Distance: 29km, ascent 468m
As usual, when I had a phone signal, I checked the weather forecast. A short period of rain was forecast for the middle of the day, otherwise not too bad. Dave W had been at the camp site and was going to walk to Ballater too, so we decided to walk together. His route was along the A93 but I suggested that my route via the Lion’s Face avoided a bit of road walking and might be better.
It was a good choice and a delightful little walk, although, all too soon, it was over and we were back on the main road. Briefly we met up with another Challenger (sorry forgotten name) and then we left for a track through the Balmoral Estate.
The tracks and forest made for a very pleasant stroll in the dappled sunshine. Here and there were various historical curios.
As we approached Balmoral Castle, the clouds thickened and it started to spot with rain. We went round the back to the cafe. Inside it was packed, so we sheltered from the rain under a convenient overhang. Dave went in to get some tea and coffee. While the rain was light, it showed no signs of stopping, so we hefted our packs and left.
Yet again, my umbrella showed its worth, keeping me dry yet ventilated. Fortunately, after about half an hour the rain petered out. By this time we were back to road walking along the B967. Although not very exciting, there was hardly any traffic.
As road walks go, this was quite pleasant with virtually no traffic.
A little way beyond Littlemill, there was a strange house with the front garden full of gnomes and toadstools.
We kept up a brisk pace and by 4 o’clock we were in Ballater. I was staying at the Alexandra Hotel, while the other two were going to the campsite, so we parted company.
After checking in, the first task was to do a proper resupply shop in the much bigger Co-op in Ballater. I managed to get most of what I wanted.
Back in the hotel I had a bath and then used the bath water to wash some socks and base layers. In the bar I met Dave H (eventually), with whom I’d arranged to walk the last three days to Stonehaven. After a fine meal in the restaurant, it was off to bed and a good sleep before the final leg of the Challenge.