Sunday, 17 July 2011

Far North Way

Thursday 30 June: John o'Groats to Wick (17 miles). All road walking along the A99 but with pleasant scenery and a refreshingly cool breeze. I stop at Keiss for lunch and make Wick's pleasant riverside campsite early in the afternoon. Here I meet Ian, a retired Staffordshire policeman and fellow end-to-ender, excited to be nearing the goal in the far north. The Alexander Bain, a pub in the Wetherspoons chain, has a curry night and good value ales at £1.60 a pint - "Another Duchars IPA please landlord . . ."
Friday 1 June: Wick to Dunbeath (25 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells, light breeze. Taking the, so called, coastal path out of Wick the scenery is great and it feels good to be away from the main road but past the Castle of Old Wick the path disappears into a knee deep bog. I push on and eventually reach Mains of Ulbster, a sad village of ruined homesteads and neglected a cemetery, where the path disappears again. This time at the edge of boggy burn with wide nettled banks and a steep broken weir. I'm too afraid to jump the weir with a heavy backpack so I throw and shove my pack across before clambering after it and then across rough country to, once again, meet the A99. A very late lunch at the Portland Arms Hotel in Lybster and I feel much better.
Early evening, Inver campsite in Dunbeath is a very welcome sight, as is the Inver Arms across the road where the barmaid kindly produces a cheese sandwich at 9:45pm. It's been a long day.
Saturday 2: Dunbeath to Helmsdale (17 miles). Clear skies, warm and sunny with light breeze. Blisters patched-up and minor niggles ignored it's a long road walk to Helmsdale with a short pleasant stretch along the old A9 just north of the village. My planned lunch stop, the post office at Berriedale, is closed so it's a hungry walker who reaches the relative comfort of Helmsdale YHA and healthfood - one of the best fish & chip shops in the country.

Sunday 3: Helmsdale to Brora (10 miles). Warm, sunny with cloudy spells and a light breeze. My daily distance is dictated by accommodation stops so this is a light day of road walking to Dalchalm campsite just north of Brora with an enjoyable stroll along the links into Brora in the bright evening light.
Monday 4: Brora to Dornoch (21 miles). Warm and sunny with a light breeze. More road walking as far as the splendid Dunrobin Castle's quaint railway station then coastal track into Golspie for a light lunch. I'm getting a niggling pain in my right knee as I reach a pretty minor road with passing places around Loch Fleet and I can't believe how badly sunburnt my face is - in northern Scotland! Finally I pitch my tent at Dornoch's windswept campsite on the links a mile or so from the village.
Tuesday 5: Dornoch to Tain (8 miles). Warm and cloudy with spells of light rain. A mile or so from Dornoch my knee pain suddenly gets worse and in considerable pain I limp across Dornoch Bridge, past Glenmorangie Distillery and into Tain where I get the bus to the YHA in Inverness, I need to rest my leg. The casualty department at Inverness's Raigmore Hospital examine and x-ray my knee - "no bone damage, just soft tissue, probably be okay in a couple of days" - good news, but I'll be stuck in Inverness for a while.
Photos along the Far North Way.

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