Saturday, 6 December 2014

Yet another Sad Farewell

Goodbye to another pair of boots, these ECCO boots were the most comfortable by far, the Yak skin uppers were soft and yet waterproof but at £140.00 it makes walking an expensive hobby!  I managed to squeeze out 1300 miles from this pair, so fairly well my old friends!!! I will miss you :)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Walk 196

Thrumster to Dunbeath 17.5miles

A hard frost overnight greeted me in the morning as I made my way out of Thrumster. I walked along a quiet road towards Mains of Ulbster passing by Loch Sarclet on the way.
The view towards Thrumster

The blue skies overhead were very welcoming after the last couple of days and as I scrambled my way over fences and fields towards Ulbster I was glad I didn't have to do this in the rain!  At Ulbster I picked up the very fast A99 taking me along to one of the bigger settlements at Lybster.
The Old A99
Once past Lybster I continued onto Latheron and then Latheron Wheel finally arriving in Dunbeath 1hour before my bus was due, a really nice long weekends walking and it will be June 2015 before I am back on the trail so I had to make the most of it!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Walk 195

John O Groats to Thrumster 31.5miles

It was drizzly and cold as I made my way down to the harbour at JOG, in my mind I had expected all sorts of emotions when I got to this point of the journey, but as I strolled down the hill towards the LEJOG signpost I felt very little in the way of happiness/elation I was just a bit disappointed.  I think the fact that I was the only one there may have had something to do with it, as I had no one to share with the news of my epic journey to this point.
The end or just the beginning
From JOG I followed the coast path making it up as I went along all the way to the lighthouse at Duncansby Head and then onto the stacks of Duncansby.
Duncansby Lighthouse

The Stacks of Duncansby
The going was really easy underfoot and this was coast walking at its best, the stacks were amazing and I wished I'd bought my "proper" camera with me so I could photograph them in more detail.


I continued on following the coast all the way to the road at Skirza, the going was tough at times but well worth it as after Skirza I came across Freswick bay with its lovely beach.
Freswick Bay

From Freswick bay I had to head inland and follow the A99 road for a few miles through Auckengill and Nybster and past the castle at Keiss.  Once I reached the Rough of Stain I was able to pick up the beach which by my reckoning was 3 miles long yippee!!
Keiss Castle and the beach in the distance!
I had noticed on my map that halfway along the beach there was a small river running into the sea, I thought no problem there are bound to be stones I can skip wrong could I be!!  So it was off with my boots and socks and gingerly I waded across the river and boy was the water cold!!!  Anyhow I made it across without any mishaps and used one of my t shirts to dry my feet and try and get some warmth back into them!
                At he end of the beach I picked my way through fields and roads eventually arriving at Ackergill Tower this in turn led onto the remains of Castle Sinclair.
Castle Sinclair
A good marked path from the castle took me around the lighthouse at Noss Head, unfortunately you cant get near the lighthouse as its a private residence so I had to make do with taking a photo from distance!
Noss Head Lighthouse
There was a sort of path which took me around the coast to Staxigoe and here I picked my way around the town of Wick.  I didn't like Wick as its grey and unwelcoming so I was glad I didn't have to stay there for the evening.  Once I was past Wick I picked up a path that took me to the Wick Castle remains here I followed the coast to Hembriggs which was tough going across boggy land.  At Hembriggs (and with the light fading) I walked the last few miles along the very fast A99 to my final destination of Thrumster.

Accommodation:  Thrumster Estates, Thrumster.  £50.00 BnB.  Fantastic place that has to be seen to be believed, so much history in one house I'd highly recommend it!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Walk 194

Dunnet to John O Groats 21.5miles

I'm back on the coast path after a 4 week rest and as I predicted the weather is a lot worse than when I was last here! The day starts with a very SLOW bus ride from Thurso to my start point, I was itching to get off the bus so much so I sat on the step by the front door 1/2 a mile before getting to my stop!  Once off the bus I made my way through Dunnet and headed for the pier at Darwick Head, this is where the unofficial path to Dunnet Head starts, there is no path marked on the map but its definitely there on the ground!
The Head of Man
I picked my way around the coast passing Dunnet Hill on my right and Chapel Geo, Red Geo and Ashy Geo on my left before finally arriving at the Dunnet Head Lighthouse and mainland Britain's most northerly point, this was my 4th and now full set of Cardinal Points and I must say it felt petty good to be standing there looking out at the Orkney's!!!!
No Caption needed for this picture!
I basked in my glory for a few minutes and then hit the road towards the village of Brough.  Once in Brough I turned left towards Scarfskerry passing St Johns Castle on the way.
St Johns Castle
The castles are in abundance in this part of Scotland and I was soon upon another after leaving Scarfskerry at Castle Mey.
Castle Mey
Just after East Mey I picked up the main A 836 road and this took me past the ferry port of Gills Bay and through Kirkstyle before arriving very wet at my bed for the night at John O Groats.

Accomodation: Seaview Hotel. Great location, very average Bed and Breakfast £55.00

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Walk 193

Thurso to Dunnet 11.5miles

It was the last day of my walking holiday and I had a relatively short walk to the far end of Dunnet beach.
              The morning was crisp and clear as I started today's walk and as I wandered along the sea front I reflected on what had been a fantastic 10 days of walking, I don;t think that I will be as lucky with the weather when I come back in October!
               After the sea front ended I had to negotiate the River Thurso but once across I scooted around the castle ruins at Thurso East.

Thurso Castle
After the Castle I had to make it up as I went along today and headed along the coast towards Murkle Bay. There were a few fences along the way and I immediately noticed that the residents of the fields had changed to the more Bovine variety!!!! Uh Oh!!!  The walk was quite tricky and overgrown in places and at one point I had to take a diversion onto the main road to avoid a large field of bullocks!
                          Once past Murkle bay I arrived at Castlehill with its various ruined buildings it all looked very interesting but unfortunately I had a bus to catch!  I headed for Dunnet Beach and walked its magnificent beach for 2 miles a great way to end 10 days of walking.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Walk 192

Stathy to Thurso 27miles

A bit misty as I made my way out of Strathy this morning but I was assured that it would burn off before the afternoon session of walking!
          I made my way along the main road and turned left towards Portskerra where I popped in to see Sarah and Bob and their new addition to the family at their home, I had first met Sarah at a BnB in Withernsea on my trek up the east coast of England so it was nice to catch up and eventually meet her husband.
          I walked out of Portskerra and followed the coast to the lovely beach at Melvich, here I had my first "do not use this bridge as it is unsafe" sign of the day but whats life without a little danger?  I picked up the main road again after Melvich and made my way to Reay and past the Nuclear Power Station at Dounreay.
Dounreay NPS
The roads had now become very flat which was a change for the better as the hills were starting to become a little tiring on the legs.  Once past Dounreay I headed for the coast at St Marys Well where I came across my second "do not use this bridge as it is unsafe" sign of the day, once again I ignored it and crossed safely, at this point I could just make out the Orkney Islands in the distance, this was a major milestone in my journey.  I followed the coast past Crosskirk, Ushat Heasd, Brims Ness and onto the quarry at Ness of Litter and out to Holborn Head.  Here are a selection of pictures.


I turned the corner at Holborn Head and picked up a well trodden track that took me down to the lighthouse at Scrabster, which has been converted into someones home and a lovely tearoom!
Scrabster Lighthouse
At Scrabster I picked up the main road again and that took me around the bay to Thurso and the end of today's fantastic, warm and stunning scenery day of walking.

Accommodation: The Weigh Inn Lodges. £35.00 BnB. A very big Motel on the outskirts of Thurso, not bad for the price though.

Walk 191

Bettyhill to Strathy 19 miles

I headed out of Bettyhill (downhill for a change!) towards Clachan turning left as I entered the village towards Farr. and its magnificent beach.
Farr Beach
Once past Farr I walked overland and via roads to Kirtomy, once past Kirtomy I picked up a track towards the ruin at Poulouriscraig once the track ran out it was wild walking time, which I must say I was really getting into more and more as this holiday went on! On route I came across Loch Tiormachd and I stood for at least 10mins staring at the sheer beauty of the stillness of the water, it was like I was hypnotised, strange really.
Loch Tiormachd
 I made my way to the track marked on my map at Poulouriscraig and followed it into Armadale.
Armadale Beach
I picked up the road in Armadale and this took me eventually around the bay to Fleuchary, here it was wild walking time and I followed the sheep tracks along the coast towards Strathy Lighthouse passing by Boursa Island on the way.
Boursa Island
I headed for the Trig Point at Aultivullin where I was able to see far and wide along the coast and it was just stunning.
Strathy Lighthouse from Trig Point
As I made my way past Totegan to the lighthouse I came across a natural arch cut out of the cliffs.
Totegan Arch
And finally I made it to the lovely lighthouse at Stathy point, there are Private Property sign up at the gate so I guess that someone has the privilege of living here, OK its a bit remote but in weather like today it would be a great place to live.
Strathy Lighthouse
Once I had visited the lighthouse then it was a straightforward road walk into Strathy and my bed for the night, a great days walk again.

Accommodation: Stathy Inn £50.00 BnB.  Some people should not be running a BnB as they give off a very unfriendly vibe the minute you walk through the door, and these people were "that" type !!!!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Walk 190

Tongue to Bettyhill 16miles

After 10 hours sleep I was suitably refreshed for today's relatively short walk to Bettyhill!
Castle Barriach
 I made my way around the Kyle of Tongue arriving eventually at Coldbackie, here I was able to cut across fields towards Skullomie but not before I stood for a few moments enjoying the beautiful bay at Coldbackie.
Coldbackie Bay
After passing through Skullomie the road ends and a distinct track takes over leading you towards Sletell passing by on your way the Rabbit Islands.
Rabbit Islands
Once passed Sletell I weaved in and out various small hamlets including Skerray, Achtoy and Torrisdale this lead me to the fabulous beach at Torrisdale Bay.
Torrisdale Beach
It was then just a case of negotiating the beach at Torrisdale which was difficult at times due to the sinking sands! and at Invernaver I picked up the A836 taking me all the way into Bettyhill, a thoroughly enjoyable days walk.

Accomodation: Bettyhill Hotel, Bettyhill £40.00 BnB.  Very nice hotel.

Walk 189

Durness to Tongue 30miles

A very long walk today along a single road the A838!! I walked out of Durness and stopped at Smoo Cave to take a few pictures, the water was so still this morning.
Smoo Cave
 I travelled a little further along the road passing through Leirinmore and arriving in Sangobeg with its superb bay.
Sangobeg Bay
I wound my way along Loch Eriboll eventually arriving in Laid and here I stopped at their Tea Rooms for morning tea with a slice of cake, I got chatting to a couple of men in the cafe and it turned out they were on a LEJOG walk which they started 16 years ago! it was fascinating to hear their story and even on this holiday they wasn't going to make it all the way to JOG!!
            I continued down and up the orther side of Loch Eriboll eventually arriving at Ard Neackie and the Lime Kilns built into a small hill in an island.
Ard Neackie
Just after Ard Neackie the road heads inland towards Hop and then a 2 mile hill from hell that seemed to go on forever!!! the road did flatten out eventually and I decided to get off the main road and use the "old road" which in places still runs parallel but its in a poor state.
The Kyle of Tongue
Finally the view I had been waiting for but I still had 4 long miles to go before I got to the BnB!!!

Accommodation: Varich View BnB, Tongue. Fantastic BnB run by Stuart and Belinda.  Stuart is very knowledgeable about the area and was a great help to me for the next days walk to Bettyhill

Walk 188

Kinlochbervie to Durness 26miles

A long day planned today but due to the MOD I was unable to walk up to Cape Wrath without the army taking pot shots at me!!!
           I made my way to Rhiconich at the junction with the A838 and started my walk towards Durness, the sun was already out and I had to apply a lot of suntan lotion as even though its mid September the sun still has a lot of strength left in it.
Kyle of Durness
The road wound its way through the glens and inevitably went up and came down yet another hill until I reached the mouth of the Kyle of Durness just before Sarsgrum.  A mile or so along the road and I took a left towards Keodale which is where you catch the ferry/minibus to Cape Wrath, I was surprised to see people waiting and then I saw the minibus! it turns out that you can still catch the minibus during MOD training but you cant walk across the ranges.  So I followed the track from Keodale and this was a superb walk taking me around the headland to Balnakeil Bay and its fantastic beaches.
Balnakeil Bay
Eventually I came to the village of Balnakeil, here I hopped onto the beach and it was my favourite type of walking and that was route one across 2 miles of beach towards Faraid Head.
Balnakeil BayBeach
The beach eventually ran out and I started to make my way across grass to the tip of Faraid Head, here I could see all the way to Dunnet Head the views were superb. I sat down for a while to contemplate my journey up the West coast of the UK as at this point I would be heading East and then South to my end point of Scarborough.  Once I had finished contemplating my journey I started on my way to Durness and the views were stunning as I made my way through the sand dunes at Flirum and on to Aodann Mor.
Fariad Head
I finally arrived in Durness at 5pm tired but very happy with today's walk, Durness is the UKs most northwesterly village!.

Accommodation: The Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse. Basically a youth hostel...enough said!!! £17.50

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Walk 187

Upper Badcall to Kinlochbervie 22miles

The day was a little overcast but with no sign of rain.  I scrounged a lift off my new American friends ( as it was a one way road and I already walked it yesterday I'm allowed this luxury) to the end of the road and said my farewells making my way along the busyish A road towards Scourie.
I had decided to do a a little off road walking today in order to get to the small hamlet of Tarbet, so a quick change of socks to my brand new Waterproof Sealskinz socks, which were having their first ever outing today!  I had bought these socks in order to cut down on blisters after getting wet feet from plodging about in Scottish bogs.  The 3 mile walk to Tarbet was just fantastic, wild walking at its best.  There was a fairly good track for the first 2 miles and then it was "make it up as you go along" time, I do find myself always gravitating to the highest point in front of me, which always gets me great views but is rarely the best route!
Loch Laxford
Tarbet is a small hamlet just off the Isle of Handa, there isn't much to the place other than a toilet and a pub but you can catch a ferry in summer to Handa so I guess it gets quite busy at that time of year.
            I made my way out of Tarbet up a very steep hill which then dropped down towards Fanagmore with a great view over Loch Laxford, turning right at the crossroads in this picture I continued up and down through Foindle eventually meeting up with A894.  The A894 wound its way around Laxford bay and then onto Rhiconich where I turned left towards Kinlochbervie.
The old Road at Rhiconich
Once I was off the main road I followed a single track to Kinlochbervie along the banks of Loch Inchard walking through Insegra and Badcall along the way.

Accommodation: 23 Inchard Place, Kinlochbervie. Nice BnB on a housing estate! Quite a weird set up really as you have a room in someones house that you all share with everyone!! Bizzare. £34.00 BnB

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Walk 186

Drumbeg to Upper Badcall (Nr Scourie) 22miles

I started the day with a picture from the viewpoint opposite the BnB, this is a great spot just to linger for a while and take in the breathtaking views.
Loch Dhrombaig
I stopped in Drumbeg for supplies and was interested to hear people passionatly discussing the up coming Independence Referendum, I had passed quite a few houses in the last few days flying the "Yes" vote flag there definatley was a lot of love for Independence in the Highlands.
                 A few miles down the road from Drumbeg is the village of Nedd tucked away amongst the forest, the road by now was climbing and falling at a fast rate and I had to stop for a breather at some of the big hills!
Loch Nedd
This was really hard tiring walking up and down these hills, but finally the B869 met up with the much bigger A894 which was at least a little flatter for a while!  This took me into Unnapool where I stopped for Tea and Cake with a view over Loch Glencoul, the tearoom also doubled up as a Doll Museum which was fasinating such a great collection, but sadly due to the owners retirement the museum was closing at the end of the seaon and a lot of the collection had already been sold.
Kylesku Bridge
Just along the road from Unapool was Kylesku with its great road bridge this climbed slowly to Kylestrome and then up to the viewpoint overlooking both villages.
Kylestome Viwpoint
The road continued through Duartmore Forest and on to Lower Badcall where I decided to turn left and try to follow a track marked on the map to Upper Badcall, however after 2 fruitless attempts to locate the track I gave up and continued up the road turning left at Loch An Daimh Mor towards my final destination at Upper Badcall.

Accommodation: Stonechats, Upeer Badcall. Nr Scourie £45.00 BnB. A lovely quiet BnB with No TV, No Internet and No Phone Signal! Its run by Ron who is a real character!!!