A good long night's sleep was just what my feet needed to recover from their prunish state. My shoes were still rather wet and my socks were not in the best of shape but my feet were happy once again. I had taken a lovely shower the night before (ah good water pressure and a normal sized towel that is provided by Mar Lodge, such a step up from a hostel bunkhouse) and I was ready for the day. I wandered out into the cool overcast morning and strolled over to the main building. That stroll yesterday felt like it took so much longer. Just goes to show what a good rest can do and the absense of pain doesn't hurt things either. My only concern was that I had left my rainwear in my room and it sure looked like it was going to open up on pour. I reached the main building before that happened. Finding a few other Challengers having cereal, toast, juice (none for me as it seemed to be gone) and coffee in the spacious kitchen I settled down to join them for a lazy breakfast. Had I a chance to do it again I would spend the extra couple pounds and get the full cooked breakfast even though Braemar is only a scant handful of klicks away. I was not in any great rush. When I did return to my room to pack up I found Jeremy, a first time Challenger who had started near his home village located not far from Torridon, also getting ready to depart. Just as we were set to leave the rains did arrive. It seemed silly to leave the dry warmth of the bunkhouse entrway and the reasonably comfortable couch for the pouring rain and a road walk into Braemar. After all the walk would only take an hour or two and the rain would probably pass by quickly. We waited. Our patience was rewarded in fairly short order and sometime around 10:00 we left the bunkhouse and began the 0.4 mile walk out of the grand Mar Lodge estate to the road that would take us into Braemar.
Photo: Stiles are rare over here. More often than not you have to figure out how to open up a gate in a fence and the locks seem to vary with every gate. Once in a while you might find a kissing gate that you simply have to squeeze through. Stiles like this are a nice change but they could be a bit better too. For example, they often seem short a step on each side - that is unless you are long-legged like Jeremy who took this photo.
We walked down the road until we came to the parking lot that gives one access to the paths in the Morrone Birkwoods. These paths wind around a small forest among hills that overlook Braemar. We entered the woods and soon found a large beaver dam amongst the forest tracks. It was a far better way to work our way towards the town than the direct but tedious road walk. We negotiated a couple fences and stiles and soon found our way to a great overlook. I am not actually sure what the name of this spot is though I am sure it is named and it is definitely popular.
Photo: I am not sure what the name of the lookout here is but the view on a clear day most be wonderful.
When we walked down into Braemar Jeremy and I split apart. He went to find the campground and I wandered into the tourist information office to see if a B&B was available. I found one and ended up paying a rather high price for it. This brings up a sore point with me. I understand paying a bit more for a double room (that is a room with a double bed) than a single but paying twice as much is excessive. What irks me a bit more is the way the room rate was explained lead me to think it was considerably less than it was and when this came up the lady behind the desk in her attempts to apologize ended up making me feel as though it was my fault. Annoying.
I found my B&B and then went back down to the Fife Arms to see who was around. I found a few Challengers present including Alan and Phil and SHirl (Sloman, Lambert, and Worrall) with a few others. We shared some drinks and then a game of team pool. The rules were a bit different from what I know and I almost made a couple mistakes like trying to make a shot using the other teams orange (we were red) balls to sink a red ball. Though Alan and I lost to Phil and SHirl we did not do badly. We all had fun. But all good things have to end and these three veteran Challengers had to get going to cover the kilometers to get to their next port of call - Callater Lodge I think for all of them. Once they left, it was mid-afternoon by this time, things seemed awfully dead. I had nothing to do.
Photo: A look at the quiet street my B&B is just off. It is a quiet early evening here in Braemar.
I know other Challengers were in town and you would think I would have been able to find them in the usual watering holes but I could not. I did not check out the hostel or campground and maybe they were all hanging out in those places. I ended up having a quiet bite at the nice chiipy shop (they always seem to have a horde of motorcycles parked in front) and then I went back to my B&B for the night. Even though I know at least two other Challengers are here, Lou and Phyllis, I haven't seen hide or hair of them. I guess I will just settle in for bed. I kind of wish I was elsewhere. It's too long in this town with no one to share time with and I feel as though I've spent too much money. I don't mind spending money if I get something good out of it in terms of time spent with others or finding something cool in the town but that isn't really happening this time around.
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