287. Helmsdale to Latheron

Very little to say about this section, mainly because I had decided to walk down the A9 from Helmsdale back to Latheron. It started to rain on leaving Helmsdale and did not stop until I reached Latheron. I only managed to take 6 photos because of the rain and with the clag had descending for most of the walk  there were none of the views I had enjoyed on my first two days walking. By the time I reached Latheron I was soaking wet from head to foot. It was a concern that water had penetrated my Rab walking jacket, causing my phone, camera, car key and wallet in the inner pockets to become wet. Bizarrely water had also got into my plastic map carrier and soaked my maps!

Anyway, I had parked at Latheron Community Hall and caught the early morning X99 bus service towards Inverness getting off at Helmsdale. It had stopped raining as I climbed the hill out of Helmsdale, but promptly started again when I reached the top. The highlight of this walk was meeting a fellow long distance walker and discovering that he was just three days away from completing an epic Lands’ End to John o’Groats walk. This was Richard, a 70+ year old who had reached this point by mostly using National Trails, but today was staying on the road. Richard, in his youth had climbed many of the Scottish Hills, but now concentrated on low level walking.  After 3 or 4 miles of sharing stories I bid Richard goodbye.

I was a bit worried with the roadworks around Berriedale. Berriedale is a small hamlet on the A9 where the Berriedale and Langwell Waters cut a deep channel through the surrounding hills causing a steep descent and ascent for the A9. Currently work is underway to improve the bends of the road. I was unsure what provision was made for pedestrians, in the end I just walked through the roadworks.

I continued onto Latheron, where, as I approached the hamlet the clouds disappeared and the rain stopped and I was in bright hot sunshine. Glad this section was done.

Looking back at Helmsdale
Descending into Berriedale
Walking out of Berriedale
Crossing Dunbeath Water at Dunbeath
Looking back with the sun out and arriving at Latheron

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24690

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 5,221 miles

 

 

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286. Latheron to Wick

 

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.

Looking south from Latheron
White Head near Occumster
Waterfall near Occumster
Ruins at Clyth Harbour

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.

Heading down The Whaligoe Steps
Looking back up The Whaligoe Steps
By the salt store at Whaligoe looking north along the cliffs
Heading back up the recently renovated steps

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.

 

The Mausoleum at Mains of Ulbster
Heading across the Moss of Iresgoe
The Stack o’Brough
The Old Castle of Wick
Heading down into Wick

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24687

Distance today = 24 miles

Total distance = 5,202 miles

 

285. John o’Groats to Wick

It was time for another three day trip to the North of Scotland. I drove up the day before but was a bit concerned when all three lanes of traffic ground to a halt on the M6 close to the Shap summit. An Air Ambulance landed just a few hundred yards away, four fire engines  roared up the hard shoulder together with two ambulances and countless Police cars. I thought I would be stuck for a while, but the wait was only about 40 minutes. When I passed the scene of the accident it appeared to be a two car collision, but fortunately without massive damage to the cars . On my return home 3 days later I came upon two accidents, this time on the A9 and both at road junctions within a mile of each other at Tain.

I slept in the back of my car that night and drove onto Wick the following day. I caught the #77 bus service to John o’Groats. By 8 o’clock I was setting out from John o’Groats along the coast towards Duncansby Head. Today’s walk would be predominantly along footpaths, tracks and away from roads. I soon picked up trail markers for The John o’Groats Trail (JOGT), a trail I had never heard of before. This trail, as with The Cape Wrath Trail, is basically an advisory route, that is relatively new and a work in progress. The JOGT which runs from Inverness to John o’Groats predominantly hugs the coast, in particular, the narrow strip of land between the sea and farmers fences. Most of the trail has some signage and there are occasional pieces of infrastructure like a stile or small wooden bridge, underfoot there is little evidence that anyone has ever walked there before. Irritatingly, the indicated trail follows the field periphery. You could revert to the walking through the fields which is much much easier, however, you will be crossing multiple barbed wire fences – lots of them. In Caithness they seem to specialise in triple strand barbed-wires fences, most fences usually have a single or double strand of barbed wire, but three strands make it more difficult to climb over, time consuming and ultimately tiring. Where the land on the fence periphery has disappeared due to erosion, I had to make a number of excursions into fields.

Heading towards Duncansby Head

I set off from the lighthouse at Duncansby Head. Even though it was still quite early, there were many people already at the lighthouse, most them having camped there. I was now heading south, for the first time in many years! Ahead I could make out the Duncansby Stacks and I followed a wide and well-trodden path over short cropped grass out towards them. The coastline along this section is amazing and the early morning sun showed it as its best. I passed a number of other stacks and Geo’s, one in particular, Wife Geo, was an amazing feature, with a huge sea stack set within the large Geo itself.

Duncansby Stacks
Duncansby Stacks
Looking back to Duncansby Head with the stacks in the foreground and The Orkneys in the far distance

 

Wife Geo with its sea stack set within the Geo itself

I followed the JOG trail around into Freswick Bay and passed by Freswick Castle, which now seemed to be occupied. By the time I reached the ruins of Bucholie Castle I had had enough of the thigh high vegetation and it had taken an age to get this far, also the constant climbing over fences had begun to wear me down. With the road only 200 – 300 metres away I decided to make up some time and continue down the A99. I arrived at the village of Keiss and walked down to the harbour and then along the shore. Before me stretched out the sweeping 3 – 4 mile beach of Sinclair Bay. The sand underfoot was firm and I made good time. I was a bit concerned about the dark clouds forming overhead, fortunately, they did not yield any rain and after a while it turned brighter again.

Heading along Freswick Bay
The ruins of Bucholie Castle
Old and new Keiss Castle
Heading around Sinclair Bay

I crossed over the River Westerly while still on the beach without getting my feet wet. I was now heading out towards Noss Head Lighthouse. With the beach running out I transferred back onto the land and passed the restored Ackergill Tower and then onto the small village of Ackersgillshore. The JOG followed a reasonable path towards the ruins of Sinclair Castle Girnigoe. Work had been done on stabilising the ruins so I could explore the interior of the castle. From the info boards you could see that that the castle was originally a very impressive building at the beginning of the 17th Century.
I passed by the lighthouse at Noss Head and headed along a cliff footpath towards the village of Staxigoe. The rest of the walk was basically walking through the built up areas of Staxigoe, Papigoe and into Wick itself.

Ackergill Tower
Sinclair Castle Girnigoe
Sinclair Castle Girnigoe
Heading towards Staxigoe
Low tide at The Wick River, Wick

This had been a great walk along a fantastic coastline. It had taken almost 10 hours, mainly due to following the JOGT and walking around boundary fences through long grass. I will persevere with the walk tomorrow along the JOGT, but perhaps be a bit more selective. I made my way to my Airbnb room close to the harbour and with a superb view out to the open sea. I was virtually next door to the most northerly Weatherspoon’s pub, The Alexander Bain. Unfortunately the pub was put up for sale in March 2019, but as yet, not found a buyer.

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24684

Distance today = 25 miles

Total distance = 5,178 miles

 

 

281. Dunnet to John o’Groats

My first job before setting out was to pop next door to the tyre fitters to check on my puncture. I was told yesterday that they would fit a budget/economy tyre for circa £65, that is expensive, but I didn’t argue. Turns out they didn’t have an economy tyre, but put a “better tyre” on – which cost £92, the words “done up like a kipper” spring to mind.

I drove to Dunnet and parked in the village hall car park. It was forecasted to be a very hot day all over the UK and as I set off towards West Dunnet there were no clouds in the sky, but a stiff warm breeze at my back. I set off across open moorland and decided to try my new umbrella/parasol. Its silver top is designed to reflect all of the direct UV rays and with its black underside to absorb all indirect UV rays. With the strong swirling breeze at my back the brolly did occasionally turn inside-out. The good thing was that it was designed to easily turn back again and this worked well. As I crossed the open moor towards Dunnet Head I used the brolly shade the entire time. I still sweated in the heat and it was tough walking over the trackless terrain.
I headed over Bloody Moss then towards Loch of Bushta before climbing slowly up the gentle slopes of Dunnet Hill (121m). The view from Dunnet Hill was stunning. To the west across Thurso Bay I could see Scrabster and in the far distance the hills of Assynt. To the North West I could see the high red sea cliffs of Hoy and the top of The Old Man of Hoy. To the east I could see the low-lying Caithness coastline disappearing towards Duncansby Head and the Isle of Stroma. The route ahead to the lighthouse at Dunnet Head was obvious. I set off towards Sanders Loch where the walking was over spongy grass, moss and heather. As I neared Dunnet Head I had to walk over old peat workings which was difficult in places. I was accompanied part of the way by a number of  Great Skuas, happily on this occassion they ignored me, unlike those that dive-bombed me when I last visited Shetland in 2013.

Dunnet Head was very busy with many tourists enjoying the extensive views across the Pentland Firth to Orkney. I walked to the top of the hill above the lighthouse to get a brilliant 360 degree panorama. I had intended to continue walking down the eastern side of the Dunnet Head peninsular, but the morning 4 miles over trackless terrain in the heat had taken their toll and I would be already struggling to make my intended bus back from John o’Groats to Dunnet.

Looking back at yesterday’s walk over Dunnet Beach
Looking west over Loch of Bushta to Thurso
Zoomed shot across The Pentland Firth to Hoy and the Old Man of Hoy
The route to Dunnet Head past Sanders Loch
Great Skua
Approaching Dunnet Head
Dunnet Head with Hoy in the distance
Looking back at my approach route
Dunnet Head
Looking back towards Thurso, the hill in the far distance is Ben Klibreck

I set off down the road towards Brough, a scattered hamlet. I was very grateful for a small cafe in Brough where I could replenish my water supplies, as the heat was quite intense now. I was now walking along quiet single track roads that ran close to the coastline and passed through a number of strung-out settlements that included Scarfskerry and Harrow. I passed very close to the Castle of Mey. It was certainly open to visitors so I doubt there were any Royals in residence. I decided to re-stock my water supplies again, so I popped into the cafe at the Castle. I did baulk at the cost of a 320ml bottle of still water which was £1.85. The young serving girls behind the counter said I could fill my water bottle up from the ice-cool containers in the cafe. I obliged and then set off along a coastal path for a short distance. I soon joined another long straight road that finally joined up with the A836.

I passed through Gills and the small ferry pier which provided a service to St. Margaret Hope on the Orkney mainland. After passing through the settlement of Huna and getting back onto the shore I could now see Duncansby Head Lighthouse and John o’Groats in the distance. Although, the real milestone was Duncansby Head (where I would begin the long walk south) John o’Groats had always been a key destination. At the familiar mileage fingerpost I got a ‘selfie’ from a Dutch chap and his family. I made my bus by 10 minutes and paid the £3 back to Dunnet.

When I got back to the Airbnb I checked out the weather forecast. It did not look good for tomorrow with thundery showers with lightening forecast from 06:00 through to 15:00. As tomorrows walk would have been over 23 miles, there was every chance that I would encounter some of these showers with little or no shelter if I did. I decided to abort the trip and drove south the following day, with cracked windscreen and through the thunderstorms that had been forecast.

Looking back at Dunnet Head
Castle of Mey
The ferry terminal at Gills
Approaching John o’Groats with Duncansby Head in the distance
At John o’Groats

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24645

POSTSCPIPT: the windscreen made it back home ok, only ‘growing’ by 10mm. However, the Friday appointment agreed on Monday did not happen. Autoglass did not show, I had paid for the windscreen and waited an hour past my alloted time slot and was told, when I called them, that the replacement windscreen had been “damaged in transit”. No communication from these cowboys about this and I would have still been waiting now if I had not bothered to call them. I have made a complaint, for the good that it will do. Grrrr!!

Distance today = 22.5 miles

Total distance = 5,095 miles

 

 

 

 

280. Dounreay to Dunnet

I was looking forward to this 3 day trip to the northern Caithness coast as it would finally see me heading south along the east coast of Scotland…….or so I thought!

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. From the first day, as  I awoke after a night in the back of the car I found a 16 inch crack in my windscreen. This must have occurred on the drive up and later that day, after my first days walk I returned to my car to find a flat tyre!

With the large crack in my windscreen, I decided to keep to a minimum the number of miles driving the car, leaving my car parked in Thurso. So I caught the 7:20 #82 bus to the Dounreay Nuclear plant. Most of the buses going to Dounreay are simply to ferry the workers to the site. However, they do also function as a  public bus service; but  I did feel entirely out of place being deposited at the security gates of the site and amongst the hundreds of hi-vis vested employees. I soon started to make my way back to the site entrance and the main A836 road. As this was the start of the daily shift the whole place was awash with workers arriving by bus, cars and bikes.

I reached the main road and walked for about a kilometre before heading down a farm track and then across fields towards the coast. I was heading towards the small wind farm at the Forss Building and Technology Park, developed on the site of a former US Naval radio station. This site was the headquarters as well as having 26 housing units. I could still see the remnants of a small baseball field alongside the old housing blocks. At the site I met a chap who was busy setting up a day’s clay pigeon shooting event for clients. I continued onto the small ruin of St. Mary’s Chapel, built probably in the 12th century, and  has a small burial ground surrounding it. I crossed over the Water of Forss via small footbridge and then up a steep grassy bank. I was heading for a farm track that would take me back to the coast.

Although there was no footpath along the coast, it was generally very flat. However, the long grass made sure I got totally sodden, despite wearing waterproofs, gaiters and boots. The sea cliffs here were not very high and like most of the Caithness coastline, the underlying Flagstones gently dip to the north and create cliff overhangs. I passed over the gentle slopes of Brims Hill and into a quarry, previously used for extracting the Middle Devonian flagstones. The Flagstones are basically – thinly-bedded siltstones and sandstones which cleave to give sheets of rock which have been used extensively in the past as paving, tiles and field boundaries. I passed over Holborn Hill and could now make out Thurso in the misty gloom. It had been raining most of the morning, although quite light and drizzly, I was still quite wet as I approached the ferry terminal at Scrabster.
At Scrabster I was able to get a phone signal and made contact with the windscreen replacement people. Unfortunately they were not able to fit me in until next week. So I was going to have to drive my car, with the large crack in the windscreen all the way back home. I followed the road and footpath around the shoreline into the small town of Thurso, the most northerly town on mainland Britain. I arrived back at my car and had a short rest before catching the #82 bus service towards John o’Groats and getting off at the small village of Dunnet. From where I would walk back along the coastline to Thurso.

Looking back at Dounreay
Greeny Geo
Approaching the small wind farm at the former US Naval Radio Station at Forss
St. Mary’s Chapel
Heading towards Brims Hill through long grass. Dunnet Head can be seen in the distance
Flagstone cliffs
Cliffs below Brims Hill
The flagstone provides a flat quarry floor at the disused Scrabster quarry
Looking towards Thurso from Scrabster Ferry Terminal
Approaching Thurso

I set off down the main road and shortly cut through dunes onto the wonderful Dunnet Beach. It was still quite murky and drizzly but warm. Walking along the beach was very pleasant with the sea lapping on the shore and little or no wind. After about 3km I arrived at the Burn of Garth, but could not cross without getting my feet wet. I headed inland slightly, pushing through waist-high grass and bracken. I soon arrived at the Heritage Centre at Castlehill renowned for the quarrying of Flagstone at the now disused quarry at nearby Castletown.

I set off again through a field of barley following the sprayer tracks, however, that still did not stop me from getting another soaking from the wet crops. I followed a farm track for a small distance then transferred onto the shoreline. I got about a mile along the beach and then had to climb a small cliff to get around a rocky section. I managed to get back onto the beach and continued for about another mile. I transferred back to the shoreline fields and spent the next 30 minutes climbing over a barbed-wire and electric fences. Pushing through the thigh-high soaking wet vegetation took a lot of energy and I was very glad when I reached open pasture land, which short grass. I passed over another of the three sites of the former US Radio Station. I finally picked up a reasonable track back to Thurso which had stiles for getting over the fences. I walked past the ruins of 19th century Thurso Castle and onto a small footbridge that went over the River Thurso and back to my car.

After finding my car had a puncture I managed to find a tyre depot which was only 60 meteres away and very close to my Airbnb for the next two nights.

Walking a rather murky Dunnet Beach
A route over Burn of Garth? I don’t think so!
Walking along the shoreline at Craig of Hattel
Looking towards Thurso near East Lug of Tang
The ruins of Thurso Castle

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24643

Distance today = 23.5 miles
Total distance = 5,072.5 miles

 

 

 

277. Strathy Inn to Dounreay

I was very relieved to see that the forecasted temperatures for today were considerably cooler than yesterday. In fact, it was overcast when I set off from Thurso on the drive to Strathy Inn where I parked.

I set off down the main road for a short distance until I reached Strathy Bridge where I took a signed footpath towards the beach, here I continued through very steep-sided sand dunes, climbing some difficult barbed-wire topped fences. I eventually reached the cliff-tops and walked through fields of machair, climbing more fences as I went along. The cliffs were very impressive, but difficult and dangerous to get a closer look at. I did drop down to the beach near to Baligill, close to the ruined Dun Mhairtein, where eroded sandstone had formed a thin arête-like sea stack – that just begged to be walked along! It was a great opportunity to test my nerve and I managed the highest and largest of the pinnacles before I turned around, not wishing to chance my luck any further. I continued along the cliff top walking out towards Rubha Beag. At Rubha Beag I headed south over boggy terrain towards Portskerra, but two steep ravines or geo’s pushed me further and further inland. In fact I was almost back on the A836 when I got to the second ravine, either caused by the stream cutting steeply through the sandstone layers or as a result by ancient action of the sea. After getting past this ravine I headed for the main road into Melvich.

At Strathy Inn looking eastwards
The arete stack near Dun Mhairtein
On the top of the arete
The arete stack near Dun Mhairtein
Complex coastline near Rubha Beag
Steep ravine near Portskerra

I was not on the main road for long as I turned off down a signed footpath that took me to Melvich Bay and Bighouse, the Estate Lodge. I crossed over The River Halladale via a footbridge, which the Highland Council advised me against. The bridge looked perfectly fine, except they perhaps should have warned against a group of Artic Terns, who continually dive-bombed me until I reached Bighouse. They did not make contact, but came very close! I spoke to one of the Estate workers who was repairing a gate and we chatted a while.

I climbed over a few fences and continued around Rubha an Tuir. There was a footpath that came and went, running across the cliff-tops. I came to more Geo’s, the larger of which was Geodh Eisgiadh which required a 600m detour to get around. I could now make out the Dounreay Nuclear Station or to give it is new name The Dounreay Nuclear Power development Establishment. I passed around more geo’s and arrived at the small harbour of Fresgoe. I joined a narrow road and continued into New Reay and onto the A836. Because, walking is not permitted around the decommissioned nuclear plant I would be on the main road for the next 3 or 4 miles. I reached the main gate of Dounreay and returned back to Reay where I was able to catch an afternoon bus back to Strathy Inn.

Bridge over the River Halladale near Bighouse
Dive-bombing Artic Terns on the River Halladale
Looking back at Bighouse and Melvich
The route ahead eastwards
Kittiwakes and Guillemots at Geodh Ruadh
Nesting birds at Geodh Ruadh
Interesting sea stacks at Geodh Eisgiadh
Walking around Geodh Eisgiadh
Looking towards Dounreay and Sandside bay
Looking towards Dounreay at Fresgoe

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24629

Distance today = 17 miles

Total distance = 5,014 miles

 

276. Bettyhill to Strathy Inn

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.

Heading towards the beach at Bettyhill
The beach at Bettyhill
Heading up towards the transmitter tower on Cnoc Mor
The view westwards with Arkle and Foinavon in the far distance
Looking eastwards towards Hoy and Mainland on the Orkneys

 

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.

 

Looking towards The Strathy Peninsula from above Armadale, the Orkneys can be seen in the far distance
Armadale Beach
Crossing over Armadale Beach

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.

Heading up the western side of the Strathy Peninsula
Collapsed blow-hole Geo with natural arch near Aultiphurst
Looking back from above Brawl on Cnoc Dubh
Heading towards Aultivullin
Looking east towards Dounreay from near Strathy Point
Strathy Point
Cut peat drying

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:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24628

 

Distance today = 16 miles

Total distance = 4,997 miles