After yesterday’s tough day I was hoping for a slightly easier day. I decided to leave my car in Wick and reverse my walking direction to save fuel. I caught the early morning X99 bus service towards Inverness and got off at the small hamlet of Latheron, where the A9 joins the A99.
I decided to get some miles under my belt by walking back along the A99 to Lybster. The road was quite quiet at this early time of the morning. I was really not looking forward to beating my way around the coastline between the cliff-top and the farmer’s fences. After walking through Lybster and buying some biscuits I decided to get back on to the cliff-top at Occumster. Unfortunately because of a residential properties I could not get onto the cliff-tops. I retraced my steps back to the main road and walked a short distance before trying another access road. At the end of this road was a farm that was used as a scrapyard as well as a huge silage store area. I got onto the cliff line and changed into my walking boots and then set off along the JOGT. It was not long before I arrived at a section where the crofter/farmer had just dumped rubbish over the fence. I managed to get around this, then arrived at a section where the ground had fallen into a large Geo and it was not possible to get by. I retraced my steps and started climbing barbed-wire fences. After an hour of walking along the cliff top I had covered something like 1.5 miles. I was getting annoyed with this and decided to re-join the main road, which was some 200m away. I changed back into my trail shoes.
As I continued down the main road it started to rain, but it did not last long. I soon reached Whaligoe and in particular The Whaligoe Steps. The Steps are not marked with any road sign and obviously cannot be seen from the road. I followed a row of fisherman’s cottages and descended next to an old farmstead now used as a cafe and gift shop. The 330 flagstone steps take you down to a small harbour situated in a small Geo or Goe inlet. The harbour has a small quay called The Bink where herring was offloaded. The harbour was used up until the early 1960’s. The ruins of the salt store and an old winch are the only reminders of a place that was very busy during most of the 19th Century. Maintenance work on the steps was currently being carried out by a stonemason I noticed as I laboured back up the steps to carry on with my walk.
The JOGT passed close to the top of the steps so I took the opportunity at getting back on the cliff-top. I got about 100m before turning back. I decided to continue up the road for about half a mile and cross some rough ground to pick up a farm track. The track had long since disappeared but after walking over the brow I could look down at the deserted farmhouse and buildings of Mains of Ulbster. A short distance from the farmhouse was a mausoleum, built on the site of the old St Martins Chapel. I continued around Loch Sarclet along a series of minor roads and headed towards a track over the Moss of Iresgoe. That track had also long disappeared, but my route soon had me arriving back on the cliff-top at Ires Geo.
I was now walking over open moorland for the next few miles which was a welcome relief. As the moorland disappeared, more cultivated land appeared leading to the re-appearance of triple strand barbed-wire. However, the underfoot conditions of the path improved as more foot fall had created a more definitive route. I passed around an increasing number of Geos with some impressive sea stacks that I paid little attention to as fatigue was now setting in. However, I did see the famous Brig o’Stack, a sea stack that is still connected to the mainland by a land bridge (sorry no photo). I was glad to reach the old firing range and Old Castle of Wick – one of the oldest castles in Scotland. I walked through Old Wick and down to the quayside, where a small flotilla of fishing boats had been returning from a day’s fishing. I had been walking for over 9.5 hours, it had been another long hard day.
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 = 24 miles
Total distance = 5,202 miles