The guys arrive quite late, but as soon as start walking, we are back in yesterday's fast pace again. We pass a little church, and then walk along the shore of the loch, enjoying the splendid views over the crystal-clear lake.
Using tiny paths leading around some farm buildings, we come to the Frank Bruce Sculpture Trail outside of Kincraig. Frank Bruce, who died in 2009, was an artist and sculptor who used woodcarving as a way to express himself in a way that words did not offer him (he was dyslexic and left school at 13). The sculptures are very impressive and thought-provoking, and it's a pity we don't have the time to look around a bit more.
If you want, have a look at Frank Bruce's very inspiring biography:
“Essentially, the reason for the sculptures was to say that I’m still here. I am here and I’ve got something to say.”
Soon after we arrive at Feshiebridge, where one of the men decides to take a bath in the icy waters. He takes off his clothes, and jumps. I take up position on the old bridge and get some lovely pictures of him hurling himself from the rocks. Enjoy :)
After some trouble finding the right way (some signs and way marks mentioned in the guidebook no longer exist), we continue walking on broad forest tracks. There are several junctions, and as I seem to be the only one with a map/guidebook, I lead the group (fun).
We're having lunch at Drake's Bothy, where I also scale a lovely climbing tree (and notice that I'm a bit out of practice).
Now out of the forest, we walk through an open heather landscape, with birch trees and little muddy mini-lochs scattered all over the place. There are fantastic views over the Cairngorm mountains, the highest of which are still covered in snow.
After passing small Loch Gamhna, the track is plastered with puddles. The men have fun dropping heavy stones into the mud to have brown water splash over everyone and everything - including me :) It's getting even more hilarious when the people at the top of the group start building tree barriers for the rest of the walkers:
Mud-splattered, we arrive at the beautiful Loch an Eilean, where - after taking a wrong turn once again - we finally make it to the visitor centre (lovely ice-cream). From the shore of the loch we have a fantastic view over the loch and its island castle. No wonder this was voted "Britain's best picnic spot".
From the loch, we use some nice paths to get to Aviemore, passing another small Loch and the Rothiemurchus Estate, which offers a variety of activities, both on the water and on land. I wanted to do the Treezone activity there, but I was too late that day.
Soon, we arrive in Aviemore, and after having a quick drink in a pub, it's victory photo time - at the station opposite:
In the evening, the men put away their kilts and step into weird and wonderful costumes. There's a 3-course dinner at the hotel they're staying, and I'm invited along. It seems to be tradition for them to have this costume evening, and there are some really great disguises present. There's Darth Vader (who looks great sitting there texting on his phone - ever seen him do that before?!), a pink hippo (who wins the prize for best costume), a very serious looking Sherlock Holmes, and many, many more.
In the evening, when it's time to leave for the station, Darth Vader, a pirate, a clown and Elvis accompany me there - very much to the amusement of the passengers of an earlier train (before which the station manager actually announced "Elvis, please move away from the platform" via the speakers) and later, my own one.
Now, this has been it - my East Highland Way trip. It was full of surprises (who could have guessed I'd end up walking with twenty men in kilts?!), sunshine, rain and blisters. And it brought me about 600 photos. I might post a few more over the next couple of days, and I also plan to write something of a concluding text, with some tips and ideas for other people wanting to do the walk (i.e. the practicalities). Until then, have a look at the fantastic EHW website...