to go any other way.
The Deeside Way runs along the route of a former railway so is pretty flat and straight and goes through some pleasant countryside. There must have been about a dozen of us and I spent the morning walking with various individuals or small groups.
The first pub stop was at Dinnet, although I only had a pot of tea as it was still a little early. However, by the time I reached Aboyne it was definitely beer-o’clock. I would have bought some lunch if they’d still been serving, but they seemed happy for us to sit outside and eat the food we’d bought in Ballater. I’d considered camping on the river bank opposite the Boat Inn, but there were reports of Challengers having to strike camp due to rapidly rising water the previous evening, and the spot did look a bit too public to me.
From Aboyne, I walked about 5 miles on minor roads towards Potarch and kept my eye out for a camping spot. I found a lovely, flat pitch which was out of sight of the road, bathed in sunshine and had excellent BBC Radio 4 coverage. I spent the evening sipping whisky and listening to the radio in a warm, dry tent (at last).