Posted by: natsevs | November 1, 2010

Stonehaven to Dundee

I was thankful it hadn’t rained during the night and after a few trial runs I woke up proper at 8. By 9.20 I was heading out into a miserable looking day. I got some food for the day in the town then continued on through to the cycle route up and out.

At the top of the climb out was a path to Dunnottar castle with a few people on it. The castle was impressive but I wasn’t about to pay to go in. From there I had to walk roads trying to stick as close to the coast as possible. The path to the castle was part of the Nave Nortrail which I had been in quite a lot but it seems that large portions of it have been abandoned and left to disappear. It was pretty boring until Inverbervie where there was path along the front on the old railway to Johnshaven.

That was a nicer walk and the sun even peeped out momentarily. There was more path after Johnshaven with a bit of road now and then. I got to a clifftop path which said it was closed because of landslides but I figured I’d risk it as I could always jump over into the fields behind if the path disappeared. The farmer had obviously anticipated that and put electric fence along the top of the wall. Luckily the path was all there, if a little thin at times, so I was ok.

I got to St Cyrus and took the steps down to the beach. I walked right along to the river and realised it was definitely not crossable on foot. It wasn’t much of a detour back on mybself to get in to the car park there and join the road. I had been tempted to stop and camp in the dunes but pressed on. The road was surrounded by fields but all of them had animals in. One had 2 dalmation patterned horses that caught my attention. Further on was a place calling itself Steptoes Yard Sale, and it was full of junk. It was all organised into sections around a huge area with all sorts on tables or spread around.

I got to the river and went over then climbed up onto an old railway bridge, the line onwards had Bern fenced off but badly so I carried on along there rather than on the road. When a field turned up on my left I climbed over into it then made my way to a gate. That took me into trees of a big house. There was a guy there who said hello, I thought he might have a go at me for tresspassing but was nice and told me a good camping spot by the sea. I walked on towards the sea and found a good spot by the forest edge. Whilst sat with the door open the guy rode up with his son on bikes. Appareny he’d felt guilty about not offering me anything so he’d come out with beer, water and cheesecake. He was a Dutch man called Ivo, the Dutch seem to be quite generous, especially with beer.

Despite waking up actually being a bit too hot, I slept quite well. After a sausage roll breakfast I began walking along the paths behind the dunes. After a golf course, I got into Montrose and walked through on the road. A bridge took me over a river on the opposite side and I made my way out along the harbour to the lighthouse at the end.

There was a path along the front to Mains of Usan before I was forced to use roads, following a cycle path much of the time. It was seriously dull. After a while I went out to the beach past Red Castle and ate my lunch on the dunes. Further down the beach there were cars parked on the sand with empty trailors. The occupiers had obviously been the jet skis tearing up the sea. At the end was a van with kite buggies as well so it’s obviously a popular beach for recreation. I took tracks and road to Ethie then path to Auchmithie. I was feeling tired and lazy so had a lie down in the grass for a bit. Not for too long though because Arbroath was looking to be further than I’d expected.

Between Auchmithie and Arbroath was a clifftop path. It was windy along there but easy going and a scenic walk. The cliffs were all red with plenty of character. There were loads of people out walking as I got closer to Arbroath. The popularity put me off any good camping spots. I got down to Victoria Park in Arbroath and was eager to get through and find a stop. I went past the football stadium and out along the esplanade. I ended up stopping in the dunes between the beach and railway and it was a little too windy for my liking.

The wind ensured I has chuff all sleep that night and I had to re-peg one end twice. I tried what I could with little success so I was knackered in the morning. It was actually fairly sunny but packing the tent was a challenge. I was walking through the dunes on a path right by the railway. When I sat down waiting for some energy to turn up I was jumped on by 3 over friendly dogs.

At the harbour at East Haven I came in under the railway and onto a cycle route along the roadside to Carnoustie. After a pit stop I walked out to the seafront to follow the esplande to the golf course. The tide was right in so there was no beach to see. Unfortunately Budden Ness was inaccessable as the flags to show shooting was happening were up. I had to carry on along the cycle way instead with the railway one side and firing range the other. I could hear the rifles going. I ate my lunch halfway along still with no energy. Monifieth was full of caravans but the walk through to Broughty ferry was a nice one.

The first thing I saw of Dundee was a massive oil rig towering ridiculousy high above the harbour. There were quite a few people taking photos of it. I carried on and in round the docks on the road and got to the Tay bridge quite early. I was staying with friends though so stopped and met up with Jill and her sons Andy and Phil. After having to do an interview and photos for the local paper we went to the pub for tea. I got a chilli burger on phil’s advice, the waitress said they’d put extra on and it certainly looked like it. It was a mountain with a bun on top but somehow I managed it.

Posted by: natsevs | November 1, 2010

Rattray Head to Stonehaven

After a good night’s sleep in the hostel I had breakfast and re-packed whilst listening to the radio. I made my way back out to the beach through the dunes where a nice morning sky was making the lighthouse look pretty impressive again. Further down the beach was the remains of a shipwreck sticking out from the sand that added to the character of that stretch of beach. A river came out through the dunes but the tide was right out so I was able to paddle through where it had spread right out and to be quite shallow.
As I came to Peterhead I had to come up off the beach to walk along the edge of the golf course to a bridge over a considerably more substantial river. A mixture of promenade and roads took me through Peterhead which was like walking through a town from the past. I diverted onto the high street to find some lunch but there wasn’t a single food shop in sight so I carried on along the road round the bay. Whilst walking along there, I came to a petrol station with a Spar shop. The worst Spar shop ever. It was over priced and under stocked and I ended up eating the rankest sausage roll I have tasted for my lunch.
Carrying on through the town, I came to a place called Boddam, a look in their local shop was equally fruitless so I still had chuff all for breakfast the next day. After a bit of road walking, a track took me to an old quarry, then there was a path along the cliff top to Slains Castle and ultimately to Port Errol. It was back to road walking out of there, ending up on quite a quiet country road surrounded by fields. There was however quite frequent farmhouses and not a single hedge in sight so discrete camping opportunities were non-existent. I eventually found a field without livestock in and a single gorse bush giving me some cover from the road.

Nobody came to move me on despite there being quite heavy tractor traffic going to and fro in the evening as well as the following morning. There was heavy condensation on my tent so everything was a little damp as I packed it away before taking the road onwards to Collieston. It was a really sunny day and Collieston was a nice place to pass through even if it had no shop. Out of there was a cliff path around Hackley Bay that then dropped down to dune level to head inland to the bridge over the river Ythan.
Once over the bridge, I walked along the roadside to Newburgh which was a pretty place but more importantly, had a half decent shop. I chomped down on a very welcome steak slice as I passed through a quite scenic Newburgh then went through the golf course, over the dunes and onto the beach. The beach was looking good in the sunshine and there were a few other people milling about, there was even a couple in the sea. After stopping for a little sit down, I continued along barefoot all the way to Aberdeen. It was a really long beach. The walking was really nice though and you could tell when you were passing where a town hid behind the dunes because there was suddenly a load of people on the beach. At one point there was a pool in the sand with terns circling above and diving down into it.
Near to Aberdeen, just after passing by a rifle range, a guy came the other way who I chatted to briefly. I got to Aberdeen at around 4.30 so had a sit down on the beach before coming in to the bridge into town with my boots back on. Once I had got most of the way down the esplanade I stopped and got some tea whilst I waited to be picked up by Richard, a family friend. The evening consisted of a home brew and a game of Balderdash.

I woke fairly early but slept on and off until half 8. I was dropped back off at the Fun Beach at 10 with the skies looking a lot cloudier than the previous day. The esplanade carried on down to Footdee where I had to head in round the docks. There was a bridge over another river then I walked out through fish docks towards the coast. The docks absolutely stunk, to the point where they actually made me feel quite ill. The road goes out past the golf course and along to a lighthouse at Girdle Ness.
Out of Nigg Bay I took the coast path for a good while. In places the path was quite good and the going was quite good, taking me all the way to Cove where I came in to the road around 1pm. From then on I followed the cycle path signs along the road, seemingly surrounded by quarries. There was the occasional bang as they obviously blew out a few more rocks. At Findon the map showed a path over to Portlethen so I went along the road that the path was supposed to come out of. At the end of the road I was surrounded by red/orange pods and warehouses. A sign told me I’d wandered onto a survival vessel (lifeboat) inspectors. I got a bit disorientated going through there but found the path out the other end, which was obviously not very well used as it was overgrown with nettles and brambles.
Once down the gully, over the stream and up the other side, the path was more open and I made my way out and round to Old Portlethen. There were tracks and paths from there through Downies and Newtonhill to Muchalls walking over ‘craig david’ in the process which amused me. It was onto the A90 out of Muchalls but there was a pathway at least so it wasn’t too bad. I came off down to Stonehaven bay and got to the campsite just before 6, where the guy who runs it told me I was lucky I’d got there when I did because they were closing, even though he lived on site. I thought he was joking but when a German campervan arrived around 8pm and knocked on his caravan door, he had a go at them for disturbing him and didn’t let them onto the site. What a businessman.
There was a Scottish family camping next door who I talked to for quite a while whilst the local kids shouted and got drunk on white lightning or something similar. I out my headphones in and listened to the radio to drown out the noise when I went back into my tent.

Posted by: natsevs | November 1, 2010

Portessie to Rattray Head

I had possibly the worst night of the walk camping in Portessie, probably worse than waking up in a puddle. I woke at half 2 to gales and hammering rain with the side of my tent tapping against my head as the whole thing bent and shook in the wind. The rain let off just to come back worse 2 seconds later, over and over again. Around 4, I went out to check the pegs were all in and secure and froze, then got back into the tent and secured the ropes that are supposed to help keep the tent sturdy.
Huddled in a ball in the centre of the tent I got minimal sleep until 6am when I finally gave in. The whole tent was shaking and the peg ropes had all loosened adding to the instability. I packed my bag whilst the tent walls battered me then got out to put the tent down. I had to go on a search for the tent bag, finding it under a static caravan, then I rolled up the tent roughly and ran with all my gear to the laundry. In there, out of the wind, I packed away the tent and did a better job of organising my bag before heading out into the fray once more at half 8 to set off.
I could barely see through the rain being blown straight at my face. Quite painfully actually. I got onto the path and quite often stopped to just stand with my back to the assault for a brief respite. When I got to a golf course I hid in a bunker and came to the decision that I would most definitely be staying indoors that night.
The path came to a town which I made slow progress through the continued out on an old railway turned cyleway. That route was briefly interrupted by a trip through Portnackie. The rain started to let off slightly but the wind remained as strong as ever. The railway went right to Cullen then there was regular path out along the front, then along beaches with intermittent climbs over to the next bay.
The path then switched to go up on top of the cliff where there is a viewpoint of Findlater Castle. When I reached Sandend the rain had stopped so I had a sit on the steps before going down into the village. After walking on a bit, having lunch and walking almost out the village I realised my phone was missing. I had left it at the top of the steps and was lucky to find it still there when I walked back. I didn’t appreciate the detour though.
Accommodation searches had been fruitless so I wasn’t feeling too happy. There was a mixture of road and cycle path from Sandend, through Portsoy to Whitehills where I got onto a path towards Banff. I found a b&b with a double room available but even single occupancy price, it was a bit dear so I wasn’t keen. Not until I got to the campsite where the only visible tent had only poles left of it and the wind was still going. I rang back and took the room and was very glad to spend a night with stationary walls

My phone had decided to set an alarm for midnight. I have no idea why and I wasn’t best pleased. Otherwise though, I slept well and was down for breakfast at half 8. It was pretty big breakfast and I had to have a 10minute lie down when I got back to the room whilst I digested it a bit. I was setting off at 10 after paying, with £10 knocked off to give to the Mammal Society.
The day was much better weather wise so I was hopeful things might be improving as I headed along the road to Macduff. There was more road out of there and as I was making my way towards Gardenstown I realised I still had the key to the B&B room in my pocket. Luckily when I rang the woman was ok about it and said I could post it back. There was a steep valley to go into and back out of before turning off to Gardenstown where I was able to get an envelope and post the key back.
I was staying on the roads around the peninsular there and round to Pennan getting a little too warm in my coat but every time I stopped the wind reminded me why I was wearing it. The view going down to Pennan was quite impressive but unfortunately I then had a really steep climb back out. Steep enough to finally take my coat off. Once at the top a track took me past a few farms to a small road out past Dundary castle and Egypt, according to my map.
Finally I got to Rosehearty which was a strange place as it seems quite new but the houses have been made to look old. The campsite wasn’t fenced in at all and was right next to a park, plus it was empty and there wasn’t a warden on site so I opted to walk on and find a wild camping spot rather than pay for something even less secure. There was no gap between the beach and the road I was walking on but as I got beyond where the golf course ran on the other side there were grassy dunes that I could stop in. I stopped in the field among the dunes and was hidden from the road but not completely out of view from the adjacent field where the farmer was driving about. The sunset was a good one that evening though.

I’m pretty sure the farmer saw me the night before because in the morning I heard a gate go and was soon hearing the sound of hooves and loud sniffing nearby. Not long after, there were shadows across the tent that looked very much like cows. I popped my head out and saw a whole heard surrounding my tent which were obviously very curious. After scaring them off a few times as I packed away my bag and tent they got bored and left me alone. The sky was really clear again so it was quite chilly to start with but I soon warmed up as I got back onto the road over to Fraserurgh. My blister plasters had come off the previous evening and they were no longer hurting so I was hopeful that that was the end of those problems.
I made my way through Fraserburgh in the sunshine and round to the harbour. Going along the high street I was looking for a supermarket but there wasn’t one then on my way out, a few turned up over the road so I had to jump a fence and go over to get some food for the next day or so. Once back on track a road took me along behind the dunes with a golf course either side of me. The road took me over a river then I went onto a farm track that used to be a railway taking me past some massive farm buildings before reaching Inverallochy where I had my lunch sitting on a park bench. I went through the town to the golf course on the other side which had a path along the shoreline that dropped onto the beach after a while. I rounded a corner  and got back up to a path that took me along the top and behind the dunes.
The dune path took me to bridges over a river then made my way out over the dunes, which had become very wide apparently. I hit a flat area that I followed for a while before going over a second set of dunes and onto the deserted beach. The last bit of the day along here was a really nice walk in the sunshine. It was marred slightly by the noise of a couple of quad bikes destroying the dunes to my right. Soon the lighthouse I was heading to started to appear. It is out at sea on a rock and is well worth seeing. The lighthouse cottages are inland behind the dunes, so once I had got to the point of Rattray head, I came in on a track to the cottages which are now a B&B and hostel. I was staying in the hostel and was the only person there that evening so had a pretty relaxed evening teaching myself to make origami dogs amongst other things, in what is quite a cool place. The owner was a nice bloke too.

Posted by: natsevs | October 22, 2010

Inverness to Portressie

There were quite a few people up early in the hostel so I woke up fairly early and was on my way before 9. It was actually a really sunny day for a change. I was on road for the start, beginning with a busy A-road then onto a smaller quieter one. When I reached Ardersier I was able to get onto a path along the beachline to Fort George.

A country lane from there took me along the edge of a firing range then through a forest. I was finally in new boots with no holes in and sole in tact. Unfortunately that meant that my feet weren’t used to them and I had a definite blister on my left foot. Added to that one of my legs started to feel like it had a tennis ball in it. Apparently 6 days is too many to have off.

I plugged on slightly slower than earlier and reached Nairn. I got some water and carried on, trying to walk like a normo so that the kids all just out of school didn’t think i was some kind of freak walking down the road. Once through town I went over the river bridge onto the beach before getting to wetland by the forest. It looked an ideal place to camp but the tide line seemed to come right up to the forest edge.

Eventually I had to go into the forest where I met a track and came to a clearing. As I set up the tent there I was welcomed back to Scotland by the midges and they had brought mosquito friends too.

I slept surprisingly well for my first night in a tent for a week. I was bitten a few times as I packed down then set off eating a pasty for breakfast. The forest was massive and I followed tracks through it occasionally going along the edge again.

The blister on my left foot was feeling less painful but unfortunately that made me more aware of the one on the right. I finally got out of the woods at 1230 and continued along a track to get inwards to a road. Along the road was a cycle route to Broom of Moy.

Once over the bridge the way continued on towards Forres. I passed an industrial estate then the distillery there onto small roads out to the estuary. Along the edge of the estuary I was bordered on the other side by RAF Kinloss with it’s runway heading right at the road. Findhorn was quite pretty and once through there I got onto the beach for a 7 mile stretch to Burghead. A painful 7 miles. The beach was rocky which isn’t great for blisters on the soles of your feet.

I found a really good walking stick so picked it up and a minute later my right foot blister felt like it had exploded. What had actually happened is that the fluid had built up so much that it had forced apart the skin around the blister to spread out. Now it really was painful to walk and the stick proved very useful. I got a very welcome phone call from friends who were up at Hopeman and said they would cone and pick me up from Burghead.

As I limped onwards there was a policeman stood on the beach and later some nutty old men were out swimming in the sea. I got to burghead at half 6 and was picked up by Paddy and Philip who had got me a room in the pub they were staying in and looked after me. I had my blisters popped and drained and put on plasters and hoped I would be able to walk in the morning.

My feet felt 100 times better in the morning. For starters, I could actually walk on them. We had a full English at the pub and then Paddy and Philip dropped me back off at Burghead. Once round Burghead the coast trail went along the old railway to Hopeman and the early morning sun had given way to rain unfortunately. Out of hopeman was a quarry that the path skirted but after that it hugged the coast. I started to feel the blisters again but it was more discomfort than pain now.

There was around an hour of beach walking to Lossiemouth and I was already feeling a bit achey and tired. I was craving lucozade so went into the shop just as it started tipping it down with rain. It had let up a bit as I left so I just put on my coat but a minute later it was even heavier than before and the trousers came on too.

On the other side of town you have to go over a bridge to get to the beach. I was then on that or behind it all the way to Kingston, about 8 miles. The rain stopped along there. There was military remnants all along but it was oddly scenic.

I got to Kingston at 4 in another rain shower and met the river Spey along which I headed inland until the bridge. I followed the Speyside way for a bit then went along the old railway to Portgordon where the woods spent really weird. No idea what it was. Really knackered by this point but I had to get to Buckie and out the other side to camp.

Going along the road from portgordon to Buckie, there were seals on the rocks so I stopped for a photo. I got there at 7 and got tomorrows supplies from the supermarket as a really heavy shower started up. It let off a bit in the 40 minutes it took to reach the campsite but got really heavy again just in time to set up my tent in it. My legs were throbbing when I stopped.

Posted by: natsevs | October 14, 2010

Craigiemore to Inverness

It rained most of the night and carried on into the morning, but thankfully I didnt have very far to go at all. As I packed away I was hoping it would brighten up but by 10 I had to just get going and deal with the wetness. I started off along the road and then there was meant to be a path down the hill and through some woods which I couldn’t see. I made my way through as best as I could avoid the denser spots of bracken. A track soon appeared even if not where it should have been.

I met the road which then stopped and there was a path round to Kessock where the bridge goes over to Inverness. The sun had come out now so I took off my waterproofs along the path. Once in Kessock I had to go inwards a fair bit in order to get up to the bridge but then I was making my way over. On the other side, I had to walk through an industrial estate before reaching the more pleasant shopping bit.

The hostel i’d booked was right by the shopping centre so easy to find. Once booked in I headed out to get my roll mat exchanged for one that stayed inflated and more importantly, to find lunch. I also took advantage of the shops to replace my broken flip flops. There were a load of people working for a charity staying at the hostel and I ended up chatting to them in the evening. We all headed to bed when a very drunk and slightly scented old guy turned up, obviously waiting to get onto the sofa to sleep it off.

The guy was still in the chair in the morning when I was having my breakfast. I was getting the overnight bus down to London then a train onwards so I had all day to waste. The hostel let me leave my bag there and I used the day the only way I know how now. I walked to Loch Ness and back.

It didn’t look far on the map but turns out it’s 8 miles from Inverness. It was raining on and off all day too so that wasn’t great. Loch Ness from where I stopped wasn’t that much to look at but at least I’ve been now. Once back I wasted time and had food before getting on the 7pm bus. I had my own seat to start but had to swap buses in Perth and the new one was packed. From Glasgow onwards I had 2 guys in front of me going on about what cars they might see in London whilst the girl next to me kept headbutting my shoulder pretty hard. I had 2 hours sleep at most. The sunrise was pretty though.

I briefly met my brother at Victoria Station to get my train ticket from him. I got home about half 10 so it had been quite a long journey. The day was written off as I lazed about recovering although I did fit in a shave and a haircut.

My time at home was spent seeing friends in the 2 days either side of my brother’s wedding in London. I was relieved I could have a proper drink without being destroyed at the reception and so had a very good evening. The bus back to Inverness was on tuesday night but I was treated to a cheap flight by my parents the following morning instead.

Posted by: natsevs | October 6, 2010

Nigg to Craigiemore

I had a fun night waking up every couple of hours to blow my mattress back up so was pretty tired in the morning. To add to that, some little biting insect had gone to town on me overnight and so I was a little itchy as I set off down the road. I looped round the end of the peninsula and started back up the other side with lots of buzzards for company.

The road took me up and around the top of the bay to Arabella then I took the turning towards Kildary. I was missing a map so checked in the garage then post office both unsuccessfully. As I left the post office the door swung shut a little too easily so it slammed quite loudly. I was a little embarrassed and very apologetic.

The road came right against the coast from there to Invergordon where I managed to find a newsagents with maps in. As I left the town there were loads of people coming the other way with candy floss and all sorts. It turned out there was a fair and raft rave going on at the sea front. The sun had well and truly come out and it was getting pretty hot as I made my way to the A9.

Once onto the A9, I walked along the verge all the way to Evanton getting a few beeps from cars. Couldn’t tell if they were nice or abusive. Once in Evanton I got myself a bru to cool off and headed for the campsite. The reception was empty and I rang the bell to no response so I thought I’d have a sit and a wait. When i rang again a lad came over to check me into the bunkhouse. I was the only person staying in it so I was able to have a very relaxed evening even with being covered in insect bites.

I was up at 8 even though I had intended to have an easy morning. Even on a go-slow I was ready at half 9 but thought I would watch tv until I had to be out at 10. I didn’t end up leaving until half past because I couldn’t resist catching a bit of something for the weekend.

The morning started quite cold and cloudy but the sun was soon cooking me again. I was back onto the A9 to the bridge over to the black isle. It was a long one and at the other side were roadworks taking away the pavement as well as half the road. I ignored the sign saying “No pedestrian access – ring [???] for assistance” and just walked right against the cones towards the oncoming traffic. On the other side i took to a very long road to Balblair.

There were tiny little flies being blown around by the breeze and mostly landing on me. On my arms, legs and far too often on my face. It was horrible. I got to Balblair then carried on round a bay on the same road to continue on to Cromarty.

I got there around 5 and there were loads of people around enjoying the sun in their own ways. It is quite a pretty town with a little harbour and stuff but I didn’t stop. Following the shore to meet a path over to South Sutor. Whilst there were a few other people out walking, none were as sweaty as I was, especially as I made my way uphill along this path. I was treated to some great views as a result though.

Once up, I was back onto roads to Mains farm then along the top of a ridge darting for shade at any opportunity. At Navity there was supposed to be a path down to the shore. I walked to the road end where a vague track still existed but once I reached the cliff edge it was obvious the path down was gone. The slope was covered in bracken but I eventually decided to go for it and try to get down the least steep bit I could see.

So over the fence I hopped, landing in nettles then I started downward. I couldn’t judge where the ground was because of the bracken so it kept disappearing under my feet. It was really steep and on top of the bracken and nettle there was plenty of brambles and gorse. It wasn’t the best idea to go for it, especially when I reached the bottomto see there was nowhere to camp at all.

A mile or so further on though I reached a bothy that the guy at cape wrath had told me about. The single log still smoking in the fire place was a little odd but I soon got over it not least because I’d arrived at half 7 pretty knackered.

During the night I shone my torch towards a scratching noise to illuminate a rat in the fireplace. Otherwise it was an uneventful night. I got some porridge on the go then went out to get a photo of the morning. Whilst out there a dolphin breached right in front of me. Other than a few sea birds there was nothing and no-one else around so it was pretty special. My photo attempts were special in the other way and I returned to burnt porridge before turning off the stove and going back out to watch the dolphin.

It was all beach walking to start although there was a little bit of clambering over rocks. As Rosemarkie came into view the odd footprint turned up in the sand, then there started to be people about. I stayed on the beach round to the point which had a big group of people stood together on it for some reason. When I got there I saw that there were a group of dolphins in the water there. I stayed up on the grass to avoid the crowd who were moving on mass from side to side every time the dolphins moved. They’d all lift their cameras in unison every time a dolphin breached too only to lower them frustrated. Occasionally one of the dolphins would jump out vertically or in a loop which was awesome.

I took myself away after a while and took to the beach back up the other side to Fortrose. I got some food there then walked the road to Avoch before taking to a single track road round to Munlochy. Once there, and back on the main road, I crossed over a stream and onto another farm track along the edge of a bay. The track split and I managed to choose wrong as usual ending up having to scramble through cleared forestry land to get to a field and back on track.

There were loads of grouse around in the estate  zigzagging in front of me. Once I was out of there I found a spot in a field to camp down for the night.

Posted by: natsevs | September 27, 2010

Helmsdale to Nigg

The dorm room was too hot so I had a rubbish sleep, plus my phone had fallen down the side of the bed so I had no idea what time it was when I woke up. I talked to a few of the people as I had breakfast and they were all quite nice. I wasted some time having a shower and re-packing but had to eventually force myself out into the rain at 9.30.

My route carried on along the A9 once more with the rain carrying on intermittently through the morning. Whilst I sat on the road side I was beeped at and looked up to recognise the guy I’d spoken to in Dunbeath Campsite speeding by. At Brova, I went to the shop and got some lunch then headed to the front as I’d been told by a few people that there was a path right along to Golspie and beyond. I started along that with the sun popping out in spells. Enough to encourage me to take off my waterproofs in fact.

A way along there was something triangular bobbing in the sea and I couldn’t work out what it was until it moved and I realised it was a seal chillaxing. As I approached it swam off a bit but then there was an otter as well so I got some photos. Further on there were more seals really close in, then a group swam by just off the beach, breaching like dolphins. It was about here that I saw a load all sunbathing on the beach ahead. I came up onto the path as I approached. There were about 5 people already there and I stopped to appreciate them too.

Even on the path at the top of the beach i was only a matter of metres from the closest seals. I could have stayed all day but had walking to do. Walking on I got to Dunrobin Castle and tracks from there took me onwards to Golspie. Out of town I took to the beach again to stay below the golf course and carried on down there for quite a while. I came up to walk behind the dunes for the last bit to Littleferry then started back on myself a bit, up the road.

I was feeling pretty rough by this point for some reason so very keen in finding a camp spot soon. I stopped about a mile up the road in a spot obviously popular with campers and there was actually a campervan on the other side of the trees as well but I wasn’t too bothered by them.

I managed to fall asleep with chewing gum in my mouth and earphones in so was obviously tired. My day started along the road before turning off into woodland. I was in there for a while but came out onto a farm track heading up to the A9 once more. That took me to ‘the mound’ crossing loch fleet then I went onto a single track road on the other side where a minibus almost ran me over.

There was a big group of seals on a sand bank in the loch with loads of tourists taking photos from the shore. I took a track then path took me to Embo then I had to go through a caravan park to get out before hitting the beach. It was a nice walk along the beach to Dornoch where I came up to a car park and back onto road. I got some lunch there before taking a small road along the links. That rejoined the A9 before it goes over the Dornoch firth and I stayed on it to Tain passing the Glenmorangie distillery.

There had been a few showers over the day but coming into Tain a proper one brewed then absolutely dumped on me so the waterproofs came on swiftly. Tain highland gathering was happening as I walked through but I didn’t stop to look in. Out of Tain I took a small road along the edge of a danger area and the rain came down again.

The road took me all the way to Inver as the weather cleared and it was brighter when I arrived. I set up my tent just out of there behind the dunes and noticed my left boot heel had worn right through.

It rained on and off all night so I was very tired in the morning. It was still miserable as I set off along the beach to Portmahomack. I got there about 11 and nipped into a shop. I was able to stay strong for about 2 minutes before eating the steak slice I had bought for my lunch. Coming out of there the path went through a field full of cows which at first blocked my way. They stampeded away as I got closer though and turned to watch me pass. As soon as my back was to them they began running after me. I kept having to turn and shout to stop them. I tried going down a slope to hide but it meant I was even more at risk of being crushed by them so I stuck to shouting and flailing my arms.

I walked through fields to the road at Tarbart Ness then down to another path along the bottom of a cliffline slope. The grass soaked my legs but otherwise it was a nice walk. I had stupid sheep running in front of me for about 2 miles to go with the stupid cows from earlier. I got to Hilton and moved onto another path over to Balintroe. Out of Balintroe on the road there was a glass box in a field. Upon investigation it was a stone with Pictish engravings on it protected by a glass building. I was on road all the way to Nigg only about 100m from where I will he walking back tomorrow at times. At Nigg I took a smaller road up a hill and set up in a sheep field.

Posted by: natsevs | September 5, 2010

John o Groats to Helmsdale

I woke up on suspiciously hard ground to find my replacement roll mat had a puncture just like its predecessor. It was a Sunday but at 9.15 I walked in to town to see if the shop was open. It wasn’t so I went over to ‘the end’ to see if amongst the gifts and tat there might be some food and was again disappointed. The place was already rammed full of walkers, cyclists and tourists so I headed quickly along the coast. I walked out to Duncansby Head, the actual most north eastern point, but stopped on the way to watch a pair of seals swimming around below. As I was sat there the sheep in the field formed a half ring around me behind my back which was slightly disconcerting. They ran off as I restarted and I soon came to the lighthouse from which point onwards I would be heading south.

        A sign said puffins should be there but I was disappointed again. Walking the cliff top coast path southward were loads of sea stacks making for some great photos. There were a fair few people walking that part but a gate marked the end of the well-trodden properly marked path. It was all very low heather with decent sheep tracks though so still easy enough. I passed a group of walkers by a cool little indent with a natural arch at it’s entrance. After that it became a lot more  boggy and the still air was creating very annoying levels of midges. I was hot, sweaty and hungry but to stop meant to be attacked by the little buggers. I got to a farm track and went in the wrong direction and a fly flew straight into my eye so all in all I was not in a good mood.

         Once on the right track I got along paths and road via Skirza to the A99. That was quite busy but a fair way along was a tiny garage with a smaller shop. An old guy was sat in there with traditional folk music blaring out. As i entered that was turned off and his wife served me as I bought my crisps and chocolate from  the 2 shelves they had. As I left the music came back on. Once round Sinclair Bay a farm track took me through lower Reiss then onto a path along the beach front. Paths went along to the lighthouse beyond Castle Sinclair. There was meant to be a path down along the cliffs from there, but despite signs proudly saying the land had been granted by so and so, it was awful. A wall led off the cliffside blocking off where the path should have been.

       There was then a gate to get over surrounded by water before walking through really boggy ground leading to overgrown routes. The only positive was a group of seals really close by on the rocks below. I finally reached roads and took them in towards Wick which looked, and felt massive compared to what I’d been used to for months. It was around 6.30 and Sunday so the chances of an open shop were slim. As a result I got fish and chips then headed to the campsite pretty knackered once more. 
Annoyingly, I woke up at 5 the next morning and couldn’t really sleep from then on. I put off packing away for a while then walked into the rain to the supermarket. There were loads of hobnob flapjacks reduced so my mood lifted considerably. Out of Wick I was able to take a coast road up to the rifle range from where there was supposed to be a path. Instead I walked through every vegetation type possible and climbed over countless fences. In one field a whole herd of cows stampeded towards the gate blocking off my route and forcing me over the fence to get on. In a later field an over excitable herd decided to stampede at me, making the ground rumble beneath my feet. I know they are not malicious and are just curious but they are bloody big and I wouldn’t of stood a chance if they hadn’t of stopped. I jumped a fence asap.

      After 2 hours I reached a house and road which I took along then past Loch Sarclet. At the end was a farmhouse and a supposed (but absent) path. There was a hill to get up through a field then into unkempt land. There were a few deer ther,e which accomplished some pretty impressive leaps as they ran away. Some river and fence crossings took me to a driveway going up to the A99. That was my route for the rest of the day taking me past odd little towns like Lybster. The weather improved a bit so I risked removing my waterproof trousers.

        I reached Dunbeath and Inver campsite at 6, as some nasty looking clouds rumbled in. It was only £5 and you gOt a free pen! That’s a win in my book. Setting up I got a little wet but managed to get the tent up before the serious stuff started. After I’d eaten the rain stopped and 5 minutes later an ice cream van rocked up. It was quite odd, but I figured I’d have to get one so joined the back of the queue. It was worth venturing out because not only did she have Irn Bru flavour but the woman was also entertaining. She had driven past me earlier, so asked where I was walking, then gave me my ice cream free because I’m raising money for the mammal society. She also through in a packet of crisps, but better than that, she described otters as ‘the little people in the sea bobbing their heads’. 
I was blowing my mattress back up at 5am so I could get another few hours sleep, but when I did rise it was sunny at least. I took a little road to the shop then went over the bridge and along to a big house. A track past that took me along to the A9 and I was back on that again. I could still look out over the sea and the sun was shining so having cars flying by me was more bearable. There were a fair few cyclists out obviously on the end to end route. There was a major descent into Berriedale then a steeper one out again. I had been told about a crofters road coming out but couldn’t see it so was stuck on the main road still sweating like a beast as I made my way up hill. The climb was made even less pleasant by having to pass a dead stag. It must have been fairly recent too because it didn’t smell and still had it’s eyes!

      I was starting to go off the sun as it was too hot for walking but got to Helmsdale nice and early at 3.30. It’s an old school gym so quite cool. After washing some clothes out I walked into town to explore a little and had intended to sit by the sea but the clouds had come in. I headed back instead and did some chores before going to the slowest chippy ever for half my tea. I’d bought a steak slice earlier to go with my chips and gravy. Not only was it slow but my small portion was VERY small, it wasn’t Family Fish Bar (Cardiff’s finest chippy) that’s for sure. 2 guys cycling to John O Groats turned up, one of which was a bit of a nobber. He was checking himself out in the dorm mirror and started going on about how he’d bulked up but not on his legs, no on his upper body. Not sure how that works but unfortunately I had to deal with listening to him talking nonsense very loudly to anyone and everyone about their ride most of the evening. When a girl turned up later though, also doing the cycle but caning his time I suddenly enjoyed hearing his conversation as he struggled with the concept. There were also some quite pleasant and normal people there I should add.

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.

Posted by: natsevs | August 24, 2010

Strathcailleach to Kirtomy

The couple in the kitchen were up and setting off really early, Tom was got up at 7 and was heading off back towards Blairmore around 8. Unfortunately the weather hadn’t rewarded his mammoth drive up but he had a little adventure anyway. I think he was keen to get further south and to a hostel and pub though. I hung about a but longer making myself some breakfast and trying to pack up without making too much noise. It was really eerie weather again when I set out, my first task eing to cross the river by the bothy. My dried out boots therefore got wet again straight away but the crossing wasn’t actually as bad as I had been expecting. On the other side it was back to the bogs but I made decent headway as I strove to get up to Cape Wrath in decent time.


I was pleased to see that the red flags weren’t up when I came to the military fence and over I popped. First duty once over was to get past a stream in a sizeable gully but managed quite well before coming up to an area where the bog gave way to a kind of moonscape. Up there I couldn’t see more than about 10m in front of me but followed a stream along using the map to get my bearings. Coming down, I came to a much larger and deeper gully that proved more of a challenge than the last. Up the other side I returned to the cliffside and followed it right up to the lighthouse to complete the west coast at last. It was less rainy at the point and out to see even looked sunny, and there were a fair amount of people wandering around the lighthouse buildings having taken the ferry and minibus from Durness. I popped into the café there to find it typically overpriced, so I just set off along the track instead, now heading east across the north coast. There were 11 miles from here to the ferry and once halfway along I learnt that the last ferry was at 4pm. It was 2.30 so I had some quick walking to do. I made it there just as the last minibus rolled in, the driver with his massive cigar in his mouth.

The ferry was a 1 minute nip over which cost me a pretty steep £3.50. I still had a little way to go to get to Durness, taking the cliffs around to Balnakeil then in on the road. I was meeting Gil and his partner Jill in Durness and found them parked outside the hostel I was hoping to stay in for the night. I went and said hello and had a drink in the van before checking into the hostel and getting cleaned. Back at the van after, they fed me some risotto then we went to the pub down the road along with some friends of Gil who were also staying in the hostel. I was drying out my boots so was barefoot now my flip flops had broken. It was a fun evening and I had a few more drinks than I’m used to at the moment.

In the morning I went straight to the shop after breakfast to get supplies, then packed up ready for the day. I had left my bread in the kitchen whilst at the shop and half of it had been pilfered when I returned but then I have admitted to a bit of biscuit stealing in previous blogs so can’t complain. Jack said they’d give me a lift down to Balnakeil where Gil was parked up so Geri drove me down then I had a cup of tea with Gil and Jill. We then set off along the beach and out onto the peninsular from there which is mostly dunes. Along the way we came upon a whole herd of cows having a walk on another beach. Coming back we had to retrace our steps a bit before I went out along the coast round to Durness whilst they returned to the van.

Back in Durness the smell of fresh bread tempted me too much so I headed into the shop to get myself a little baguette. When I got to Smoo I made my way down the steps to the caves. Gil had told me that the pebbleman was stating down there and he’d met him yesterday. A1 pebbleman is also walking the coast but is stopping in places to make pebble sculptures and get together money enough to carry on. I had first heard about him from a B&B owner in St Bees. He told me what he was hoping to achieve, raising awareness about homelessness being the main cause, and I was down there for longer than expected. The caves themselves were quite impressive with their underground stream, when I came back out I went up out of the bay and set about making up distance and time. I met back up with Gil and Jill at the loch head around 5.30pm to pick up my bag and say our goodbyes. When I set back off at 6 I typically left my map behind but Jill ran it back to me. I stopped in a field by the road and set up quickly with the midges around. My right boot now had a hole in the toe and I had lost the last hat I was carrying with me.

The night had its fair share of wind and rain but in the morning it had calmed down with just enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay. I walked down through the field to the road and followed it along the beach at first then uphill along the loch side. Once round to Hope and over the river I went out along a track by its banks. The sign on the gate said ‘No Admittance’ but the guy fishing further on didn’t seem to mind me being there. From the track end was a path up to an empty house surrounded by bracken and just as I got up there it began to rain. I went along at one height but then had a long climb to avoid navigating a pretty sheer slope. At the top of this climb I had a pretty good view of the waterfalls and valleys beyond. The first of these valleys was right below me and I had to make my way all the way back down again to get over the rivers.

The first river crossing was fine but for the second I had to climb up a bit to get above a waterfall blocking my way. The second big climb took me up to a boggy plateau for a while. I was soon back to the northern cliffs and following the edge most of the way from then onwards. There were lots of troughs and it was more of the same bog land but interesting and challenging walking with great views across the north coast. When I reached a river I could follow it along to a loch and then a track down to Achininver. Once there I got onto the road and round the bay before heading up and round to Talmine with the sun now shining. I was there at 5.45 so thought about carrying on to the hostel at Tongue but it was booked out. I stopped at the campsite in Talmine instead whose owner had slightly crazy eyes but she was able to drive away so I guess she could see ok.

The site got quite busy as the evening wore on so I was glad I had arrived when I did to get one of the few decent spots. Even so I had a poor sleep, waking up at 4am and not getting back to sleep for ages. The campsite only cost me £2 though so that cheered me up. When I peeked out at 7am it was really sunny but as I set off 2 hours later the weather had turned overcast and chilly. On the way out I stopped in the shop which typically had no bread but I was able to get a fajita slice and some snacks. The road took me down to the causeway over the Kyle of Tongue where I was able to look back to the mountains or out to the sea beyond. The coast road on the other side was soon climbing up to meet the main road that led round to Coldbackie.

There were people actually swimming around in the sea in the bay below even though it must have been freezing in there. I took a path down the valley, over a river, then up the other side to meet a little road. At the end of the road I was onto pathless, heathery land which was actually not too bad going. I got to a ruin from which a path was meant run but I couldn’t see it and was slightly disorientated. It was time to have some lunch and get the map out to work out where I was and where the path should be. This worked in the end and I found my way along to a track leading onwards to a road. Paths linked up the roads for a while before I took just the one road right along to Torrisdale bay. There was a ford over to the beach from the road so I took off my boots and went for it. The river bed was stony and painful underfoot which wasn’t ideal especially as there were three separate branches of the river to get through. It was knee deep at worst but I could dry out whilst I had a bare foot stroll along what was quite a picturesque beach. The beach is bordered on both sides by rivers so when I got to the other end I had to start inwards along the dune edge and put my boots on as it started to get rockier. Once I got to some stables I came up to a road and along to the bridge over the river. At Bettyhill I nipped into the shop there for some decent food, then I took the wrong road trying to get down to the beach. I chose better the second time and made my way down, through some fields and onto another really nice beach. There was a path onwards to Farr then a mixture of road and paths to Kirtomy. As I came into there it got dark and absolutely tipped it down. I had seen it coming over from out at sea so I had got on my waterproofs in preparation. Out of Kirtomy I took a dirt track up the hill and set up my tent on top where it was quite exposed and windy but at least I found a flat spot.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »