It was time to begin the walk eastwards along the ‘roof’ of Scotland, but first I needed to walk around Faraid Head. I also had to arrange some transport, as between Durness and Tongue there was a gap in public transport availability. Fortunately, The Durness Bus Company provided a dial-a-bus service that operated within a fixed radius of Durness, which I could utilise for a part of my journey. A few days before I travelled north I booked to be picked-up from the small strung-out village of Laid, on the western shore of Loch Eriboll, and to be dropped off at Keodale, at the road end to the Durness Ferry.
As I usually do, I drove up from Shropshire the day before and reached Rhiconich before pulling over and sleeping in the back of the car. There were some fearsome winds during the night which rocked the car. The following morning I drove through Durness and onto Laid, where I parked near to the tea rooms.The Dial-a-Bus arrived bang on time at 08:00 and Sarah, the driver, dropped me off at the road end to the Durness Ferry. The journey cost me the princely sum of £2.05!!
I set off along the ferry road and continued on past the slipway. I was able to follow a well-trodden footpath along the low-lying cliff-tops that rise above the Kyle of Durness. This is Durness Limestone country and the walking is dry, well drained and grassy. The Cambrian limestone is actually a Dolomite and an important marker in understanding the complex geology of the area. With the receding tide I get down onto the beach to walk, but large pools soon block my way forward and I am forced to return to the cliff-top. I enter Balnakiel Bay and walk through the Golf Course.
I head out along the white sandy beach of Faraid Head. The walking underfoot is easy, but I am walking into a strong headwind, which brings in persistent rain showers. Most of the Faraid Head peninsular is overlain by sand and large sand dunes. As the beach runs out I head up through the sand dunes and pick up a narrow tarmac access road. The road services the MOD facility, with its large control tower for the Cape Wrath bombing range. Faraid Head itself is fenced-off and no access is permitted. I follow the security fencing to a cairn on Cnoc nan Sgliat which offers great views down to a very rough sea and the impressive twin sea stacks of Clach Beag/Mhor na Faraid. I head southward through 2 miles of high sand dunes. I visited the ruined broch of Seanachiasteal Dun and head over Aodann Mhor where I picked up a green lane which lead me into Durness.
In Durness I pop into MacKay’s for a coffee and a snack. I continued along the A838. I pass a sign for the John Lennon Memorial Garden. Intrigued to know what the connection with Durness is I investigate. I find that as a young boy John Lennon spent many holidays with his cousin, Stan Parkes, in Durness. According to his cousin, Lennon referred to his time spent at Durness in his song “In My Life”, which he co-wrote with Paul McCartney. The garden is now a bit tatty and looks rather run down.
Further on I pay a quick visit to Smoo Cave, which I last visited 16 years ago. It is still a very impressive natural feature and well worth a visit. I notice it has lighting now and guided tours to the deeper recesses.
I continue on along the road leaving Durness and the roadside footpath behind. I arrive at the site of the abandoned township of Ceannabeinne, emptied in 1842. Like many other sites I have visited in Scotland a victim of The Clearances. At Ceannabeinne Beach I come across the 230m long Golden Eagle zip line which runs over the Allt Chailgeag. With the ride being completed in 15 -20secs, the £12 charge seems rather expensive. The zip line ride was shut when I arrived.
The rest of the walk was along the A838 which now headed south as it entered Loch Eriboll, a large sea-loch which I must walk around. The afternoon traffic of the NC500 is still present, in particular, the motorbikes which were particularly noisy. At Laid I popped into the nearby tea room. I was not particularly looking forward to the next day’s walking which was all road and more rain forecast.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 4,912 miles