Cairngorms, part two

26 Sep

Thursday. Glen Feshie to the Tarf Water. Twelve miles walking.

Fortified with two cups of Lindsay’s coffee, I set off up the glen to the head of the river through intermittent drizzle. The glen itself is beautiful, as I hinted in the previous post. Like most highland estates, it’s owned by an absentee plutocrat. Fortunately, this particular plutocrat, a Danish billionaire, has a view to making more of it than a shooting ground for the short stag hunting season. He’s culled many of the deer, which are making short work of forests across the Highlands, so as to allow young pines and juniper, birch and rowan to recolonise the glen floor. The result is a fresh looking place to take a walk in, quite unlike some of the more barren glens I walked through later on in this trip.

Perhaps three hours after I left Ruigh Aiteachean bothy, I met two men going the other way who, like Theresa, had just spent the night at what both parties, quite independently of one another, described as “the midge hole”, i.e. a ruined hunting manor by the name of Bynack Lodge. Much better to have tea, whisky, a coal fire, interesting company and a roof over one’s head, I thought. I’d brought a bivi bag (the Bodybag, as I call it) but really didn’t fancy using it for the next few days given that Theresa had shown me a photo of the outside of her tent palled with black flies and told me she had pissed in a pot and chucked it out the following morning rather than going out and risk letting that lot in. After seeing those two men, I saw two more men on the way up to my nineteenth Munro, Carn an Fhidhleir, and shouted over into the wind “have you been to the Tarf Hotel?” A nod. “Is it ok?” Another nod. On I went. I wouldn’t see another human being for 45 hours.

The one thing weighing on my mind during the day -more than navigation, the threat of midges or the weight on my back – was that my younger son, Reuben, was starting school that day and I wanted to be able to ask him how it went. I’d only be able to get mobile signal from the top of Carn an Fhidhleir, but I was there an hour and a half early so I could only leave a message on his mum’s phone and retreat out of the wind down to Feith Uaine bothy (more commonly known as the Tarf Hotel since someone nailed a hotel sign to the door in 1966) next to the Tarf Water. On seeing the bothy, I had to ford my third burn of the day, each in barefoot to avoid soaking wet boots. Naturally I couldn’t feel a thing in my numbed feet but when I came to put my socks back on in the hut, I noticed that i’d bruised one foot and cut the other in the last fording. All the more reason to do absolutely nothing the next day.

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Near the headwaters of the feshie

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Feith Uaine bothy, or the Tarf Hotel

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