As usual, I woke at first light and stuck my head out of the tent door; it looked like it was going to be a nice day.
Walking before 8am – possibly for the first time this trip, despite my best intentions – it was already 22 degrees C and felt like it would probably get a lot hotter. Water could be a problem today, but I’d be passing through Inverurie where I could have my lunch and buy some water if necessary. I would also call in at the Tourist Information Centre to see if there was any chance of booking a bed in Pitmedden or nearby.
I was glad to be up early, but was not alone on the road. Two Germans in a left-hand-drive G-Wagen were out “stalking” – which seems to mean driving along the edge of a field until they saw a deer then getting out and shooting it. They had two small dead dear on a platform at the back of the vehicle. There was something very strange about 2 Germans dressed in Tweed and Barbour shooting Scottish animals from a vehicle they must’ve brought over from Germany. I’ve put stalking in quotation marks because, when I asked them what they were shooting, they made it quite clear that they were, in fact, stalking.
Today’s planned route was 32km with the option to add in a diversion to Mither Tap. Why I ever thought I would want to add an extra 3.4km and 230m, I’ll never know – but I did see it in the distance!
By the time I reached Inverurie, the sun was very hot and I was in desperate need of a long cool drink. The map showed a big town, with a big road – the A96 – to the West of it, but I hadn’t really been prepared for what I found. A motorway-type service station with a caff, toilets, shop and a big carpark. After nearly two weeks of wilderness and quiet countryside, this was quite a shock to the system. I bought a couple of bottles of pop and, removing my shoes and socks, sat on the grass for a rest. For such a busy place, the kids in the playground were the only people who paid me any attention, so maybe the locals were getting used to strange rucksack-carrying wierdos passing that way.
In the town, I started off by calling into the Visit Scotland shop/office. The woman did her best to help me but was hindered by two things: First of all, she could only tell me about accommodation which was part of the Visit Scotland scheme and, secondly, everywhere was full! Next time I head towards Aberdeen, I shall make sure I book my accommodation months in advance.
I found a cafe – well, it was more like a works canteen with a hot counter – and asked what the Vegetarian option was. There was an awkward silence, then a shout went back into the kitchen. A bit more shouting. Then, “Baked tatty?” was offered. I said that would be fine. (I was slightly suprised not to have been offered deep-fried macaroni pie, as that is my usual Challenge fare.)
The caff was attached to a shop so, after lunch, I bought a few rolls and regretted not having pinched a few pats of butter from the cafe but would have felt a bit cheeky going back for some. I also bought 3 litres of water. Yes, that’s 3kg of water, and my pack suddenly became very very heavy.
Now that I knew there no rooms available in Pitmedden, there seemed little point going there, so I chose to head towards Udny Green instead. Both Udny Green and Udny Station have a PH marked on the map, but I knew one of them was now a restaurant. What I couldn’t remember was which Udny it was and whether it also had rooms to let. I used the internet on my phone to find out as much as I could and decided that Udny Green was my best bet as at least it would place me nearer to my finish point if they couldn’t put me up (or let me camp outside).
At Udny Green, I found a lovely grassy square that would have made a nice campsite. However, the old pub was most definitely only a restaurant and this didn’t look like the sort of place that would welcome camping outside. I spoke to one of the staff and asked him if he could suggest anywhere that I could camp. He obviously wasn’t a camper but did his best to describe bits of woodland that could be suitable. I didn’t have much confidence in his suggestions but he did fill my water bottle.
The suggested woodland turned out to be a Community Woodland with marked dog-walk trails and not really ideal.
I kept my eyes open as I walked past the grounds of Udny Castle on the other side of a stone wall. At the end of the wall was an old disused gate giving access to a large field of cows. I’m wary of cows, but this was a big field and the grass looked beautifully soft and green. I clambered over and had a look around. Would the cows mind me being there? They didn’t seem bothered? Would the farmer move me on? It was worth the chance; this was a nice pitch and, already quite tired, I doubted I’d be able to find anything better that evening. Only 18km left to Collieston.