Oh I do like to be beside Loch Lee side!

Finally being given ‘permission’ to leave our local authority after a very long period at home, we were delighted to again have the freedom of the hills. I’ve struggled with the stay in your authority nonsense and, without getting too political, deeply resent that larger local authorities have had freedom to roam while those of us in smaller areas have been confined like battery hens, all cooped up within a small space. Thankfully that’s over for now.

Always have a Plan B

Plan A involved heading west. We (Bruce) had a few options sorted that would enable us to find a parking space and enjoy a day out. However, the forecast had changed overnight and the scheduled fine day had become rain at lower levels with light snow and fog higher up. Therefore Plan B was invoked, heading south and to the Angus glens.

Up with the Lark!

Up bright and early at my usual work time (back of 6 am – joy!) we were on the road by 7:30 am as per the agreed schedule. It’s a bit like catching a flight – be on time or you’re in danger of your luggage being offloaded and missing the trip.

We arrived at our destination, Loch Lee, for an 8:30 am start. The car park was relatively quiet, just a handful of cars; it was therefore pleasing to later bump into someone that had arrived within an hour of us to find only verge parking, averting too much discussion on timings for our next outing.

Place Your Bets

Heading out, we passed the Mount Keen path, instead opting to continue on towards Invermark Castle and Loch Lee. Figuring that any crowds would be bound for the munro, we debated how many people we’d meet, the consensus being more than 5 but less than 10.

While still beautiful, the gorgeous purple of the heather from our last trip out in summer was noticeably absent, the hills somewhat ‘dull’ in comparison. On the upside, the feeling of space and freedom was wonderful! So good to be out in a big open space once again.

We walked the length of the loch before heading across the grassy plains for a change, a wee shortcut from the main track. This led to a small ford across the stream. I opted for the more direct route figuring it couldn’t be too deep if vehicles could cross it, risking a little submergence for my boots (newly fixed with Shoe Goo – thanks Bruce) as my very comfy Salomon boots have parted way with their rand! Bruce went across the stones taking a more carefully chosen route. Both routes proved successful.

Continuing on, we reached the Falls of Unich. The breeze was gentle so there wasn’t the spray that accompanied our last visit. They’re well worth a look and this would be a pretty, low level walk if anyone doesn’t wish to go high.

Climbing up the side of the waterfall we came across a singular big lump of ice. I was intrigued by this, and looking up, found that the last vestiges of winter were clinging to the bank, ready to drop off any time soon. If this is an indication of the state of the snow remaining on the big hills I’d be treading carefully!

Once up, we considered a visit to Craig Maskeldie, leaving the main path to navigate across to it, before abandoning the thought as the ground was boggy and we figured the views probably weren’t going to be any better! Thus, we headed across towards Cairn Lick, skirting around it to pick up the big track down.

Lunch was taken overlooking Carlochy – tuna baps taste so much better outdoors, as does all food. The crags here gave us a little shelter from the wind that was picking up. By this point we were also getting spots of rain through the wind, not enough for waterproofs, just enough to play havoc with the hair!

Heading back down the track towards Loch Lee it became apparent that our bets were way off, although nothing compared to the Beach Esplanade on a regular Sunday!

The Weather Gods Were With Us!

Timed to perfection, the heavy shower hit just as our boots were loaded into the car. A very leisurely day out and a great way to start the journey back towards hill fitness.

The 40th Race: Virtual London Marathon (Running My Way)

When I signed up to run the London Marathon virtually I decided against running at ‘home’. The thought of pounding the streets did not appeal, while running my local trails would require multiple loops of the dreaded Kingshill in order to make the distance. I’ve love Aviemore so decided to go there!

Torrential Downpours

Throughout the lead up to race day, the forecast looked bleak. I swithered as to whether I should cancel and run locally, but having frequently biked the trails in Aviemore in years gone by I’m aware of they drain well and made the decision just to go.

Heading to Aviemore was not the most pleasant journey. Driving over the Lecht, there was a significant amount of surface water lying as the rain fell throughout the day; it was a relief to reach our destination.

Sad Times

Aviemore usually has a great buzz about it and it was a sad reflection of current times on Saturday night, the two household rule alongside restricted numbers sucking the life out of the evening, the usual buzz of the Cairngorm Hotel sadly lacking. That said, we were well fed and able to enjoy a nightcap before an early night.

Morning Showers

Waking up during the night, I checked my phone a couple of times. Sadly it appeared that conditions were deteriorating rather than improving. Meanwhile Aberdeen looked to be getting better (or at least dryer). Happy for those that were running at home, I began to wish I’d stayed there!

I’d planned to set off around 9 am, so rose at 7 am for breakfast of a bun with banana and nut butter, and a couple of mugs of peppermint tea. Showered and dressed, I laid out another set of running kit in case I chose to stop off for a mid-marathon change, figuring this might be welcome if completely drookit!

Setting off as planned, it was drizzly but not dinging down as forecast. Cloud was hanging very low over the hills. I debated before leaving – jacket, no jacket. Feeling the relative warmth, I concluded it should be left. I knew I’d warm up quickly enough; even a decent jacket leaves you feeling like you’re being boiled in the bag!

The Route

If you’ve read previous blogs, you’ll be aware that when we go walking it’s not me that does the planning. In the same way, I had a vague notion of where I might run for my marathon but no definite plan and no real research done. I wouldn’t say this was a regret, but I did get some surprises later.

The Old Logging Way

Starting out, I headed towards the ski road and followed the Old Logging Way, my reasoning being that it would give a little shelter from the drizzle that was later to turn to rain. Along with not planning the route, I’d not planned a pace, deciding I’d just run by feel. I did however have 3 goals in mind:

A) Sub 4 hour marathon

B) Run all the way

C) Finish with something other than a personal worst!

I’ll let you into a secret – I achieved two of the three!

The Old Logging Way passes by Rothiemurchus and then gently meanders up towards Glenmore. The path was mainly dry with the odd puddle, one or two of which slowed me right down as I tried to step through on my heels rather than stomping through and getting wet feet. In my experience wet feet = blisters. Reaching a high point after about 3.5 miles, I decided to about turn rather than going downhill only to have to come back up.

This was so much easier! I hadn’t appreciated the incline until turning back.

Speyside Way

Continuing through Aviemore, I headed all the way along the main street until the end of the village, taking up the trail of the Speyside Way. Initially, this was on a single track path, but quickly opened up onto a wide, hard packed track. I’d envisaged this being flat; in effect it was gently undulating and I did groan inwardly (maybe even outwardly) on a couple of occasions as I had to go up yet again.

The plan had been to continue along to Boat of Garten. I’m not sure if I lost the Way, but found myself further on the Red Squirrel Trail after a few miles. This, I believe, did continue to the Boat; however, a couple of huge puddles taking up the width of the fire track presented a challenge, and having tramped over the heather to avoid them I came upon a wee burn that was too big to jump across. The path was covered in water with lots of grass growing under it making it challenging to identify solid ground from grass under water, so at this point I bailed and about turned. I tried heading up the Roe Deer Trail but only made it about 50 metres before meeting yet more muddy puddles. Back to Aviemore it was.

Reaching the village, my Garmin showed I’d covered around 17 miles. In a way this delighted me; however, by this point I was aware of the discrepancy between the London Marathon app and my Garmin, the former being 0.6 miles shy. There was also the thought that nearly 10 miles is still a mighty long way! However, pace was still okay and I continued running by feel.

The Logging Way Revisited

I decided to head out the opposite end of the Speyside Way towards Kincraig. I very quickly realised that this was downhill, at least leaving Aviemore initially – I couldn’t see very far ahead – meaning an uphill finish, so a snap decision was made to stick with what I know and head back onto the Logging Way. This was hard going! Beyond 18 miles, my calves were beginning to tighten and emotions were running high. I did shed a few tears as I ran past the Fish Farm, quickly getting my focus back on the task in hand.

I slogged my way back up the track, slowing to a walk for a few steps on one ascent. Again, further up I walked 40 steps on the return leg before picking up the pace again. I knew I’d meet the 4 hour goal if I could just keep running!

Heading back alongside the road I received a friendly toot as Bruce drove past and this perked me up. The final challenge was having to run past the hotel after the Garmin said I’d finished, to make up the distance for the app to record an official time. While irritated by this, my rational brain countered that a race distance is never quite bang on with the GPS, nor would I have followed the blue line in London, so this extra distance was quite apt.

Finishing was pretty cool! I immediately received a ‘Congratulations’ text from London Marathon and the app registered my official time. That was welcome as there was absolutely no other fanfare.

Thank You

Thanks to all the lovely people who commented on my run or wished me luck along the way. The kindness of strangers was appreciated. Toots from cars, thumbs up from behind the windows at junctions, all these things encouraged me along the way.

Running Solo

While it was a good experience, I don’t think I’d ever choose to run a solo marathon. It was hard work covering the distance alone with only my own thoughts for company.

I think this is partly what made it such an emotional experience; my thoughts often turned to someone that also loved the trails but sadly is no longer here to run them. I believe this helped me find the strength to go on as it made me realise how fortunate I am.

Run free! X

A Moment of Madness?

Due to injury at the tail end of the year, I deferred my place in the 2020 London Marathon. Then COVID struck, the marathon was postponed, and a new date set for October 2020. I deferred as I hadn’t planned to run a marathon in 2019.

So, what on earth possessed me, when the e-mail dropped in this week offering a virtual marathon place to think this was a good idea?

Virtual Training Begins

It would be great if it really was virtual training. Sadly it’s not. I now need to do some serious hard work.

I’ve been training regularly for the last 5 weeks with a regular 30 miles per week, having signed up for a virtual training camp online. This was led by 3 amazing coaches (Nikki Humphrey, Melissa Johnson-White and Dani Filipek) and I trained ‘alongside’ a great group of women. It helped me find my mojo, build in some regular strength training, something I tend to neglect, and get back into a regular running routine.

Moving forward, my next steps are to incorporate higher mileage by steadily increasing my runs and adding in some more marathon specific pace workouts, although I don’t intend to target this pace on ‘race’ day.

I don’t have a marathon time target. I’m more thinking of enjoying the training, getting away for a day as I don’t want to run round the local streets and having a great day out somewhere I love, enjoying the challenge for what it is: FUN!

Long Runs

Today I figured I should up the long run and decided to try 15 miles. It went surprisingly well. I enjoyed my run, mainly on the trails and met lots of friendly faces from the local running community.

It might have been a little harder had I not spent so much time blethering. However, this may be the way the virtual marathon goes too and that’s all good! The current plan is to cover the distance in a leisurely manner, stop as and when I feel like it, and maybe even practise for the ultra that’s calling my name in the future by having a cuppa and a bit of cake along the way!

Wish me luck! I’ll keep you posted.


This weekend I finally got to see my parents again after 19 weeks! Living a wee bit apart I don’t see them as regularly as I would if they were just down the road. A busy life (and work) get in the way, so it’s not uncommon to go a month without seeing them. We met up last on a family birthday, a lovely gathering where I also saw my sister and her wee family. The next scheduled get together was on Mother’s Day weekend; sadly it never happened, the COVID situation rapidly evolving, my sister and I decided to postpone our meeting, only to then find out we’d have been left with no option as the country very suddenly went into lockdown. The next few paragraphs aremy account, written at the time, but unpublished as emotions were too raw all around.

19th March: Lockdown is Imminent

My journey began at roughly 4 am today. I spoke with my parents last night, both now in their seventies and, touch wood, healthy with no significant underlying conditions. They were suitably pragmatic about everything, already having realised that the chances are our planned meeting on Saturday would not go ahead. However, technology was frustrating; we didn’t manage to FaceTime as I’d hoped and I later sent an e-mail to Dad hoping he’ll maybe download the WhatsApp app to enable future face-to-face communication. I felt positive after speaking to them so I’m not sure why, at 4 am, I crashed.

Waking up, I went to the loo, went back to bed and then the tears came. Proper gut wrenching sobs and an underlying worry about Mum and Dad. With them not being immediately nearby, who will support them if they become ill? Who will do their shopping if they can’t get out? What if something awful happens and I never see them again?

22nd March: Happy Mother’s Day

Today, I’ve woken feeling more positive and perhaps am starting to find my new ‘normal’ (a phrase we’ve now grown to detest). Phoned Mum to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and was pleased to find both of my parents upbeat, if a little hacked off in Dad’s case about being recommended to ‘self-isolate’ as he’s 70 something. He’s questioning why he should be told what to do when as a 70 something who’s taken care of himself he probably stands as much chance of fighting the virus as someone 20 years younger who hasn’t bothered. Fair point I suspect.

Keeping in Touch

We adjusted to life in lockdown, not really having a choice. I’m aware of people visiting family and waving through windows but the distance (and emotions) involved ruled out this option. Instead, the phone became a more regular companion and finally, thanks to my sister’s remote technical support, Dad got his iPad sorted out and we were able to FaceTime again. Seeing people on screen is such a blessing. I do wonder how we’d have coped without technology during this time.

31st May: Phase 1

The introduction of Phase 1 meant little for me. Still being too far from my parents to visit – too far to go without using the toilet – the waiting game continued. The one blessing was that my sister, being closer, was able to come for a socially distanced visit with my niece. Sitting in the garden blethering to them was wonderful!

Both my sister and brother-in-law celebrated birthdays during lockdown. There was no shared cake or celebrations outwith the immediate household; the best I could do was make fudge and sing a socially distanced birthday song from the street! I still owe you both a present!

18th June: Phase 2 Begins

We all waited with baited breath to find out what the announcements would be on Thursday as Phase 2 began. While others were holding out for a refreshing beverage with friends in a pub garden, my priority was seeing my family. The hope that not only would we be able to travel, but we could also meet indoors and go to the toilet was too much to bear!

Sadly we were all disappointed, the announcement being a bit of a damp squib when compared with the phasing plans shared online. I appreciate there are many variables but still …

It made me question whether it was worth travelling a long way to sit outside for a cup of tea. This period of time has taken quite a toll on mental health, as has our new way of working. I’m tired and in need of a break, probably just as I am most summers, and this led me to think that maybe I should just hang fire on visiting. It’s been so many weeks, what’s another two?

However, Friday evening came and although I hadn’t managed to get on top of all the work that needs done I did feel differently about life (more upbeat) and recognised that I both needed a break and wanted to see my family.

20th June: Together Again

Yesterday the sun shone. I headed up the road in my car, my sister and niece in theirs, and we all congregated in the garden with Mum and Dad. It was a joy to see them both in the flesh, to chat together as a family, and to catch up properly after so much time apart. We even went out (in our respective cars) to enjoy a picnic by the local beach. Sitting in a socially distanced circle the laughter and chat flowed and it was a very special few hours.

Driving home I reflected that having had the luxury of technology to maintain contact, it’s only when I see people that I realise how much I’ve missed them. I must remember this as it’s easy to get caught up in the bustle of life, sending a catch up text here and there and feeling like that’s maintaining contact, while in reality there’s no substitute for real human interaction. It definitely won’t be so long until our next catch up!

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day Dad! I hope you enjoy the Jam Shed – anytime after 4 pm is an acceptable time to crack it open. Your card will arrive sometime next week, I’m sure! Love you (& you too, Mum) x

Be Grateful of the Small Things


Today was a stunning day. We’ve been truly blessed with the weather thus far during our ‘confinement’, and it was a joy to be out on the trails again today.

Riding out from home, it’s not long before we reach Hazlehead. I love being able to ride across to Countesswells, a favourite running route ordinarily. I’ve managed to the old ‘stables’ but the full route is a step or two (several miles) too far.

On our social Sunday runs we have regular stops to allow everyone the opportunity to regroup. One such stop is our ‘selfie spot’, so in keeping with tradition Bruce and I have taken pictures there on the couple of occasions we’ve been out.

The solitude of the trails is remarkable with so few people out. The car park closed, people are welcome only if they can get there under their own steam.


Home and showered I reflected upon the day thus far and decided to look back on previous years to see what I’d been doing then. Way back in December 2014 I decided to start keeping a journal of things I’m grateful for, noting three positives each day. These are often small, relatively insignificant things but the reflection provides some clear light at the end of each day, all the more so during life’s tough times.

Here they are with some annotations along the way:

15th April 2015

1. Relaxed morning in Keswick (Easter holidays – I wonder if it was raining; ‘relaxed mornings’ don’t usually figure in our hols!)

2. Lovely walk with Bruce & Rob (Rob is one of Bruce’s friends and I recall he’d driven some way to join us for a walk)

3. Post walk beers and chat

15th April 2016

1. Last 3 Wainwrights: Ling Fell, Sale Fell, then on to Binsey! (I should clarify that these were the last 3 Wainwrights of OUR holiday; still a long way to go overall!)

2. Home – although I enjoy being away I’m always happy to be home again.

3. Chat with Mum & Dad

15th April 2017

1. parkrun fun as Run Director

2. Nuart walk around Aberdeen with Bruce followed by a visit to CASC

3. Dinner catch up at Dizzy’s with Elaine, Heidi & Jacq – we need to get together when this is all over, although with one in USA and Dizzy’s sadly no longer standing we’ll need a new venue.

15th April 2018

1. Social run (Quite possibly around the trails we did today)

2. Coffee at Cognito – a post run tradition and a place I’m missing very much right now!

3. Trip to Stonehaven for ice cream – probably Aunty Betty’s; I’ve since discovered E Giulianotti (up the hill from the Square) that does equally good ice cream and has less of a queue!)

15th April 2019

1. Happy boys after the holidays – Easter holidays are a moveable feast. One of the joys of working as a teacher is that the kids are generally happy to return; you can’t fail to be swept up in their enthusiasm.

2. More fudge sold – this was part of my fundraising efforts for the London Marathon last year.

3. Sarah – home to a clean house. I work full-time and am a part-time ‘athlete’. What more can I say?

Have you found any small pleasures during the ‘lockdown’? What are you grateful for?

Sgor Mor: Blowin’ A Hoolie

Taking advantage of a decent forecast we decided to head for the hills. Driving out to Braemar the skies looked clearer than expected. Despite being winter there also appeared to be very little snow on the horizon.

After a quick pitstop in Braemar conditions did change as we drove out to Linn of Dee, the road having a light covering of snow and a few icy puddles, just enough for the driver to rein it in as you’re never quite sure of the skid risk.

Arriving at the car park we were greeted by a very friendly robin! He’d just been in the boot of the car next to us and hopped onto my rucksack, perching there proudly. Sadly we didn’t have a camera to hand to capture this lovely moment. He continued to dot around for some time before realising we didn’t have any food for him, leaving to visit the next arrival in the car park.

Setting off, we headed back along the road towards the bridge before following the track alongside the river for a short distance. It wasn’t long before we branched off, beginning our climb (heather bash) up the hillside. This was easy enough in terms of ascent, but a little bit of a slog for the legs due to the lift required with every footstep.

Reaching the deer fence, we headed for the gate, then traversing the hillside a little to reach the flatter ridge. Again, this took time and was hard work. On reaching the flatter ground the heather bashing lessened, the ground becoming more grassy, the grassy tussocks now providing the challenge as they squished underfoot, sinking a little with each step.

As we went up, the wind picked up, the windchill causing the temperature to drop. Having begun with two pairs of thinner gloves, it wasn’t long before the Tuff Bags went on, warming me up nicely and taking the wind away. My freebie Gore neckwarmer (courtesy of a Gore rep at one of the Tiso open evenings) also came up trumps. Pulled up over my mouth, sunglasses on to protect my eyes, hood up for extra warmth, and what was exposed still felt the cold, a wee flurry of snow adding to the wintry feel.

We sheltered near the top of the first minor peak for a snack stop. It was a different world, just dropping a few feet down and totally losing the wind. Refreshed, we battled on into the wind. It really was tough going! The wind was definitely trying to sweep away my walking poles, at times also knocking me off my stride. Bruce later shared that after the second top he’d wondered about just cutting down. I had very similar thoughts, having decided if we’d had any more height to gain I’d have bailed.

As it was we were close to the summit and after a short time we were there. Again, we dropped out of the wind, sheltering to enjoy our lunch before soaking up the views of the neighbouring munros. These had a little more sign of winter but snow cover is still pretty light for the time of year.

Retracing our steps, wind at our backs, we were blown back down towards the stream where we cut down, initially following the stream and then heading for White Bridge. This provided a more gradual descent although it was a tiny bit boggy due to the flatter terrain. The high point of the descent came in the form of a large herd of deer. Impressive in number, we got close enough to see some large antlers before they took flight.

Reaching the path, there was a really wet section. I only realised this as I sank into it, soaking my waterproofs to just below the knee! A slight detour took us back towards the Chest of Dee, some very fast water pouring down; you’d never guess seeing the River Dee meandering along gently further down the path that this was just upstream.

A good track saw us yomp back along to Linn of Dee, making decent time. It was a relief to have some easy terrain after a fairly taxing day. As always, no day out in Braemar is complete without a trip to The Bothy for coffee, and so things were rounded off perfectly.

Aberdeen parkrun: Setting the Bar

Since the marathon I’ve been somewhat lazy. The planned two week rest period turned into four weeks of not a lot. I did a couple of easy runs in the third week, then last week life got in the way with lots on, very little ‘me’ time, and too many hours spent at work. On the upside I have hopefully given my body time to recover fully.

Feeling fitter than I had done in a long time while training with the Hanson plan I hope to continue the year strongly following such a consistent block of training. I ‘raced’ Stonehaven parkrun last weekend, pushing myself harder than I’ve done in some time, finishing in 23:06.

This week was the turn of my ‘home’ run, Aberdeen parkrun. A flat course with the potential for fast times dependent on wind, while I knew that a PB was not on the cards, and may never be again, I was determined to run hard and set the bar for my next block of training.

Having warmed up with an easy couple of miles I arrived to catch only the tail end of the briefing – sorry Graham, very rude of me! I skipped round the outside of the throng in order to secure a place near to the front and we were off. Starting out fast, this was the first time I’d run at 5k pace in as many weeks, the last speed session being in the last 10 days of the marathon plan. Prior to that I’d had a speed block at the beginning of the plan before focusing on strength: marathon pace and just a wee bit faster on SOS runs.

Aberdeen parkrun

I found the first mile fairly comfortable clocking 6:51. The second mile was harder and I was aware of my lungs! While the legs felt good it was definitely harder to regulate the breathing and I was working hard. This mile was slower, 6:56. Going into the final mile I knew I just had to hang on in there! Less than 8 minutes to endure, knowing that the fourth kilometre is where most people struggle, I tried my best to dig in and was happy to see the 5k marker. It seemed a long way to the stones marshal, but once past them I knew I’d soon be done.

Aberdeen parkrun

Pushing hard, the last mile was slower again in 6:58, but the watch indicates that despite thinking I was slowing down I did manage to pick up pace slightly to cross the line.

Delighted, I heard my sister shout the time as I passed her. Thanks for volunteering! Official time: 21:31

Very happy with that and most definitely a good starting point for the next round of training!

I’ve lacked consistency over the last few weeks. One of the joys of the Hanson plan was knowing that I run every day except Wednesday. I’m going to try returning to that again, maybe trying more morning runs as we’re currently blessed with lots of daylight. Wish me luck!

2019 London Marathon: The Taper

The taper has begun – if you can call it a taper with the Hanson Method – harder than usual with regard to the mileage, but in many ways the feelings, both physically and emotionally are the same thus far.

Thursday 18th April: I did my last ‘SOS’ session today – 6 miles at target marathon pace sandwiched between a warm up and cool down. Pacing definitely feels more instinctive although it’s easy to tip into 10k pace at the start. Once I hit the target pace it feels relatively comfortable. Whether that’s enough to hold it for 26.2 miles, we’ll see.

Friday 19th: Today was an easy 4 miles. It felt harder. My legs wanted to go faster and it felt quite uncomfortable, plodding heavily along.

Saturday 20th: Easy 5 miles today, so ran 2 miles before Aberdeen parkrun. Very enjoyable runs today, warming up with Alan, fresh from Kenya, and blethering round the parkrun with Maureen, my sister’s friend.

Sunday 21st: one week to go!
Bruce is hill walking and I’m somewhat envious as it’s a cracking day and he’s doing a lovely route from Loch Muick: over Broad Cairn, Cairn Bannoch and Carn an t-Sagairt Mor, finishing at Loch Callater, where I’ll pick him up.
My run was a leisurely 12 miles. I opted for the Deeside line from Ballater. While there were so many more attractive options I ultimately wanted somewhere flat with good underfoot terrain to minimise the risk of injury! Was very tempted by the sign for trails at Cambus O’May Forest but given that it was uphill to enter the car park I decided they’d wait for another day.
Very much enjoying refuelling in The Bothy at Braemar while I await the call for pickup.

Monday 22nd:
An easy 4 miles and I took advantage of the wide window for pacing, enjoying running at the slow end. Beautiful evening for a run to Duthie Park.

Tuesday 23rd:
Met the Tuesday crew (Ali, Alan and George). While Alan and George went ahead Ali and I bumbled along blethering. I’ve missed my Tuesday chats while they’ve been in Kenya with Gathimba Edwards Foundation! Threw in a couple of miles at faster pace which felt good. Alan continued beyond the three miles at which we turned on the Garmin beep, and poor George said their run back to catch us had him working the hardest he’s done in a long time. Next time just stick with the ladies George! It’s safer!

Think this may be it now until race day. I’ll see how I feel. Schedule suggests an easy 4 miles tomorrow but I’m tired and have nothing to gain physically but potentially a lot to lose. I’ll see how I feel …

An Socach: Roaming Free

It feels like a long time since we’ve been in the hills and December has been a long month so far. Despite my best intentions to be active, the dark nights and life in general have conspired against me; a general feeling of malaise and a lack of motivation to get out at all. Thankfully, with the holidays now upon us I had a newfound desire to get out and was delighted to be met with a good forecast for the weekend.

After a little deliberation thanks to Bruce’s planning with various options of offer, but primarily due to the car parking area being full, we made the decision to park a few hundred metres further along and head up An Socach. I had a desire to get up high, and Loch Callater just didn’t hold the same appeal today. We were also in agreement that it’s a better option when the loch is frozen and it’s not cold enough for that as yet.

It did amuse me somewhat that Bruce made mention of the extra walk (all 300 metres of it, making a 600 metre addition in total). I sometimes think similar thoughts when parking in order to go for a run or walk; bizarre given the total distance you’d cover without thinking about it in order to achieve the planned route itself. Anyway, along the road we set, and within a very short time were on the correct route, a good track that leads to the path for ascending the munro.

The first obstacle in our path was a small stream crossing. This shouldn’t have presented any difficulty with a few small rocks and boulders paving the way, but on my crossing I managed to slip on one of the stones, thankfully only dipping my toes in and not getting wet feet, but still enough to make me wary of the others. This later led to us thinking perhaps we could head around and ascend via another route that we could see opposite us.

Heading up to An Socach

Continuing up, I was in a thoughtful mood and my mind wandered to a running friend who has recently passed away. He and I had talked hills on a few occasions and it seemed fitting to say a quiet goodbye as we reached the windshelter cairn on An Socach.

Windshelter cairn on An Socach

The wind on this broad plateau had picked up and it was beginning to get chilly. However, the sun came out and provided warmth as we moved off. We had decided not to go to the second windshelter (the true summit cairn) as we’ve done this munro previously, instead deciding to roam free and head off in another direction rather than retracing our steps. Heading down we followed a large snow patch and it was fun going over this. I have to admit that I did generally follow in Bruce’s footsteps making the going easier for myself. I decided that this was Type 1 fun. This was a topic of discussion at the Dundee Mountain Film Festival, and this is genuine fun where you’re enjoying the here and now. This changed to Type 2 fun, the type of thing that isn’t particularly fun at the time, being challenging or tough and involving mind over matter, when we realised that we were in fact heading into Glen Ey, not where we wanted to be at all!

On a positive note, this forced us into testing our navigational skills. With the help of the map, compass and OS Locate to give us very accurate grid references, we realised that we had to head back up towards Sgurr Mor in order to pick up the path back towards our track again. This proved to be quite a slog and involved both boggy ground and heather bashing. On the upside, we saw a herd of deer on the hillside and several mountain hares who made bounding up the hill look very effortless indeed!

Navigational skills being tested

Repeated checks of the map proved that we were on the right line, and reaching the flatter path on the approach to Sgurr Mor we could see where we were aiming for.

Strava elevation profile

Finally we made it onto the path down the opposite side of the stream and had views back to An Socach again looking clear in the late afternoon sun. It was a relief to be able to view the track on which we’d return to the car. Despite never being lost and always feeling confident in our navigational ability, there had been a moment where I’d wondered if we’d be needing our head torches for the return leg. As it transpired, we made good time and got back with daylight remaining.

Back on the correct path, descending from An Socach

All that was left to do was head to The Bothy in Braemar for coffee and cake. Today’s offering of Lemon Drizzle Cake was outstanding and really put the shine back into the day.

Bikes, Trains and Boots: the Great Glen Way and the Glenfinnan Munros

Day 4: Biking on the Great Glen Way

Due to a less attractive forecast in addition to tired legs we decided to take a rest day. Anyone who knows Bruce well will know that rest doesn’t really figure in his day. I can easily while away a day doing little or nothing. He is happier on the go, and so we opted to get out on the bikes and ride a bit of the Great Glen Way. This also gave me the opportunity to have a wee recce of the canal section of the marathon so win-win!

Having walked the GGW last year it amused us when we reached the start again, remembering how distinctly underwhelmed we felt heading off from the back of McDonalds before passing through a housing estate. Thinking about it now, it’s a little like starting the West Highland Way, but there you’re leaving a shopping precinct in Milngavie.

Before long the shore of Loch Linhe are reached and glimpses of the loch are seen through the trees and beautiful wild flowers.

Wild flowers on the Great Glen Way, Fort William

Continuing on there’s an old boat beached on the shore. While waiting here for Bruce to take photos I met an old lady, walking her dog, who’d originated in Inverurie. We had a very enjoyable chat about life and she was delighted to be able to chat Doric ahead of her visit in August.

Old boat on the Great Glen Way, Fort William

Further along we passed Neptune’s Staircase – a series of lochs that allows boats to pass along the canal. I’m a canal geek! I love watching the boats and could happily sit there for hours. Unfortunately there were none to be seen. There was however a very tasty scone to be had at the cafe and that took away some of the pain.

Tasty treats, Great Glen Way, Neptune’s Staircase, Caledonian Canal, Fort William

We continued along the canal until the rain came ever closer and threatened to engulf us. With the forecast suggesting it would be on for the afternoon once it started we bailed and headed for home. Not a huge ride, but a wee spin of the legs and I can honestly say, paddded shorts are a Godsend!

Caledonian Canal, Great Glen Way, Fort William

Day 6:

Final day of our Fort William holiday, we headed out to Glenfinnan to walk a couple of munros: Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan. The forecast looked good and despite the low cloud in Fort William it was due to clear later in the afternoon, although the MWIS were suggesting only a 40% chance of cloud free munros. For future reference, should you wish to put a bet on in relation to hill forecasts, go with MWIS! They were right.

On arrival at Glenfinnan the car park was getting busy. That means only one thing: the steam train was due to pass! We didn’t see it as we went under the viaduct and were quickly engulfed in the cloud, but there is something exciting in seeing the Harry Potter train go past! We did hear the chugging of the engine later in the day as it passed somewhere below us, and later, on the ride back out we heard the whistle while chatting to a friendly Estate worker who’d stopped his Landrover for a blether. It appears Thomas had escaped as he was all alone!

Glenfinnan Viaduct

Back to the hills …

We headed out on our bikes on a decent tarmac road for a few kilometres before heading along a rougher track. Sadly this was the point at which we noticed the incline and the fatigue in our legs! Thereafter there was quite a bit of moaning and some pushing. A quick stop off at the Corryhully Bothy on route suggested that perhaps bothying isn’t all bad. It wasn’t quite en-suite, but this one had electricity! Not long after we dumped our bikes at the signposted path for Sgurr nan Coireachan, the plan being to return by this path, and continued on foot for Sgurr Thuilm.

The initial ascent is always the worst, and alongside the less than favourable weather I was pretty scunnered and wondering why I was doing this at all! Bruce was somewhat more upbeat and looking forward to getting another couple under his belt. We won’t dwell on this climb, suffice to say I wasn’t the best company, however on getting past the worst of it I did perk up. Just as well really as it was around this time that the misty droplets from the low hanging cloud turned to rain and the waterproofs went on. Never the best, it’s particularly unpleasant to have to use them in humid conditions … are they wetting out or are you just drowning from the inside?

Continuing on, we reached the summit of Sgurr Thuilm, pausing briefly as it was still very misty and hoping the cloud may clear. The rain did come and go, along with Bruce’s waterproofs, but ultimately he accepted defeat and just kept them on.


The route to the second munro should have been a very fine ridge walk. Sadly the low cloud meant that we couldn’t appreciate the fine views but it was very enjoyable going up and over four minor summits on the way to the second munro. There was a clear path alll along the ridge and with the exception of a few very short rockier sections this continued up to the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan.

Heading down was more interesting, following a narrower, steeper ridge. The wet rocks meant that careful footing was required and I was glad to make the descent safely. This continued onto a stalkers path which led steeply downhill, zigzagging to ease the gradient, finally leading us back to the bikes. The views opened up and we were able to see down to Glenfinnan Viaduct and back along the ridge we’d walked.



Finally, a fast, fun ride took us back down to the car park, making memories of mashed quads on the way up fade away as we basked in the joy of having saved so much time heading out again.

Glenfinnan Viaduct, returning from Sgurr nan Coireachan

Holidays over, time for one last walk into Fort William and a final stop at the Grog & Gruel. Cheers!