Today was the last day of walking on this particular leg. I left the hotel at John o’Groats and decided to continue along the main road towards Wick taking a few rest breaks along the way. At one point there was a rain deluge and I donned my waterproofs but it cleared again later and the sun came out. I met a guy called Phil who was on the last day of his Land’s End to John o’Groats walk and had been on the trail for 10 weeks. He had been sleeping in a bivvy bag and busking his way up to earn a few pennies, so not only was he carrying a rucksack but also his guitar! Good on him! I walked a couple of miles along the lovely beach on Sinclair’s Bay. Gannets were diving for fish in quite shallow water and it was amazing to watch them fold up their large wings and spear into the water. Soon after I re-joined the road to the north of Wick airport. I arrived in Wick in the late afternoon and was grateful to the management and staff at ‘Mackays Hotel’ for a wonderful night.
Gales and rain today! But on reflection, the first bad weather I’ve had in a long time. I saddled up and walked along the A836 towards John o’Groats via a café that lured me in for shelter, soup, bread, Victoria Sponge and tea. Then back out again in the rain and gales and arrived in John o’Groats. Naturally I was elated to reach this milestone, but as a place it’s a little disappointing. The classic sign post was not in use today (it is privately owned by the way) so I took some self-portraits (rubbish ones at that!) at the public signpost. Then, having checked in at the ‘Seaview Hotel’, I walked on to the stunning Duncansby Head to complete the occasion. So, I have now walked from Land’s End to John o’Groats via the west coast of Britain!
Today I walked up to the most northern tip of mainland Britain - Dunnet Head. It was a lovely clear and sunny day and I made the most of it as the weather forecast for tomorrow is for rain. It was satisfying to look westwards back along the coast from where I had come, and I could clearly see Cape Wrath in the distance. I had a lovely view of the Orkneys and the Old Man of Hoy and John o’Groats off to the east.
I set off along the coast road and then farm tracks through fields next to the shore, and finally onto the beach at Dunnet Bay. I arrived at the Northernsands Hotel where I will stay for the next couple of nights as it is well located for me to do the ‘out and back’ to Dunnet Head – the most northerly point on the British mainland.
Rest day in Thurso.
Rest day in Thurso.
Woke up to rain. Walked along the A836, past Dounreay ‘nuclear power development establishment’ which is in the process of being decommissioned and was a hive of construction activity. The landscape is changing. It’s becoming more rounded and mountain-less, with fields of sheep and cows. The road is becoming busier in the direction of Thurso and the east coast, but still quiet in the direction of the west coast. I can feel my walking environment changing, leaving the west highlands scenery behind. I arrived in Thurso in the late afternoon and found accommodation, and enjoyed a curry for dinner. I have chaffed the inside of my thighs! So plenty of Savlon applied!
I woke up to rain, but it soon cleared from the coast but was lingering just a couple of miles inland. I had a chat with the owners – a father and son. The father told me he is a helicopter pilot in the armed forces and also operates as a forward air controller. He generously offered to take my kit to my next accommodation along the coast in Melvich. It arrived at 7.45 pm that evening after I had arrived ! I had time to explore the local Halladale River and beach and saw salmon leaping.
After a lovely few days spent with Philippa exploring the northwest coast by car, we said our farewell and I continued along the coast on foot. I followed the road from Tongue to Bettyhill (A386). After lunch the rain started, and as I was walking over the highest ground in the area there were a couple of flashes and claps of thunder. I was glad it didn’t last as I felt exposed! I stayed the night at the Bettyhill Hotel which was in the middle of being refurbished. I may have been the first guest to stay in my room. Around the building were workmen and workwomen, many I think from Eastern Europe, painting and fixing things.
I walked from Laid to Tongue. This was a particularly memorable day as, when I started walking up the east side of Loch Eriboll, I decided to stop for my lunch on the shoreline. I plonked myself down on the grass with the rocks and shore in front of me and as I was tucking into my ham and cheese sandwich I noticed two small heads weaving though the water towards the rocks. Instinctively I hid behind ‘Big Bertha’ (my rucksack). To my amazement, two otters came out of the water, one with a small flatfish in its mouth. The otter with the fish chomped and chewed its way through lunch whilst the other one rolled around in the seaweed and then moved behind a rock – all less than 20 metres from where I was gawping. I am sure that the other one knew I was there as we caught each other’s eye, but he seemed completely relaxed. After he had finished eating, he slipped back into the water, I presume to continue hunting for food. By this time the other one was probably asleep behind the rock, but I couldn’t see him/her. What an honour and such a special thing to see. I don’t know what it is about otters, but they are so enchanting to watch. Later that day I crossed the ‘Kyle of Tongue’ and stumbled into the ‘Ben Loyal Hotel’ for the start of a few days with Philippa. She was coming up to join me for a few days, and was bringing a car with her so we could explore the area, including inland!