The trip to Glenelg was quite simple (compared with last year’s journey to Torridon) – a couple of trains to Glasgow then a bus to Shiel Bridge and a lift to Glenelg. I didn’t realise it at the time, but the torrential rain which struck as I walked from Glasgow Central railway station to Buchanan bus station was good practice for the first week of my Challenge… and if I had practised putting on my waterproof trousers, I wouldn’t have got so wet. I met Stevie, and his brother Paul, at the bus station. I’d met Stevie a couple of times on last year’s crossing – and it was raining then, too.
I’d originally planned to walk to Glenelg from Shiel Bridge via Ratagan Youth Hostel but my inability to actually get round to implementing the plan meant that, a few weeks before the start, the Youth Hostel was full, and I was beginning to realise that I didn’t fancy starting a walk with another walk, if you see what I mean. Thankfully, by starting on the Saturday, Mrs Davidson had a room available in her B&B and was also content to pick me up from Shiel Bridge and ply me with tea and biscuits on arrival. A much better plan!
I don’t recall the weather being too bad on Saturday morning. I think it was a bit overcast but it was pleasant weather for walking and I had an easy day, at first walking on the road and then on a good track. I’d walked less than a mile when I was offered a lift by a couple who looked unconvinced when I said I was walking Coast to Coast and, therefore, could not accept their kind offer of a lift. I think, at that time, I was walking South and ever so slightly West, and I suppose my story didn’t sound very likely.
I visited the bigger of the two brochs, Dun Telve, but could not be bothered climbing up the ever so slight hill to look at the one at Dun Troddan. Only a couple of hours into Day 1 of my crossing and I’m working out how to cut out the ascent, but my rucksack did feel quite heavy and I hadn’t really settled into my stride yet or, more importantly, into the right frame of mind that would get me to the East coast.
A colourful painted sign advertising “The Wagon Cafe” had given me hope of a cuppa when I reached the brochs, and I’d been wondering what kind of wagon it could be. Would it be a temporary structure at the side of the road; or a permanent establishment?
As I walked, I mulled over the imaginary menu: a freshly brewed coffee would be nice with, maybe, a thick slab of chocolate cake with cream. Or a scone? Yes, a fruit scone with jam and cream would go well with the coffee. I was enjoying walking along, with my mind full of thoughts of refreshments. However…. a “closed” sign thwarted my plans for early “Elevenses”. I wasn’t really that bothered (honest) as I was still full from Mrs Davidson’s excellent breakfast.
The weather was a mix of cloud, sunshine, rain and wind but it brightened up nicely in the middle of the afternoon when I found a comfortable rock, at the side of Allt an Tomain, Odhair on which to sit and have some lunch. I know that I don’t eat enough on long walks and I was determined that I would have a lunch break every day. So far, so good.
By now, I was following a line of pylons so didn’t have to think about navigation but I did have to consider where would be the best place to camp, bearing in mind the climb that lay ahead if I went much past my intended overnight pitch. The sudden heavy rain helped me make up my mind, and I pitched by the side of a burn about half a km past Lochan Torr a’ Choit. I pitched facing the burn, so couldn’t see the pylons from my tent, and – as I tucked into my pasta – I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere and my Challenge had now really started.