Today should have been a simple day regarding the logistics of getting to the start of my walk at Rosemarkie, but instead it turned out to be a bit of a trial, although it all came good in the end.
I left my car at the B&B in Inverness and walked towards the bus station. I was hoping to catch the 07:00 #424 bus run by D&E coaches. I was a bit wary as the vast majority of bus services run in and around Inverness are operated by Stagecoach. The fact that the bus left from a stop just around the corner from the main bus station was further cause for concern. By 07:10 my concerns were beginning to be realised. I was slightly annoyed with myself for not getting one of two much earlier coaches run by Stagecoach, but that would have meant hanging around for almost an hour while it got light. By 07:30 I had given up on that bus coming, the only trouble now was I had to wait another 90 minutes until the next Stagecoach bus. Because of the number of miles I had planned to walk today, using the available light was key in getting the route done. I waited at the designated bus stanceat the bus station, keeping a watchful eye open for the #26C bus. Even though the bus station was extremely busy, I remained alert. At the time the bus was due to depart I was becoming concerned again. As I turned around I could see the #26C in a queue of buses that had departed the bus station and were waiting for the lights to change to join the main road! How did I miss that? I ran after the bus and managed to get the driver to open the door. The driver insisted he departed from the bus stance that I had been waiting at. Very confused I sat down and pondered how the hell I had missed that. Looking around I recognised some of the passengers that had been waiting with me. I then ‘twigged’ that the bus had come into the station under one service number and then changed its number to another service. Because I had positioned myself at the front of the stance I could not see any number change.
By the time I had reached Rosemarkie, it was almost 09:45. I knew I would struggle with the light if I kept with my original route, so I would need to shave 2 or 3 miles off my intended route. I set off along the shoreline walking towards Chanonry Point, one of the best places to view at close range Bottlenose Dolphins. Unfortunately, no dolphins were visible today. Apparently, there are certain times when you stand a much greater chance of viewing them, particularly during a flowing tide. I rounded the lighthouse and headed along the other side of the spit into Fortrose.
Fortrose sits on the southern side of the spit of land that juts out into the Moray Firth, forming Chanonry Point. I walked past the ruins of Fortrose Cathedral, founded in 1200, the cathedral has been in ruins since the late 16th century. However, the ruins still look recognisable as a church or abbey and are impressive. I knew the road between Fortrose and Avoch is not pedestrian friendly with a huge cliff on one-side and sea wall on the other with no footpath or verge available for refuge from the busy traffic. Fortunately, there is a cycleway/footpath following the route of the old Black Isle Railway which used to run freight and passenger services from Muir of Ord to Fortrose up until 1960. The footpath provided a high level walk through the trees and above the main road below. I would make further use of the old railway route later in my walk.
At Avoch I dropped down to the shore and followed a row of houses along Avoch Bay. The minor road turned inland and it was here I trimmed my first bit of the planned route. Further up the road I met a lady dog walker and asked if there was any paths to avoid having to walk along the A832 into Munlochy. She said a friend had told her of a route and what she described which was spot, albeit for the start of the route. Looking at the layout of the minor roads I had my suspicions that the course of the Black Isle railway must have passed very close to where I intended to walk. So I headed towards Ord Hill (not the Ord Hill close to the Kessock Bridge). Sure enough I managed to pick up the old rail track and from Ord Hill I could see the raised embankment running alongside the main road all the way into Munlochy. I walked through the village and then entered fields full of stubble as the road section here was treacherous with sharp bends and no verge on a busy road. I returned briefly to the road at Littlemill Bridge to cross over a small burn.
At this point I cut my second section out of the route where I had planned to walk around Drumderfit Hill and then onto Craigiehowe Mains; instead I kept to a minor road through to Drumsmittal and then onto Ord Hill. Ord Hill is a popular walking and cycling hill to the active people of Inverness. I now started to pick up the constant roar of traffic that told me I was getting close to the busy A9. Examining my OS map and Streetview carefully I could see that a footpath dropped down through the trees to the A9 at the approach to the Kessock Bridge. I emerged alongside the A9 and I knew that I had to cross over the dual carriageway to the southern side of the bridge, as the footpath on the northern side disappears at the first roundabout after the bridge. I easily managed to cross the carriageway during gaps in traffic.
The Kessock Bridge was another of those iconic bridges which I had driven over many times and wishing that I could have a “proper look” at the views. The late afternoon stroll over the bridge did not disappoint despite the incessant noise from the four lanes of traffic. I continued on a footpath alongside the very busy A9 which soon dropped down a slip road to a roundabout below the A9. Here I joined the A96. My final destination was the out of town Inverness Retail Park, where I knew had many services heading back into the centre of Inverness. With the light fading fast I caught a #10 bus back into Inverness.
I later found out that the #424 Bus from D&E coaches which had not turned up at the start of the day only ran on school days. Although today was still part of the term, it was the first of two “In-service days”, Inset or Baker days that had caught me unaware.
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 = 18 miles
Total distance = 5,471 miles