A crack at the Cateran Trail

I chose the Cateran Trail, which is divided between Perthshire & Angus, for my next hike, partly because it looks to be a fine route, but also because this area was my introduction to central Scotland some years ago.

The Cateran Trail is a 65 mile / 104km circular route which includes Strathardle as well as parts of Glen Shee and Glen Isla. The route is named after the bands of cattle thieves known as Caterans who previously brought terror to these glens.

Cateran Trail
Cateran Trail, Perthshire and Angus courtesy of Walkhighlands and Ordnance Survey ©

The Strathardle section I completed between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael contains all the different types of terrain which this area is known for; various types of woodland, untamed heather moorland, rolling farmland pastures, and many burns feeding into the Ericht and Ardle rivers.

Unfortunately for me, a recent event on the trail had left it a bit too churned up and muddy to complete at anything other than a very slow pace. If I had worn my boots and taken my gaiters, it would have improved things, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway here are a few photos of the varied section between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael, which included a camp at Pitcarmick, to give you an idea of the route.

River Ericht
River Ericht near Blairgowrie
Lornty Burn
Farmland near Lornty Burn
Blackcraig Forest
Views across Strathardle from Blackcraig Forest
Dalnabreck
Near Easter Dalnabreck
Dalnabreck
Near Dalnabreck
Pitcarmick Burn
Pitcarmick Burn

These pictures give some indication of how lovely the trail is, but avoid the mud underfoot. At this point it began to rain heavily, so I pitched the tent quite early to dry out.

Pitcarmick Camp
Dreich view from my tent at Pitcarmick
Drying out
Drying out in the Duomid

I continued my hike the following morning down the lovely, verdant country lanes into Kirkmichael for a much needed hot breakfast. There I decided to return to this trail when it has had the chance to recover, and I can focus more on the lovely countryside and less on where I am putting my feet.

Tent Talk

As regular visitors will know, I am not in the habit of posting tent pictures for the sake of it, but I couldn’t resist a couple here. For people who like this sort of thing I have started a Camping Gallery as a memento of my trips.

As the sun is shining and I am stuck at home, I have been practising pitching my preloved Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, in a non stealth shade of yellow sinylon, and sealing my old Force Ten tent. For the Duomid, after advice from several people, I used Colin’s method of attaching my two z poles together with cord, and Emma’s suggestion of using velcro to hold them together to form a support pole. The result works really well, and encourages me to use my poles more often.

Duomid 3
Mountain Laurel Designs Sinylon Duomid and 3F UL inner first pitch
Duomid II
Getting to grips with pitching and ground sheet

I have worked out how to attach the inner to the tent using the back three pegs and the result feels really palatial after my snug Force Ten (below). It takes up a lot of space once all the guy ropes are staked out, but I guess they add to the stability of the shelter. On advice from Daron, I made a Polycro (Double glazing film) ground sheet to go under the inner and into the porch. (See above).

I welcome any advice from other Duomid users, as I hope to continue using it over the coming months. For anyone who is interested, there is a good pitching video for the Duomid on Stick’s Blog YouTube channel.

Force Ten
Force Ten Helium Carbon 100 seam sealed
Duomid Pole
Creating a support for the Duomid from two Z poles.

With thanks to Colin, Emma, Daron, Stick and Matt.

My first wild camped trail

I realise that circumstances have meant that it has taken me a while to get round to wild camping my first trail. As I have attempted to explain in my camping section, it has been a gradual journey from bed and breakfasts on Hadrian’s Wall to tea in a tent on the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

I don’t often hear this dramatic trail come up in conversation on social media or blogs, perhaps because people who backpack in Scotland are understandably drawn to the magnetic Munros, the famous national parks or the beautiful highlands and islands, ignoring the beauty of parts of the east coast.

Berwickshire Coastal Path
Berwickshire Coastal Path; My first wild camping trail

When I moved to the borders, I was struck by the beauty of the east coast between Holy Island in Northumberland and St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire, so I am often tempted to return there to walk. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I was gazing out of the window, as the train runs so close to the coast between Berwick and Burnmouth that it almost knocks walkers into the sea. I noticed a couple of backpackers across the field walking along the coast path, who stopped and waved at us on the train. I got an overwhelming urge to be there waving, instead of on the train on my business errand, and so a week later I was.

Berwickshire has some of the highest, longest and most dramatic cliffs on the British coast, which make walking this path a challenging and dramatic experience which is ideal for wild camping. I’m sure I made some rookie wild camping errors, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I hope you will take a look at my trip report.

Wild camping and me

Many of the endurance athletes I respect have managed to cover long distances by camping in farms and gardens or using bothies, rescue huts, hostels and bunkhouses. In spite of this, wild camping seems to have become a by-word for outdoor proficiency. Listening to discussions, I have realised that some women share my apprehension about wild camping. It has been a relief to hear this discussed by people with amazing achievements under their belts.

campingpics
Campsite Pics. Clockwise: My garden, Wasdale, Edale and Knarsdale

I backpacked the Pennine Way in 2013, staying in some very small campsites, on farms and in gardens, and my first wild camp was with a group of Twitter friends in the Peak District, shortly afterwards. On the whole this was a fairly good humoured introduction to wild camping. I learned a lot by simply watching what was going on around me and left feeling encouraged.

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About 6 months later I was pleased to be invited out for a second wild camp by someone else on Twitter. This trip didn’t go so well.

After a winter which was largely spent indoors supporting my father, I was a bit out of condition, but I didn’t regard it as a competition. I joined another walker (and her partner briefly) at their motorhome at Jedburgh for a bright and sunny day of walking on the St Cuthbert’s Way, which I had walked once before using hostels and B&Bs. Unfortunately by the time we pitched our tents, the invisible enemies of dehydration and heat exhaustion were causing me to feel very unwell. I had a throbbing headache, my head was spinning, I felt sick and a bit delirious. Whatever assessment the other walker claims to have made of my condition was made from zipped inside her tent.

Most rescue people advise that if you don’t feel well you should turn back, and that is what I did. In retrospect I think this was the right decision.

image
St Cuthbert’s Way

I packed up and left the other walker, who had refused (from inside her tent) to make a call out or come with me, but by the time I reached the road in the dark, I was feeling too sick to walk. I finally decided to call the hotel we had passed earlier in the day. The owner heroically came out in his car to pluck me up from the side of the road in the dark and take me back to the hotel where I was given tea and a much needed room for the night.

St Cuthbert's Way
St Cuthbert’s Way II

I mentioned some of this in a Trip Advisor review of the hotel made at the time in early 2014, and I have not seen either of the people involved since that time. A month or so later I discovered that I had been blocked by the walker on Twitter, so I emailed her again to apologise and reiterate that I had had too much sun.

I may be useless at some things, but I can recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration, having suffered from both before. The other walker was criticised by the people at the hotel at the time for not coming with me. Her decision left me quite hurt but, because she had offered to take me out, I spared her blushes by not discussing what had happened on social media for over two years. Sadly I now realise that saying nothing has given this couple the opportunity to claim that they know me far better than they do and to spread malicious untruths about me within the outdoor community while I was doing my M.A. This caused me to withdraw from the TGO Challenge 2017.

I don’t tend to gossip and I didn’t know how to respond to any of this unpleasantness after my course but I began writing this blog, which is dedicated to my mum, for pleasure, and this is still being marred by the reactions of this couple over three years later. So reader beware of apparently kind offers from strangers on Twitter which can turn toxic.

My own appraisal of the day.

For what it’s worth, my own appraisal of that day is that I was affected by the sun because it was a bright & sunny day and I had been indoors all winter. I had not taken a sunhat as I thought it was too early in the year to need one, but this was the wrong decision. I had also recently abandoned my rucksack hydration system with a hose because several had leaked whilst I was camping. Instead I had put a 1.5L plastic bottle of water in the back pocket of my rucksack, which meant that I had to stop and take my rucksack off whenever I wanted a drink. During the course of that day I only did this once or twice at the most which caused me to become dehydrated.

March 2017.

I have since taken advice regarding the problems I have been having with this couple and reported them. When I tried to post a link to this post on the walker’s partner’s blog, it was deleted and I was threatened with legal action for slander and libel. The advice I have been given is that something cannot be libellous or slanderous if it is true which it is, and so.

wasdale
Camping in Wasdale

Anyway, to return to the much more interesting present, and to answer some questions, the main reasons that I haven’t wild camped again until recently are:

  • I have been completing an M.A. for the last year
  • I have been trying to support my father
  • I have no car
  • I am an assault survivor which still makes me afraid of some situations.
  • I was really put off wild camping after the trip I have just described

I would prefer not to be defined by things that have happened to me in the past, so forgive me if, having explained this, I now focus on my outdoor activities, hoping that I can now do this in a less censorious and more supportive atmosphere. Apologies to my readers for having to use my blog to counter gossip rather than just write about the outdoors which is all I really want to do on here.

Thanks very much to the people who have stopped by since I first published this post in December of 2016. It really does mean a huge amount to me.

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