289. Golspie to Tain

The forecast today was to be mostly overcast and dry, the good news was that it turned out to be sunny and dry all day!

I drove the short distance from my Airbnb to Tain, where I parked at the railway station. I caught the 08:19 heading north towards Wick, which was bang on time. I baulked when the conductor asked me for £9.85 (with a senior railcard) for a single journey to Golspie. I quickly realised that this train journey involves travelling inland along the Dornoch Firth and Kyle of Sutherland, before reaching Lairg and then turning back eastwards down Strath Fleet back towards the coast, quite some distance! The journey time took an hour and offered some amazing views particularly north of Invershin passing through the gorge of the River Shin looking down at the Falls of Shin.

I set off from Golspie railway station heading for the shoreline and began walking south along the beach on firm sand. I was heading for the small hamlet of Littleferry which sits on the northern shore of the opening to the sea at Loch Fleet, a large tidal inlet and a large nature reserve. After LittleFerry I would be walking around this loch and would now need to start walking north for a mile along a minor road. I crossed a small burn via some stepping stones and headed alongside Balblair Wood and the loch shore. I joined up with a long straight track which took me across the railway line and onto the A9. This would be the first of two occasion where I needed to use the A9 to cross a water obstacle. The A9 was very busy, but had a reasonable verge. I headed towards The Mound, built by Thomas Telford, a causeway and bridge carrying the A9 across  Loch Fleet. After some 4km on the A9 I turned off down a minor on the southern shore of Loch Fleet, following the route of the dismantled Dornoch Light Railway.

I was now more or less on the opposite side of the loch to Littleferry, where I had been almost two hours before. As I looked out onto Loch Fleet by the ruins of Skelbo Castle I could pick out large groups of Harbour seals basking on sandbanks in the middle of the loch. I followed the route of the old railway towards Embo, a small village. I decided to make a slight detour and visit the small town of Dornoch a small seaside resort on the northern shore of the Dornoch Firth. Dornoch, infamous for being the site of the last legal execution of a witch in Britain, saw a local woman Janet Horne, burned alive at the stake in 1727. I headed out of the town towards a grass airstrip and heading for Dornoch Sands.

Heading south towards Littleferry
Loking up Loch Fleet at low tide
Crossing Loch Fleet on the A9 at The Mound
Looking across Loch Fleet north towards Golspie
Looking across Loch Fleet to Littleferry
The old Light Railway station in Dornoch
The Jail, Hotel and castle from the Square in Dornoch
Walking along the grass airstrip at Dornoch

I reached Dornoch Sands and could now look across Dornoch Firth to the opposite bank some 3 miles away and see Tain and the Glenmorangie distillery. But I still had some 7 -8 miles of walking to do before I arrived back in Tain. I set off along the northern shore of the Dornoch Firth, the tide was well in by now, but I still had a reasonable amount firm sand to walk along. The Dornoch Firth Bridge came into view, I knew I had to get onto a minor road from the shoreline about a kilometre away from the bridge, as I had noticed there were large swathes of gorse which may have blocked me getting directly onto the bridge from the shore.

I picked up the minor road which lead through a couple of hidden gates, through the gorse to the A9. It was just as busy as I had left it some hours before. I was able to walk on the other side of the Armco barrier, which gave a reassuring feel. The late afternoon sunshine was a real treat and I was rewarded with great views down the Dornoch Firth. At the far end of the bridge I passed from Sutherland back into Ross and Cromarty, which I had left back in April. The last 3 miles along the A9, past the Glenmorangie distillery and into Tain was a bit of a struggle, especially in the late afternoon heat. A very rewarding day and great to visit areas that I had only previously read about.

 

Looking across the Dornoch Firth towards Tain
Looking westwards across Dornoch Firth towards Bonar Bridge
Crossing The Dornoch Firth Bridge

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=24711

Distance today = 27 miles
Total distance = 5,269 miles

 

288. Helmsdale to Golspie

With autumn moving on I needed to continue with my walk around the Scottish coast and so headed north for a three day trip to Sutherland. Although I drove up the day before, on this occasion, I did not sleep in the back of the car, instead preferring to stay a night in my chosen Airbnb at North Cadboll.

The following day I set off from Cadboll, about 6 miles from Tain, and drove to Golspie station where I parked. I waited for the 9:18 train to Helmsdale, which although signed as on time turned up 15 minutes late.

The weather forecast was not looking good, as it was down for light rain until midday, in fact, it drizzled on and off for most of the day. I got off the train at Helmsdale with the low lying cloud and mist covering the surrounding hills. I was amazed to still see a number of Swallows flying about, as I think they had disappeared from where I live a few weeks back. I walked towards the A9 and picked up from where I last walked a few weeks ago. Fortunately, I would only be on the A9 for half-mile a mile, before I crossed the railway line and joined the rocky shoreline. I actually spent the rest of the walk on the foreshore and did not emerge back onto the A9 until I reached Golspie, which was very pleasant and not a single barbed-wire fence to cross!

I soon found a line of good firm sand to walk on, punctuated by occasional rocky sections. Other times I transferred onto a feint grassy foreshore track which was soaking wet and ultimately seeped through my boots after about 10 miles. The low cloud ensured I had few views which meant few photos especially as it meant tediously taking my camera out of its plastic bag and case because of the rain.

I was accompanied for most of my route by the single track railway line, which saw little traffic – only a couple trains passed me all day. The A9 had disappeared about a mile inland and occasionally re-joined the shoreline. I had a few burns to cross, which presented no problem, however, near to Lothberg I had to cross outfall from The River Loth. I tried a number of ways to try and cross the outfall, including dumping a number of rocks into the river to make some stepping stones, this idea failed miserably. I could have walked inland a short distance to pick up the railway line and then cross over via the railway bridge, but decided as my feet were already wet to just go for it! Surprisingly my feet did not get too wet doing this.

At Clynemilton, both the A9 and the railway came right up alongside the shoreline, but with high tide still an hour away I was able to squeeze past on the rocky foreshore. I reached the outskirts of Brora and continued along the golf course boundary. I walked to the mouth of the River Brora and turned inland a short distance into the town. I crossed the river via the old bridge, which was adjacent to the A9 and set off again for the shoreline.

At Helmsdale station with my train departing for Wick
Crossing the tracks onto the shoreline (NB the darkened surround effect was an unintended camera setting)
The route ahead
Looking back at the River Loth, which was harder to cross than it actually looked
Jurassic Sandstone-Breccia was quite common along the shoreline

 

Arriving at the River Brora

Back on the shoreline I surprised myself by coming upon a small group of Harbour Seals. I managed to divert around them, not wishing to disturb them. After a short distance I met another walker who was heading north along The John o’Groats Trail. He was carrying a full pack and wild camping along the way. I advised him of some of the difficult sections further north.
I could now make out Dunrobin Castle in the distance, which coincided with a flat section of land which had a set of farm tracks that made walking very easy. I visited the substantial Broch at Carn Liath, sitting alongside the busy A9. The broch was very impressive and I could get a good idea of its height and scale. I continued into the grounds of the dramatic Dunrobin Castle, the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. After being used as a boarding school for seven years, it is now open to the public. The path to Golspie skirted the Castle grounds and I continued through a field of unharvested oats into Golspie.

It had been a tough day days walk with an even tougher day planned for tomorrow.

Harbour seals near Brora
Carn Liath Broch
Looking back north over Carn Liath Broch
Dunrobin Castle
Crossing the Golspie Burn

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=24708

Distance today = 21 miles
Total distance = 5,242 miles

 

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

 

 

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