TGOC 2016 – My plans

This year’s TGO Challenge will be my tenth. Having done my first in 2006, I’ve only missed one year and have come off the standby list twice. I’ve had a different start and end point every year, have generally walked on my own and have never been to St Cyrus.

A Tenth crossing should be special. The achievement is recognised by the awarding of a plaque and the congratulations of one’s peers – although, to be fair, everyone deserves and gains congratulations after every crossing; the encouragement and respect of fellow Challengers is an important part of the camaraderie of the event.

So how does one go about planning a route that meets the requirements of a special crossing?  The advice I got from Challenge LegEnds was “Don’t change what’s worked well for you …. but maybe do a bit more of the bits you’ve enjoyed most”.

I thought about what’s gone well …. and not so well …. over my first nine crossings.  I like a bit of wilderness and I like being alone but I do like to bump into people occasionally.  I’ve grown to love being high but I don’t like having to rush down from the hills in order to press on and get some miles behind me.  I like camping in wild places but I do like the occasional night of luxury with a bath and a pint of beer.  Of course, I have to start and finish somewhere new …. although some links with my first crossing would be satisfying.  I wouldn’t say that I enjoy being exhausted after a day of climbing up and down peat hags, but I do like to feel that I’ve earned my dinner and a good night’s sleep.  I hope that my planned route will give me everything I want.

I’m starting in Oban as that should give me the shortest route across the country.  I always start walking on the Saturday (apart from 2015 when I started at 1700 on the Friday) and I never have the opportunity for a rest day.  I regard a rest day as any day shorter than 12 miles.  As my route started to take shape I realised that I was at risk of reaching the East coast on the Tuesday(!) so I built in some detours and gratuitous hills to fill up the time.  This means that I have some sections that I could drop due to foul weather or just because I fancy staying a little longer in one place.  On so many crossings I’ve had no flexibility at all and have had to push myself to the point of mental and physical exhaustion just to stay on track.

But don’t be thinking that I’m going to have an easy, lazy crossing.  Oh, no!  I have HILLS. In fact, I have MOUNTAINS!  Munros and Corbetts (whatever they are). Not many, admittedly, but I have the freedom this year to go high and take the time to enjoy myself. Of course, it could rain and blow a hoolie …. but I’m hoping for clear skies, a gentle breeze and beautiful views.

I go North out of Oban and cross the Connel bridge then take a hilly route to Glenetive Forest.  If the weather’s bad I’ll follow the West shore of Loch Etive.  Then a night at the Kings House Hotel via the Lairig Gartain.  I’ve had mixed experiences of the Kings House but it’ll be a welcome respite if the weather has been bad.  I’ve just learned that the hotel has new owners with ambitious redevelopment plans so I hope the hotel has neither closed (nor burnt) down by May.

I’m hoping for a nice bit of bleak nothingness whilst crossing the Black Corries to Rannoch Station tearoom, then I’ll head up to Loch Ericht.  Cross-country to Loch Errochty then an easy morning to Struan where I have a room (and evening meal / breakfast / packed lunch) booked.  Cross-country to Killiecrankie and Ben Vrackie – although the summit is not actually listed on my route-sheet; I’ll make my mind up when I get there.  A mix of cross-country and tracks/roads to Kirkmichael, where I will probably book a room, then East and South through the Forest of Alyth to the campsite at Nether Craig.  From here it will mainly be minor roads with whatever tracks and paths I can find.  I’ll pass through Kirriemuir, keep North of Forfar, pass through Friockheim and Inverkeilor then finish at Ethie Haven at the South End of Lunan Bay.  Lunan Bay was my first finish in 2006, so there’s a link to my first Challenge, but Ethie Haven is a discrete settlement which looks like a pretty place to finish.

Food resupply won’t be easy this year and I’ll need to carry 4 days food when I leave Oban.  If the Kings House House or Rannoch Station tearoom can’t feed me then I’ll be living on soup and nuts until I can divert to Kinloch Rannoch or Tummel Bridge.  There’s no shop at Struan or Calvine so I am planning to visit the local House of Bruar which doesn’t look like the sort of place I would usually take a detour to visit, but it does have a restaurant and a food hall.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I am living on organic polenta and extra virgin aubergine & mango chutney for the next few days.

I’m really looking forward to this crossing.  There are going to be some wild, remote parts and, fingers crossed, some wonderful camping spots.  I’m not going through any of the Challenge hotspots, like Braemar, and I’m not sure how many Challengers I’m likely to bump into but hopefully there’ll be a few.  I’m going through several areas I’ve never been to before but there are some more familiar parts, too.

I just wish I didn’t have so long to wait until the off…..




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21 Responses to TGOC 2016 – My plans

  1. louse4 says:

    I’m not revealing my route yet, but…might bump into you in a couple of places. And I know someone else you might bump into a bit too…😉
    Sounds like a fab route, hope we have the weather for you to really enjoy it.
    Here’s to your tenth!


  2. John J says:

    ” I do like the occasional night of luxury with a bath and a pint of beer”….waddyamean A pint of beer?? When was the last time you just had the one, eh?
    The western side of Glen Etive is much easierer than the right-hand side – good choice! Lairig Gartain can be slow going but it doesn’t go on for long. You’ll have a nice time 🙂
    See you next week!


  3. AlanR says:

    Thats some route. I don’t fancy across country from Ericht to Errochty. Looks a wet walk. Never done it myself mind, i’m just going off the map. The House of Bruer is expensive so beware of that although if you are starving it won’t matter. Its a bit of a posh place with coach parties and the like.Went in there last year.
    There is plenty of food, supermarket, chippy, pub, nice campsite with wifi in Blair Atholl which would be on your way to Killicrankie. You can get cheap grub and B and B in the Atholl arms hotel if you want to. (NN871653) Have a good crossing anyway and well done for getting to 10.


    • Judith says:

      Hi AlanR. I’m staying high-ish between Loch Ericht and Loch Errochty so hope to avoid the bog, although my FWA is lower and boggier. I’m avoiding Blair Atholl, if possible, as I went that way on my 2014 Challenge and I’m trying not to repeat anywhere I’ve been recently.


  4. alan.sloman says:

    If you decide to finish at Lunan Bay (lovely new cafe) you may well bump into two Challengers. Okay, a bit late, but…
    Phil & I will be chomping our way through coffees and cakes just after lunch time.


    • Judith says:

      Hi Alan (S). I was reading about that new cafe yesterday and have added it to my route sheet as the location for my post-finish slap-up lunch. “Lunch time” is a variable feast, so you may see me there.


  5. Phil Cook says:

    What!? Munros and Corbetts? Next you’ll be telling me you’re a bagger. 🙂


  6. Anne says:

    Hi Judith, Congrats on your 10th, I’m a first timer, and just found your blog. Enjoyed your route planning philosophy. I’m starting in Oban too,and doing Connel-LochEtive west side, but starting on Friday, so likely to be ahead of you.
    Kings house hotel was fully booked when I tried, but I’m staying at the Glencoe Resort Sunday night. Hope we might cross paths somewhere, but depends on weather I guess.


    • Judith says:

      Hi Anne. Good luck on your first Challenge. I’m sure we’ll bump into each other somewhere along the way, even if it’s just at the dinner in Montrose. Have a great crossing.


  7. JP says:

    Hi Judith,
    My wife and I are walking across Scotland on April 9th (it’s a charity challenge for the Motor Neurone Disease Association in memory of my Dad who passed away 10 years ago in May) and since devising the idea and researching the route etc. we’ve stumbled upon the TGOC (and the 300 crazy souls who undertake it annually!).
    We have actually planned a very similar route to yourself (although we’ve applied a liitle poetic license to our ‘coast to coast’ as we’re starting in Glencoe due to only having 9 days to complete our challenge) and would love some advice from an experienced challenger!
    We’re planning to camp somewhere near Rannoch Station but I’m a little worried how boggy the area will be, is this a viable area for a wildcamp? Also, are there likely to be any nice spots along the Cateran trail near Kirkmichael?
    Thanks in advance, and good luck with your 10th crossing, hopefully we’ll get the bug and see you next year!


    • Judith says:

      Hi JP. Thanks for popping in.
      I’ve not been to Rannoch Station before so I don’t know what the terrain is going to be like – although the map does suggest boggy. Are you familiar with Geograph – NN4257? Most of the photos in that square are of the railway and buildings but there are a few of the terrain. I reckon you’ll find somewhere, possibly along the road to the East.
      Looking at the map of the Cateran Trail near Kirkmichael, it looks like it’s all enclosed fields which means it could be nice flat grass but in view of the houses and not “wild”. If you’re happy to knock on doors and ask permission then you might find somewhere nice. If not, I’d probably look near one of the wooded areas that the Trail passes as that may give you a little privacy and shelter from the wind. If I don’t spend the night in Kirkmichael then I have a rough idea for a camp about 2km further on to the NE.
      I hope you have a very enjoyable walk and raise lots of money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association.


  8. Some of your route is sounding similar to mine – just leave me some clear footprints to follow….see you soon!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Judith says:

      ….but you’ll probably be there first, Laura; I’m not starting til the Saturday. I do sometimes wonder who left the footprints on “my” route. I mean, when I’m lost in the Monadhliaths I am not sure whether to find the footprints reassuring or worrying. (If I find footprints in the Monadliaths this year I shall be very worried! They’re not on my route!)

      Liked by 1 person

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