With the best of the walking and scenery now behind, I guess I will be forgiven for applying the blinkers and taking a beeline for St Cyrus Bay. And so begins the last days in my TGO report. A little over 12 days in the walking, a little under 200 days in the blogging. That’s got to be something of a record.
Day 12 – Tarfside to North Water Bridge : 28 km
One too many cans of McEwan’s Export at the Masons Arms had left me a bit wide eyed and legless. Combine that with a dodgy foot bridge back over the Esk which scuppered my planned route, and it was queue my second FWA. Bye bye hills, hello bacon butty and a leisurely start to the day back at St Drostans.
The plan had been to trek the assault course of deer fences over the Hill of Wirren before dropping down to Edzell. This admirable plan was replaced with the road and riverside stomp along the valley to North Water Bridge.
David Williams had once again got his fill of quality sleep well ahead of the rest of us: was up, fed, packed and off by the time Ian and I headed in the opposite direction to the hostel.
We caught up with David a while later walking with Gordon Green, who was clearly suffering a bit with his feet that morning but still plodding along nicely.
Now I’m sure that there was much scintillating conversation throughout the day as David, Ian and I wandered our weary way along Glen Esk, but for the life in me I can’t recall much of the day at all. It seemed to involve a bit of tarmac followed by many km of tracks, fields and mud hopping. I’m sure if I’d have walked in the opposite direction and it was Day 2 I’d have been at more at one with my surroundings. As it was the only thing I was at one with was a plate of macaroni cheese at the Tuck Inn.
We reached Edzell somewhere around a time that escapes me, and proceeded to eat and drink as though we needed calories to sustain us for the next four days. Not satisfied with my stomach straining like The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids, I then followed Ian and David to a renowned pie shop to top up my pack with emergency rations. You never know what fate can befall you along these lanes, always best to have a spare pie at hand.
Thank god somebody then decided we should get a move on….very slowly and with indigestion.
As you will see from the above photo, three intrepid explorers had by now trekked almost 200 hundred miles across Scotland guided by expert navigational skills, only to be confused by whether to take a left or right turn after the Edzell Bridge. You can also see how much David’s pack has sunk on his back under the weight of said pies.
A few more km of tarmac and track and the day was done. Luckily the last leg to the campsite at North Water Bridge passed quite quickly, there’s just no way to avoid that noisy straight stretch of road.
The campsite itself has to be up there as one of oddest locations on the Caravan Club’s books. Try as I might I couldn’t quite see the attraction. Thousands of square miles of glorious countryside on the doorstep and people decide to spend their weekends by a dual carriageway. It takes all sorts I guess.
A rather cool and breezy last evening was made that much more enjoyable once other challengers had arrived. In preparation for that gruelling last days slog to the coast it seemed that everybody was keen to shed as much weight as possible. Most people settled for ditching liquids, the picnic table awash with small containers of alcohol. Happy hour at North Water Bridge. David shed a few pounds by tucking into his pie collection.
Day 12 – North Water Bridge to St Cyrus: 14 km
You can tell you’re heading towards normal civilisation when you spot the obligatory dumped mattress sitting forlorn by the roadside. And sure enough within an hour of leaving the campsite the next morning there one was, complete with the worst stain collection I’ve ever seen.
We’d got an early start even though it was only 14 km to St Cyrus as David had decided to head on home a day early rather than stay on Montrose overnight. That meant getting to St Cyrus in good time to get to Montrose Station for an early afternoon train.
There was to be no messing about. This was a forced march. It may well say on David’s twitter profile ‘Keen on wandering the hills, albeit more slowly these days’, but believe me that sleek 6′ 3″ frame can move like a greyhound. Being slightly shorter I was able to shelter in the slipstream, and by setting my camera to sport mode I was able to prevent any photo’s being burred images as the scenery whizzed passed.
St Cyrus Bay however has a habit of stopping you in your tracks, at least for an instance the first time you come over the brow and the vista opens up before you. What a view, and what weather.
We arrived at journeys end at midday in glorious sunshine. It was as if the perfect end to the walk had been delivered to order.
The obligatory photo’s were taken, feet wetted, whisky sipped and moment savoured. It felt good, really good. We even managed a few gasps of admiration from a couple of young ladies who kindly took our photo’s (admiration for the effort, not the physiques).
After 220 miles and 12 and a half days of walking from the west coast, there’s then a sudden realisation that it’s all over…around about the point where you head back off the beach and your feet leave the sand. It’s like somebody letting the air out of your balloon. I can quite understand why Forest Gump just turned around and headed back to the opposite coast again.
In fact in for a short while I remember feeling a bit silly that I’d finished two and a half days ahead of my schedule. That thought turned over in my head until the next day when it appeared challengers were finishing in slightly less beautiful weather. The sun had put the icing on the cake, and I was happy for that.
All that was left to do was get the bus into Montrose and sign out. And Montrose on first impressions had done us proud, every shop with a decorated window display ready to welcome the arrivals with open arms. This was a big moment in the history of the town. I’m not sure about the connection between denim & fender telecasters and walking coast to coast across Scotland. But who cares, it was the thought that counts.
p.s. Status Quo must have been very disappointed to turn up and find all the hotel rooms fully booked