Monday June 16th 2014 - Braemar to Blair Atholl - Day 5

Knowing we have a long day in front of us we rise early have breakfast and have our gear nearly all packed by the time Elma arrives at 8am. We get the gear in the back of the car and head out from the castle grounds stopping off at the small supermarket in the village to get a few supplies. We head off towards Glen Tilt saying cheerio to Elma who will meet us one last time in Blair Atholl before we go it alone, it is a long drive from home but we have been lucky as all the stages up until now have been in close proximity from my home.

We get to Inverey a stone throw away from the prestigious Mar Lodge a fabulous mansion house with origins dating back to 18th century. At this period the area around Mar Lodge was known as Dalmore from dail mhor Gaelic for great plain and was held by the McKenzies who had acted as foresters to the Earls of Mar from at least the 17th century The estate begins with the participation of John "Bobin' Jock" Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar in the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and for his part the lands were forfeited as of 1716 which brought to an end the essentially feudal landholding system practiced in the Earldom of Mar. Mar Lodge is in as much a tranquil setting as you would find anywhere in Scotland and it is peaceful as we walk following the road towards then over the bridge at the Linn O Dee where the path to Glen Tilt branches off, from this point it is 22 miles.

Glen Tilt is an old historic byway used by many armies in the past, it is for sure one of the most scenic in Scotland. Before setting off to walk through Glen Tilt we were made aware of the obstacle of the Geldie Burn which we had to cross, we were informed that if the burn was at its lowest it would only be about 1-2 foot deep, but in spate it could be nearer 5 to 7 foot deep which would mean having to return to Braemar. Although the sky was blue and everything appeared to be dry we did not know exactly what to expect merely because being surrounded by hills, the retention of water in the heather and moor land and snow melt could all bring the water to a higher level than normal.

Being a week day the Glen seemed rather a lonely place apart from the two of us there was only one other walker who was bagging a nearby Munro and an estate worker passing in his four by four. The track through the first few miles of the glen is hardcore based and is pretty good, there is a nice spot to take a break where the White Bridge crosses the River Dee. After this bridge part of the Dee disappears northward and we begin to go westward over the moor land following the Geldie burn on our left. About a mile further on is the crossing of the burn we dreaded, but we were lucky it was just below knee height and having our plaid on made it no problem. We changed from our boots to our trainers to keep our boots dry, crossed the burn then dried and re- sorted our feet and footwear. Believing there was just the one burn to cross we had taken time to make sure our blister plasters etc were properly on. No sooner had we set off, but we came across another crossing slightly smaller, but never the less we repeated the same procedure again and continued along our way only to find for a third time there was another burn to wade through, by this time our patience was beginning to run out wondering if there were any more as we had lost a bit of time taking our boots on and off and sorting our feet out. Fortunately for us there were no more, but the path changed to being narrow sheep like trails with some boggie areas where we came across a random marker stone indicating 15 miles, we estimated that this is what we still had to walk, but weren't totally sure. The narrow path continued for a few miles following the River Tilt below us on our left until out of the blue we came to a nice spot with a water fall and a wooden bridge crossing the void. Here we met a couple who had biked from Blair Atholl, but was returning the same way due to one of their bikes needing to be repaired. We stopped here for a short while to sort out our feet and have a little rest.

Fifty yards past the wooden bridge the path returned to hardcore track obviously onto another estate land at the opposite end of the Glen the track again followed the River Tilt down to our left. The track passes through the woods of both Ruigh-loisgte on the right and Dalginross to the left, the closer to Blair Atholl Leathad Mor Wood. The last 5 miles takes you past farms and pasture land and through a wooded area, after walking 20 miles through beautiful scenery this part becomes weary and sole destroying and it feels like you will never reach the end point, then all of a sudden the end arrives you at the entrance to the Old Blair carpark. Un- believing we have come to the end of that stage we contact Elma once again to let her know where we are, she was at a different location having previously checked the internet to find out where the walk from Glen Tilt ended, there may well be another end point, but if there was an alternative route there were no indication markers to point this out. Regardless Elma knew where to find us so we only had to wait for a few minutes. Picking us both up from Old Blair the first pitstop was the little post office shop in the centre of Blair Atholl for a much needed cold drink, the time was now after 9pm and we knew we had still to get the tents organised and let Elma drive home again.

This was the last time we would see Elma before seeing her in the Stirling area the following week so this was the last chance we had to discard everything we did not need from our rucksacks as from this point we were going to be carrying them ourselves. We were glad of Elma assistance up to now as carrying heavy rucksacks full of gear could well have added time onto our days walk. Reaching Blair Atholl we reckoned we were now just over the halfway point so we gathered some encouragement from this even though our feet were hurting like hell.

Although we were glad to reach Blair Atholl we knew we still had many miles of hard slog in front of us, more so because we would be carrying all our gear. We said our goodbyes to Elma and we both settled into our tents to have some supper, must say it was the first time the midgies had really shown themselves so the zips were no long in being closed on our tents to keep them out and our heads down for the night.

Click here for Day 6

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