Posted by: natsevs | August 31, 2010

Kirtomy to John O Groats

I managed to eat a while pack of cookies as well as the usual porridge as i packed up in the morning. The overnight rain soon turned to sun as I made my way over a boggy valley and up the other side. I was greeted with views down to Armadale and across th coast. More bog led to a track leading onwards, although that disappeared and reappeared a few times before getting down to Armadale. From the road I got onto and along the beach before climbing up the other side onto the cliffs. There was a surfer out in the sea and a few people wandering along the beach too. I stuck to the cliffs on the other side as I made my way towards Strathy point. Everything was looking pretty in the sunshine as I walked along fields with sea stack, arches and islands to my left. An old farmer repairing a gate didn’t seem to mind me walking through his land although he wasn’t exactly friendly. After a while a gully blocked my way and I headed in to the road which I kept to for a bit before cutting across peat land to the car park for Strathy Point.

       After a sandwich, I left my bag there to walk the mile or so out to the lighthouse. To my right were views of Dunnet Head and the Orkney islands. The lighthouse was really nice and looked as though it was lived in although it may be a holiday rental or something. There were a few people on the point with a telescopic camera obviously after dolphins but I didn’t see any unfortunately. Back at the car park I picked up my bag ad headed down the main road along the other side of the headland. Apart from taking a loop off to cover the coast better, I was on main road all the way to Melvich. Before heading to the campsite though I went out along Portskerry road via a half decent shop. Once out to the end I looped round and back along a coast path into the bay. From the beach I headed over the dunes and down the road to the campsite. It was only £5 and had a pub right next door so I gave in to temptation and post-noodles had some chips and a beer or 2. 

      A few people had mentioned that the northern lights should be visible during the night but disappointingly i wasn’t treated to clear skies. When I woke up I heard someone banging on about skin so soft. It wasn’t much of a surprise then to open the tent to swarms of midges and unfortunately my citronella candle had expired. They started gathering and my tent started really heating up. Eventually I was forced out to finish the packing out of the heat, but regretted it immediately. I headed straight off back up the road to the beach to cross the river to Bighouse. It really is just a big house. The road took me uphill then to the start of a very neglected track. The going was boggy with the occasional pool to negotiate, before I rejoined the main road. This runs parallel to the coast running past delights like the decommisioned nuclear plant at Dounreay.

       It was kind of sunny, so pleasant enough walking, although a dark cloud followed me all day making sure I kept the pace up. Towards the end of the day I took myself off the road through farmland to get to the cliffs. I was glad I had. The cliffs were sheer with spectacular views out over endless sea, as well as across to Dunnet head and Orkney were pretty good too. There was a good wind going as well which added to the mood. At the corner was a path into Scrabster from where I joined a road round the bay into Thurso. I got some tea and supplies at the supermarket then went to find the hostel via a liitle shop for milk. The hostel was above a chip shop providing quite a temptation. I had my tea and played about on the internet which was free then went to make a milkshake to find the milk I had just bought was very much off. That and some text encouragement persuaded me to get some chips. 
    I got up at 7 and headed to the empty kitchen to enjoy the free breakfast of cereal and toast. At half 8  I was ready but waited until 9 to set off as I didn’t want to be too keen. The streets were empty as I made my way out of town. I crossed the river then carried on past what’s left of the castle, surrounded by warehouses and industry. The road became a path which took me through fields, to a track and ultimately to a tiny road. I followed the road and tracks to Castletown then got onto a path behind the dunes of Dunnet bay beach. Coming onto the path is a sign telling visitors about the ongoing radiation checks on the beach thanks to Dounreay. A foreign guy asked me if it was safe to be there when I was further along, he obviously wasn’t worried enough not to be there though. When the path disappeared I joined the road the rest of the way to Dunnet.

       Through the village I took a small road to it’s end then headed out along the pathless coast to the point of Dunnet head. It was quite boggy going with a fair few lochs around. Whilst going round one loch the ground disappeared beneath my right foot and my entire leg went down a hole. Added to the shock was a nice pool of water in the hole soaking my leg to the knee. My foot didn’t even hit the bottom so who knows how deep it was. I pulled myself out and carried on. It was taking longer than I would have liked, but at 2.40pm I reached the most northern point of my journey. I didn’t have much time to enjoy it though because I still had a fair way to go that day. I took the road down the other side of dunnet head to Brough. It was 3.45 and a sign said john o groats was still 12 miles away by road.

      Further along the road a nice clear path came off towards the coast. I took that only to find it was only clear for about 5m then it got really overgrown mostly with nettles. For some reason I didn’t go back to the road and instead tried to avoid getting my bare shins stung. As a result of this avoidance I  fell over and stung my arms as well as my legs! When I met the road again I stuck to it until taking a track past the Castle of Mey. Whilst approaching the track I saw a police car parked up which I thought odd out there. The officer waved me over to the window and asked where I was headed and what route I was taking. It turns out Prince Charles was in the castle but the policeman said he’d radio through that I was ok to go past. I later regretted not giving him a sponsor card to pass onto Charles. After that it was a 2 hour slog along roads to John O Groats arriving at 7.15 taking my days walking past 10 hours. I was knackered but put up the tent quickly in the campsite as a sign said a food van was open til 8. The sign lied. It was closed, but as I was in the harbour I took the customary photos to match my lands end ones. The place itself is just as disappointing as lands end but a lot busier. A load of cyclists arrived as I milled about all shouting and excited so I made my way back to my tent for my noodles.


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