A Recce of the Two Inns Hill Race Route

Firstly, I just want to say that this was Andrea’s idea. So any complaints from the other half are purely self imposed.

The Two Inns Race will be on August 10th. I have been in contact with the organiser and it will be pre-entry.

The race is 24kms with 1770m climb and as it is a fairly new race and I wanted to start my longer distance training, Andrea’s idea of popping over to recce it seemed like a good idea. Thankfully Cap’n Carl was keen to come along which meant that we did not have to cycle between the start/end points.

For context, here is a comparison with some of our other favourite long races 🙂

Stuc a`Chroin Hill Race: 22kms, 1500m

Ochil 2000s: 31km, 1200m

Two Breweries: 30km, 1500m

Pentland Skyline: 26.6km, 1890m

More details here: http://www.scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceDetails.aspx?RaceID=RA-0256

Race route map: http://penicuikharriers.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/RA-0256-main.jpg

Race route profile: http://penicuikharriers.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/TIprofile.jpg

The race starts on the west coast half way between Oban and Ballachulish at the Creagan Inn. The route goes basically north-east with the finish line near the Clachaig Inn in Glencoe.

The first 2.5 kms is the longest continuous climb of the race. There is no path and the best thing to do is simply set a compass bearing and follow that. The beginning was not clear and we went under the old railway bridge and clambered through an old farm (this apparently is about correct). There is a gate through the wall after about 0.5km. After that, the route winds its way upwards through a rocky/heather scrubby landscape. We took our time and reached the first peak (checkpoint 1 – Beinn Churlain) in about an hour (not race speed  might add!). By this time we were well into the cloud and so started Andrea’s navigation lesson (a few minutes from me, and the rest of the day from Carl :-)). If you Google around for reports from 2011 when the race was last ran, the weather was atrocious and many people got lost. However, I would say that this route follows a ridge for most of the way and it is actually quite easy to navigate – if you are careful. Also, from Beinn Churlain the route is “marked” by a mixture of old and new fences. They are not always the most direct route, but will get you there so long as you know which fence to follow when a couple join from different directions. The 1:50 000 map on the SHR website does not show the fence, but the 1:25 000 map does.

The next 7kms is a bouncy undulating route (no real track) through a potentially very boggy part of the Highlands. Beinn Mhic na Ceisich is a steepish climb at ca. 7.5kms although for those in the know, you could probably save a little time by missing out the fence corner and cutting NE a little early. Despite our dry summer, the terrain was still damp. However, for those who have run the 3rd quarter of the Ochill 2000s, I did not think this section was too bad. It could be a nightmare after a week of rain though.

The route from Beinn Mhic na Ceisich to checkpoint 2 is quite pleasant (more bouncing bog) for about 2.5 kms, but the ascent up Fraochaidh (checkpoint 2) is pretty hellish although we were graced by a heard of deer which made it all look way too easy. Up to this point, the race route did not have any paths. Fraochaidh, 11kms into the route, is the high point of the whole route (ca. 860m) and from here on, it is mostly downhill. Whey hey – we thought!! From Fraochaidh the route abruptly turns right (eastwards) and morphs into a nice ridge with some evidence of a track. I think we would all agree that this was the best and most enjoyable section of the race route. Very runnable and not too rocky. By this point, I think Andrea was flagging a little and my knees had started to hurt from all the stop/starting – much better to keep moving! The weather also started to clear up while we ran this section, so all of a sudden we were out of the mist and could see quite a bit of the route (forward and backwards). Although there was some ascent up to checkpoint 3, the route is generally down for most of the way from  Fraochaidh to the woodlands half way between checkpoints 3 and 4. After checkpoint 3, what little path existed almost disappears again but there is enough of a path to make it easier than running simply through the heather. The ascent up to checkpoint 4 (Sgorr a’ Choise) is not too steep and is nice and rocky. Again, as with most of the race, there is the remains of an old fence to follow if you cannot find the track.

The descent to the SE from checkpoint 4 (Sgorr a’ Choise) and is initially steep! My knees by this point were screaming and it was a rather ungainly hobbly affair. The route then flattens for a while until you stumble up another minor hump (Meall a’ Bhuige). There is now only 1.5 kms down to the final valley track. However, we continued along the same SE line and the terrain was a horrible hummocky mess with hidden holes. It was a nightmare. The trickiest terrain of the whole race and I was reduced to walking DOWN. Looking at the map now, I think it MIGHT be quicker to take a route a few hundred meters north and countour around Meall a’ Bhuige. I might be wrong though!

Once down into the valley, the route joins a track which continues for 2kms (with a slight detour through a field around some private land) until the main A82 through Glencoe. It is not clear where the actual finish line is, but from reading past reports, I think it is the old visitor centre car park. Linda, the race organiser says, “At the end of the race you run down the Glen Leac Na Muidhe farm track until just past the farm sheds then the route diverts onto a walkers path (I will probably put some tape on this section too) thereafter you have to run through a hill park which is not particularly pleasant, navigate to a wooden foot bridge and across an even less pleasant field full of tussocks and ditches to a style opposite the An Torr car park“. So – sounds like one last trial for the old legs before the end. I just know I will cramp up on that style!

I have had a few days to think about whether I liked the route or not. Ignoring my knees, most of the route is no worse than any other race, although the lack of tracks for most of the route will slow your times a little if you’re trying to compare yourself with a Skyline time for example. I believe the hardest part will be the last 5-6 kms after checkpoint 4.

Am I going to run on August 10th. Of course I am – if for nothing else but for the nice feed at the Clachaig at the end.

Rob [Andrea and Carly]

UPDATE from Linda: The finish line is right outside Clachaig as per year 1, we had to change it in year 2 as the foot bridge from An Torr to Clachaig was closed. It is a path and there will be tape to help you through the last section.

You are right to highlight the lack of water on the course and I am going to point this out to runners it is worth carrying some.

Look forward to seeing a Penicuik team there, excellent men’s team prize in the form of beer from the Colonsay Brewery if you need more than a pint from Clachaig as an incentive!

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    3 comments on A Recce of the Two Inns Hill Race Route

    1. Pingback: Two Inns Race: The Ultimate Pub Crawl? | Penicuik Harriers Running Club

    2. Carl says:

      I’m with Andrea on this! Some great photos, Rob, but you’re nae foolin’ my memory lobes – good luck with the actual race! I’ll be thinking of you! 🙂

    3. Andrea Wilson says:

      Why would anybody do this to himself? The only fun part (besides getting orienteering lessons from Carl) is hopping over the spungy bogs, but by August the typical summer rain will have set in, so these will be hellish too. If I hadn’t already booked my flight abroad, I’d definitely book it now.

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