The bed in Newtonmore Hostel is the best ever! It's extremely hard climbing out from under the comfy blankets, especially when seeing the rain running down outside the window. After five days with fairly good weather, the rain god has decided to stir things up a bit.
I'm having breakfast in a lovely tea room (Betty's Pantry and Tearoom), where the owner lets me copy her tablet recipe. Something to try out at home...
The guys turn up late (again), this time, only a few are wearing kilts, most are - like me - in heavy rain gear. But thanks to the rain the air is fresh and cool, and the clouds give the mountains a mystical appearance.
Because we don't fancy walking several miles on a tarred cycle path and because it is too wet for the alternative boggy route, we take the vans to Kingussie, from where we start the walk. The first leg of the trek takes us to the impressive Ruthven barracks, built in 1719 after the first Jacobite uprising. There's a Highland cow standing directly in front of it; it almost looks as if she (?) was posing for a picture.
After the barracks, we leave the road and begin to follow the way marked Badenoch trail. It takes us on small footpaths through lovely birch forests and over open farm- and moorland. There are several bird hides on the way, but unfortunately we don't stop to have a closer look. Our walking speed is the fastest yet; luckily my blisters have disappeared and my fitness seems to have improved quite considerably.
We have lunch on an old stone bridge (built in 1728) leading over a gurgling river. I manage to drop a few oatcakes into the water, but at least that might feed the fish in there.
By now, the rain has stopped, and we rid ourselves of the sweaty rain gear. The men are all wearing bright orange T-shirts with the name of their charity and all the walks they've done in recent years on the back. Next year they will walk the Great Glen Way and have already invited me to come along. Tempting...
After the bridge, the forest becomes darker and darker - at least compared to the bright birch forests from earlier - and the forest track gets thinner until it's no bigger than a comfortable path. After all the tarmac roads of the past days, this is heaven for our feet (or maybe - a bit more down to earth - like a nice massage).
We pass through two tiny villages nestled deep into the forest.
The path ascends quite heavily, and with our pace being as fast as it is, the group splits up - as so often - into two parties, the fast and the slow. But this time, I am in the faster one - yippieh :)
The trail passes over some boggy ground, and one of the walkers slips and lands on the muddy ground. Luckily, he's alright - and a source of amusement for the next hour or so.
Loch Insh Watersports Centre. The vans with the other charity walkers that didn't take part in today's leg are already there, and together we sit down for a pint (and some lovely ice-cream). There's a large group of children out in the water being taught how to windsurf - it must be freezing in the water today.
From here, the lads drive me to my hostel, Cairngorms Christian Centre in Kincraig. I have to wait for half an hour or so for someone to arrive and let me in - mobile reception here is as bad as it was everywhere along the way, and the nice lady who then shows me around the centre never got my message. After leaving my stuff in the hostel, I have a look around the village shop (and get a newspaper - more sudokus for later on), and because it has started to rain again, I seek refuge in the Ossian Inn, a hotel in the village (and the closest place to get some food). The kitchen is still closed, so I sit down with some tea and read the paper, until the chef arrives (but the food later on is very much worth the wait).
Here a final group picture that didn't fit into the entry above: