Monday, 11 May 2015

Walk 204

Munlochy to Balloch 14.5miles

I was trying to walk to Inverness Airport today so I could catch my flight home, but due to the bad weather I fell short by a couple of miles :(

Kessock Bridge
It was a nice day as I made my way out of Munlochy, I took a right turn to Bayhead with the idea of walking around the bay via a few tracks marked on the map, this soon descended into farce as the track I was following suddenly ended and I had to back track on myself eventually rejoining the road some 1/8mile away from where I had left it!!! I was soooooo angry, why do they bother printing the tracks on a map when they don't even exist !!!!  I made my way disgruntled towards North Kessock via a wildlife park just before Drumsmittal, bizarrely this park houses Zebras!! in the middle of Scotland!!!
The view form the Kessock Bridge
  So I eventally crossed the bridge into Inverness and taking a quick detour around and past Inverness Calli Football ground I picked up the A96, the first 2 miles to the retail park were ok to walk along because there was a path (hardly supprising!!), but just after the path ran out things got really scary! I have walked along a lot of roads in Scotland but this one has to be by far the worst, things were made worse by the rain coming in just after Culloden and it was with regret that a mile or so up the road I spotted a bus going in my direction and stuck out my hand!!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Walk 203

Munlochy to Cromarty 21.5miles

Due to the buses not running on a Sunday until 11.55am I decided to do today in reverse!  The day was very drizzly as I made my way out of Munlochy on the A832, fortunately the road was quiet because it was Sunday morning! I decided to take a more sedate road into Avoch turning right at Corrachie.
Like all seaside towns the picture I took would look a lot better had the sun been shining!. So I made my way out of Avoch (pronounced Och!) towards Fortrose, the road itself is busy but talk about narrow! I had to hold my breath on a couple of occasions!!!  Eventually I made it to Fortrose and I decided to walk all the way our to Chanonry Point because I can't resist a lighthouse!!! And what a fine example it was too!!!

Chanonry Point Lighthouse
I had to leave the lighthouse eventually and I made my way along Chanonry Ness where you are flanked by a golf course on either side of the road, so it was a case of keeping my wits about me so as not to get hit by a low flying golf ball!!  The next village was Rosemarkie where I stopped for my first ice cream of the week!
I got chatting with the owner of the cafe and they told me I could walk along the coast to Hillockhead and then cut inland to pick up the minor road to Cromarty, so I tootled off along the very nice path and a mile or so later the said path just ended!!! the cliffs were high at this point but I could see a way up to the top so off I went, eventually I made it to the top and after a couple of false starts I manged to find the road.  Once I was on the road I made good time as I was aware that I had to catch the last bus back to Munlochy!  The road was giving me great views over Inverness Bay. Just before I reached the A832 I took right hand turn with the idea of taking a look at the Sutors Stacks but when I arrived at the coast they were no where to be seen! The final mile of the walk was along a great path which hugged the coast all the way into Cromarty and my bus back to Munlochy.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Walk 202

Alness to Cromarty 25.5miles

After a refreshing nights sleep I was ready for another long slog today, this was to be day 2 of the enforced walk around Nigg bay due to the fact that the Nigg to Cromarty ferry not running.
I had decided to stick to the cycle path as I walked out of Alness and a few miles down the road I came across a bird sitting on the path, I expected the bird to fly away but no! he was too busy having a kip and I managed to get a great close up picture of him!  The cycle path takes you around Alness Bay eventually running out at Drummond where you have to pick up the very busy A9, a few miles down the road and I was crossing the Cromarty Firth at last!!!! Hooray!!
The view from the bridge across Cromarty Firth
Once over the bridge I took the very quiet B9169 which took me through Elan Vannin and onto Balbair eventually joining up with the B9163.
View Across Cromarty Firth
The views were fantastic looking across Cromarty Firth and for the first time in a couple of days I was glad to be walking around the bay instead of taking the ferry.  As I made my way through Jemimaville I glanced behind me and noticed the storm clouds gathering, I still had around 5 miles to go to Cromarty would I make it in time before the rain came.........the answer like most other times was a resounding NO, about 1 mile away from Cromarty the heavens opened and I got soaked!!!  I managed to find a cafe in Cromarty to try and dry off before catching the bus to my overnight stay in Munlochy.

Accommodation: Orcadia BnB, Munlochy £35.00 A room in someones house.  A really nice couple who looked after me with tea and cakes

Friday, 8 May 2015

Walk 201

Nigg To Alness 15miles

Compared to the last few days today's walk was nice and easy.

The view across from Nigg Bay
The weather was set fair and the views were spectacular as I made my way around the Sands of Nigg.  I followed the very quiet B9175 all the way to Arabella where I picked up an even quieter road taking me to Kildary and then onto Milton.
Nigg Bay from Barbaraville
I picked up the B817 in Milton which lead onto Kilmuir and then Barbaraville which was dead opposite where I had started walking this morning....ah the joys of estuaries!!!  The road finally took me through Invergorden and onto Alness.  Overall quite a dull day walking wise but the views of the snow capped mountains made up for the lack of fun

Accommodation: Station Hotel, 94 High St. Alness £30.00 BnB. A great value hotel with a nice restaurant downstairs

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Walk 200

Portmahomack to Nigg 26miles

Tarbatness Route

A cold biting wind whipped off the sea as I made my way out of Portmahomack, but at least in was sunny! There is no path marked on the map up to Tarbatness Lighthouse but so many had walked this route that there was a worn track all the way!  Eventually the magnificent red and white lighthouse came into view and she was a beauty!
Tarbatness Lighthouse
I much prefer the "classic" red and white painted lighthouse, fortunately ( for Somebody) this is someones residence so I could only get a look at the outside. I eventually made my way from the lighthouse towards Rockfield, there is a good signposted path all along the bottom of the cliffs taking me eventually to Balintore and a very big milestone in my journey as I had made it to 4000 miles, I celebrated with a sandwich and a change of socks!!!! 
Glenmorangie House
After Balintore I took the road passing through Shandwick, Pitcalnie, Nigg and finally the Nigg Ferry, unfortunately for me the ferry only runs from 1st June, so I had a rather long detour over the next few days to get to the other side of the Cromarty Firth!!!!

Accommodation: Lower Pitcalnie BnB, Nr Nigg  Very pleasant BnB with a great view over the garden, I also had the Evening meal option as there is no where else to eat!! £45.00 B,B and E

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Walk 199

Dornoch to Portmahomack 21miles

A dull miserable start to the day greeted me as I boarded the bus from my accommodation in Tain to Dornoch.  Once in Dornoch I followed a small road towards the beach with the intention of walking around the bay as far as possible, but as I made my way along the beach a small but deep river blocked my path and I was forced to walk inland.
Dornoch Beach

Once I was off the beach I found myself walking along the same road back towards town! I eventually found a quiet route out of Dornoch passing through Eaglefield and Lonemore before finally meeting up with the A9 and the walk across the windy Dornoch Firth Bridge.  The A9 eventually led me to Tain but thankfully it branched off in a different direction as I made my way past Morrich More.
Tain in the distance!
  The road now was very quiet and that was such a relief after the last few days, the rain had only been light and patchy and as I entered Portmahomack I was seriously glad that todays milage was a third less than yesterdays!
Portmahomack is a lovely little village but like a lot of these sorts of places the tourist season is very short and as I was the only one in the pub on a wet Wednesday afternoon you can only feel sorry for their predicament.

Accommodation: Station Hotel, Tain £25.00 room only. A nice hotel/pub but I wouldn't recommend staying here on a weekend as they have their own underground nightclub that stays open V late

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Walk 198

Helmsdale to Dornoch 31miles

A very long walk today with a 6.30am start to try and avoid the rain forecast to arrive at around 3pm.  The A9 and the railway track both hug the coast as you walk towards Portgower, this meant that I could pack in a few miles as the going is very easy on tarmac, but not necessary for your feet!  I could see a beach in the distance that looked inviting and I assumed that this was Brora.
Brora Beach
At Clinemilton I managed to hop over the railway track and fumbled over the rocks onto the magnificent beach that took me all the way to Brora, like a lot of the beaches in east Scotland there was yet another golf course running parallel!
Brora Clock Tower
                 As I was making good time I stopped in Brora for breakfast, also it allowed me to borrow from the kind lady who runs the cafe a charger for my phone as mine had stopped working the night before which was going to cause a bit of a problem for me on a 8 day trip.  Once fed I carried on to Dunrobin and its fantastic castle, I could just make out the castle from the top of the drive but I didn't have time to go and investigate further, so I settled with taking a pic of one of the towers on the outside of their grounds.
Dunrobin Tower

The whole problem with not having a charger was starting to bug me a little, I thought that if could only find a hardware shop in one of the bigger villages I was passing through then I might get lucky and they might have a charger............walking into Golspie the first shop on my left was a hardware shop! AND they had a charger for my phone, I really could not believe my luck!!!!
                  Just after Golspie I picked up a minor road that takes you eventually to Littleferry (NO FERRY!) just before Littleferry I ducked into Balbair Woods and made my way to Kirkton so I could cross the railway line safely.  I linked up with the A9 again and this took me across Loch Fleet on a bridge called The Mound (!) once across the bridge I started to feel a few spots of rain, how could this be it was only 1pm! had the weatherman got it wrong again? I quickly donned my waterproofs and started on the journey around the south bank of Loch Fleet, fortunately I had picked up a very minor road that runs parallel for part of the way with a disused railway line.
                     The minor road ran through Skelbo Street, Fourpenny and on past Embo eventually arriving in Dornoch, where I had my second bit of fortune today as the bus I was to catch was stuck behind a coach  so I made a dash for it and caught it just in time.....oh I fell asleep within 5 mins of being on the bus, it had been a long 9 hour walk need I say more?

Accommodation: Station Hotel, Tain £25.00 room only. A nice hotel/pub but I wouldn't recommend staying here on a weekend as they have their own underground nightclub that stays open V late

Monday, 4 May 2015

Walk 197

Dunbeath to Helmsdale 14.5miles

After a 7 month absence from my coast walk I couldn't wait to get going again.... but I had an 8 hour journey to my start point!.  I arrived at Dunbeath just after 5pm, I was hoping to make it to Helmsdale before it got dark but I had forgotten to factor in that Scotland in May gets darker a lot later than Devon!

Looking back to Dunbeath
The weather had also decided to play ball and it was a barmy evening in NE Scotland.  I had a big hill to climb out of Dunbeath that seemed to go on forever but at least I was fresh and raring to go! I soon made it to the top and was rattling through the villages of Borgue and Newport these eventually led onto Berrisdale, now I thought the hill out of Dunbeath was steep but the one into and out of Berrisdale is something else! you know its steep when it has a gravel "escape" lane for cars at the bottom!!
             The rest of the journey was a little up and down and skirted around the village of Badbea, I arrived at 9.15pm and it was still light (phew!) but it was still light at 10.15pm so I needn't have worried about the time. :)

Accommodation: Helmsdale Hostel £19.00.  I was attracted to this Hostel because of having single beds instead of Bunks. It was very clean and very comfortable....for a hostel!