The forecast for the North West Highlands was a staggering 29 deg C! I had hoped that this forecast did not include the northern coast of Sutherland…..but I was wrong! By the time I had driven along the A836 from Thurso, the early morning fog had been burnt-off, leaving bright blue skies. By the time I reached my parking spot near The Strathy Inn it was very hot. With no cloud in the sky I was rather apprehensive about the days walk, as I never really like walking in the searing heat.
I caught the #800 bus, which although primarily a school bus service, is also available to the general public. The bus was heading for Bettyhill where I would start my walk. Before leaving Bettyhill I popped into the Post Office stores to get another 1ltr of water to supplement the 2.5lt I was already carrying. I walked a short distance along the A836 until I set off down a signed path to the empty beach. I walked to the end of the beach and picked up a grass track leading to Clerkhill. At Clerkhill I took a wrong turn and it was about 600m up a steep hill before I realised I had gone the wrong way. With the heat already having an effect on me I decided to stay on the road until it met the A836, something I had not planned to do. The heat, even though I had only been walking for an hour had become very fierce.
I decided I would try and get back on course by continuing along the A836 for another 2km and then turn off up to a radio mast on Cnoc Mor. This would put me closer to my intended course and more importantly maybe offer some shade! As I neared the summit the heat was intense and I was relieved to find buildings to give me shade. It was 11:15 and I decided I would stay put for at least 2 hours and recover in the shade of the main building. I made myself at home, making myself a seat and removing my boots and my sweat-soaked top, which I put out in the sun to dry! A gentle breeze finally got up and helped me to cool down. My water situation was very good and by 13:20 I was ready to go again.
I decided to set a bearing of due east on my compass to take me directly to Armadale over trackless terrain. After about 30 minutes I was overlooking Armadale Bay and could easily see my route ahead. I picked up a signed footpath down to an empty Armadale beach. Although two footbridges appeared on the map, they were not needed, as I walked over the two river outflows on the beach without getting my feet wet.
I was now walking on the western side of the Strathy peninsula. Although trackless I was able to keep to the shoreline on the cliff-tops by simply walking through machair grass covered fields. I eventually arrived at the hamlet of Brawl, which I bypassed, and headed up the small rise of Cnoc Dubh (114m). I could now see my route ahead out towards Strathy Point. The ground I was on was still recovering from wild fires some years back. Although some vegetation had grown back I was mainly walking on blackened earth. Only a few weeks before, 5 miles away, wild fires had flared up and closed the A836.
I passed close to the hamlet of Aultivullin and then headed NE across boggy terrain to Totagen, near Strathy Point. I did not have the energy to do an out and back to the lighthouse, and so decided to head south 3km along the road back to the car.
A very tough day and glad the heat will not be as great tomorrow.
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 = 16 miles
Total distance = 4,997 miles