Hike Northbound through Britain with Daryl May
Click for Southbound hike
North of Aviemore the roadside was beautiful beneath clouds with occasional sunbursts
DN48 Meadow near Aviemore
DN48 Road near Aviemore
Days N45 - N56                                                                  Scottish Highlands
Day N48 - Aviemore to Tomatin
Day N47                     Slogging over Slochd                            Day N49
  Northbound Home
    Start hiking here
    English West Country

    English Midlands
    North of England
    Southern Scotland
    Central Scotland
    Scottish Highlands

Southbound Home
Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Time of departure: 8.30 am
Time of arrival: 3.15 pm
Place departed: Aviemore, Highland
Place arrived: Tomatin, Highland

Miles: 15.3
Cum miles: 783.0
Percent complete: 84.4

Bed sign Millcroft B&B, Tomatin  ****
Cost for supper, bed and breakfast: 28 ($56)

  Overview of both hikes


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I felt I made easy progress today. Only a truly sunny day could have improved things. Instead, the weather was cold, with a breeze in my face, and alternated between drizzle and sunny spells.

There was only the one-horse village of Tomatin in the right place to split the 30-odd miles between Aviemore and Inverness. My call to a B&B in Tomatin last night had left me with a sour taste due to a greedy prospective landlady. Try as I could during the walk, I could not always follow the advice in my little red book for hikers facing this problem: "Pay the bitch, or sleep in a ditch". I just hoped that I would find somewhere else in Tomatin, though I knew of nowhere.

I ate an apple and nibbled chocolate for lunch. Chocolate is not something I eat at home, but it seemed just right for hiking food – high in calories, protein, and I would hopefully burn off the fat. The apple provided vitamin C and fiber.

Hiking and chocolate happen to be something I remember well from an outing in my youth. My mother had given me enough peppermint-crunch chocolate bars to feed my two hiking companions – Richard and Peter – as well as myself. These I hastily placed in my pants back pocket, and then forgot about them for a few hours on the trail.  It was a warm day, and we had exerted ourselves and had to rest several times by sitting on equally warm rocks. Soon enough, the crushed chocolate melted and created a messy green and brown slime in my pants, emerging from my pocket on to my hands and surroundings when I finally checked what was going on there.  As luck would have it, I didn't make this discovery until the ride home on the leather seat of Peter’s Mom’s new Morris Oxford. I am not sure when Peter’s Mom discovered the back-seat quagmire, but I am hoping that she blamed Richard.

The seven-to-eight hour hike has become a pretty standard matter, and it's proving that time is such a good determinant of distance that I might as well look at my watch as count miles on my map.  As much as I would like to believe that my destination is just down the road, my watch tells me otherwise.  If I know the route, it makes little sense looking at my maps before 2 pm, when I can update my ETA, and use "terminal guidance" (as missile people used to say) to help me over the last few miles.  It certainly refreshes the mind and body to know there's just an hour or two to go, and then to look for the buildings which tell you "you're there".

I got to Slochd Summit, a 1300-ft pass, at about 2 pm, and since the wind was from the north, the rain falling on the north, windward side of the hills deposited itself on my front for the last hour or so of the day. This wasn’t so much of a worry knowing that I would stop for the night soon. I spent some of the remaining hour trying to pronounce Slochd with just the right guttural touch on the “ch” before hitting the “d”. But later I learned that the “d” is silent which would have made things easier if I'd known. Slochd pass was the highest point on my route through Scotland except for Drumochter Pass at 1500 ft.

After my seven-hour hike, I ran into a local young man walking his son. He pointed out Lynne and Peter Stephens’ Millcroft B&B, where I felt welcome and the price was what it should be. Lynne made me a cup of tea, and we easily chatted about hiking, Canada, and other things in common.

As usual, it was a massive relief to take off the pack and plonk myself on a bed. Therein lies one of life's dichotomies: "I love hiking, but I can't wait to stop for the night"; or "I love my job, but I can't wait to get home"; or "I love my home, but I can't wait to go on vacation". Man is a restless animal. 

I examined my boots today as I usually do.  Mr. Duckett's heel repair in Lancaster was holding up beautifully. Although wear was considerable, I thought they might now see me through to John o' Groats.

I was glad to feel better today, because I would hate to cover the remaining part of this journey on a low note. I might be "ready" to get there, but was determined to end the hike with a bang and not a whimper.
Day N47                        2007 and 2008 Daryl May                            Day N49