It’s been 12 years since I last came here, our plan then was to hike half way to Braemar, camp and then hike out the next day. It’s a popular mountain pass. At only 40km it is also not very long. Back then I wasn’t much of a runner but I was beginning to start my marathon journey and I’d said to myself back then that I would return and run the route. And so fast forward many years I’m disembarking a train at Blair Atholl station about to do just that.
My pack is heavy with overnight kit, spare change of running gear as well as all the mountain kit I need for safety. Plus a lot of food. Much more than what’s needed for this run but this is the start of a weekend of running, and I’m staying at a mates so I need some respectable clothing to wear in the evenings.
The weather is overcast and forecast of showers at times. The wind is at my back as I head through the grounds of Blair castle. Reaching the river Tilt I follow the path and eventually a track. The going is good. The views are cracking. The tilt has many falls as it journeys down the Glen. The sound of the water is never far away.
At forest lodge I stop for some food taking my time. Enjoying the scenery and the waterfalls as the water spills over rocks with smooth sides. Large bowls are calved out of the side where rocks have worn the surface down over many years. I notice the water level is low which is good news as there’s a river crossing ahead.
I get going again, Ian had planned to meet me higher up on the other side of the pass near White Bridge at 1:30 so I needed to keep some forward progression. The rain came on, a heavy shower made me retreat into the forest. I pulled on my waterproof and headed into the driving rain, thankfully at my back.
The shower didn’t last too long and after it cleared the sun shone. In the distance, a saddled up horse stood on the other side of the Glen. It’s rider sat next to it. I didn’t know cowboys roamed these Glens. Perhaps he’s been riding for such a long time. Perhaps he wasn’t real.
The Glen closed in, steep sides on either side, rocks towering over. Signs of landslips were often. The track disappeared into a single track path. At the Falls of Tarf, the bridge stood steady across the tributary and the fast flowing waters. All those years ago this was our camping spot. An ideal flat bit of grass, next to a river. I remembered having to scavenge for wood, there’s not much about, especially dead wood. Even less so now.
I continued up the path resisting to stop and reminisce further. I couldn’t help think about what got me to this point, what made me run this route, this weekend of all weekends. That seed sown many years ago finally out to task. Back then I had no idea about the equipment needed for such a run, nor had I the experience that I have now, but I had the ambition. The will to get from A to B under my own steam. It didn’t matter how fast, but that I did it.
The Glen suddenly opened up, wide valley greeted me in front. Behind the small gap of the Tilt lay in the distance. If you weren’t the wiser you might not choose to go that way for it doesn’t look like a proper route, it looks like a gully you’d get lost in.
The flat lands were bog and lots of it. Thankfully fairly dry but bog nonetheless. I hit the track after a while and started to bimble again, in the distance I spot someone waving. It could only be Ian. He’d come in further after retreating off the mountains due to wind and a broken brake on his bike. I hadn’t realised it but the wind was quite brutal. He cycled out to do a few Munro’s but his day didn’t work out to plan which happens until the hills. you just have to take what nature gives you. Ian chummed me back, hardly needing to pedal. He also showed me safe passage across the Geldie burn which thankfully was quite low.
The run out to the Linn of Dee was simple and I’ve done it quite a few times now. Overall a good run and passage through to start the weekend of adventure.