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

 

 

 

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279. Woodbridge to Shingle Street

I decided to do another one day trip to Suffolk before I returned to Northern Scotland. With a reasonably fine day forecasted I was hoping to get at least half way around one of the Suffolk river estuaries. Unfortunately it was a Sunday, which meant no public transport back to the car, so I took my bike along. It was a longer cycle ride today, compared to last Sunday and would involve some 9 miles from the car to the start of the walk.
I decided to drive to and park in the small rough car park at Shingle Street. I opted to get the cycling out of the way, as the roads would be much quieter at 07:30. I made very good time to Woodbridge railway station, with the help of the flat and level terrain of the Suffolk countryside. I decided that I would push my bike to a car park near Melton, which would be easier to retrieve when I later drove back in my car.

Woodbridge is a charming little town with a pretty little station housing a taxi service and cafe. I carried my bike up over the bridge across the railway lines and followed a footpath that skirted along the River Deben, which I would be walking around. The footpath already had a few people out and about on a lovely sunny morning. Just after passing Melton railway station I walked through a car park and chained my bike up to a railing. I set off along a footpath that led to a bridge over the River Deben, before turning down the B1083. I soon passed the entrance to Sutton Hoo. I had read something about Sutton Hoo, but knew little detail. Although I would be passing close to the site of the two 6th- and early 7th-century cemeteries I had intended to revisit them at a later date, enabling me to devote more time to such a significant site. I followed a signed footpath which was not marked on the OS map or was not in its exact place. Needless to say I soon lost the footpath indicators and then made a navigation error. I ended being confronted by a large pig farm. I walked around the site and could not pick up anymore footpath signs. I wasted about 20 minutes wandering around trying to get my bearings. I eventually recognised the small tree plantation patterns and managed to pick up my intended route near to Ferry Farm. However, I had missed about 2 miles around Sutton Hoo Farm and Ferry Cliff. I headed towards Methersgate passing through the hamlet and finally picking up sight of the River Deben below me. I pjoined up a riverside footpath which although overgrown in places with nettles and bracken, was well-trodden. At Stonner Point I picked-up a Sea Bank, providing me with a great view down the River Deben which at high tide was about 800m wide. The river snaked around long sweeping bends and turned towards Ramsholt, where I met and spoke to a couple out walking along the sea bank. I rarely stop for a alcoholic drink on my walks, but today I just fancied a pint! I deposited my rucksack at an outside table and went in and bought a pint of Adnams – what else? The Ramsholt Arms was very busy serving food to yacht people and those who had driven down the dead-end road.

Woodbridge Railway Station
Looking down the River Deben at Woodbridge
Looking across The Deben to Waldringfield at Sconner Point
Walking along the Sea Bank towards Rockall Wood
Looking across the Deben from The Ramsholt Arms
The Ramsholt Arms

The pint of beer did not last long, as thirst usually takes over from taste when I take on fluids on warm days. At Ramsholt there is no public footpath south along the River Deben towards the Bawdsey Ferry. I am not sure why there is no footpath along this 3 miles stretch bordering the Ramsholt and Alderton Marshes – I was tempted to try though. Instead, I set off on an inland diversion towards Alderton. When I came to the first road junction I continued straight ahead up a green lane bridle path. I had not gone far when I was confronted with a crop sprayer sending a plume of water over the track ahead. The plume was not deviating, so unless I wanted to back track, I was going to have to make a mad dash through it. Needless to say I got a right soaking! Within 20 minutes I was dry again. I passed through the village of Alderton and continued onto the village of Bawdsey. I had given thought about continuing down the road to Bawdsey Ferry, but did not fancy the walk back along the single shoreline. Instead I headed directly along a lane to the coast, where I emerged near the sight of an old WW2 gun emplacement.

I could see Shingle Street, about 3km in the distance at the end of the Sea Bank which had an excellent path running along its top. I passed three Martello Towers on my final 2.5 miles, the first tower had been restored as a residential property, with a flashy new access staircase, the second tower had not been restored but had a WW2 pill box built on the roof and the third tower was also restored as I could hear loud music blasting out through the 1m thick walls. I walked onto the shingle bank at Shingle Street, a bank that protects the row of cottages from the sea. It was hard going over the shingle – even for a short distance. I was fascinated by some of the flora growing on the shingle bank, in particular a tall 4 – 5ft stalk plant with yellow flowers – this was a Great Mullein and an impressive plant it was too. I rounded the coastguard cottages and arrived back at the car park. Just the drive home now, calling in to Melton to pick up my bike.

Time for a soaking with the crop sprayer deluge blocking my way
Back at the sea at East Lane on a WW2 gun-site looking west
Modern-themed Martello restored
Unrestored Martello with WW2 pill box on its roof
Restored Martello at Shingle Street
4 – 5ft high Great Mullein – very impressive

Distance today = 18 miles

Total distance = 5,049 miles

 

 

278. Orford to Shingle Street

I decide to do a single day’s trip back to Suffolk and continue my progress south along the east coast. As it is a Sunday, there will be no public transport to get me back to Orford, so I must make use of my bike.

I set off very early from Shropshire and drive to Shingle Street, a small hamlet at the end of a cul-de-sac road from the village of Hollesley. I leave my bike chained to a kissing gate and then drive around to Orford. I park in the small square in the centre of the village.

It is a lovely sunny Sunday morning, with a gentle breeze blowing. Although it is only 7:45, there are a number of people out and about, walking their dogs mainly. I walk down to the quay and head westwards along the sea bank. The walking is very easy, along the short cropped grass. I strike up a conversation with a chap who is out walking his dog; after a mile he returns to Orford. I am now walking along the River Ore and the land opposite me is now Havergate Island a National Nature Reserve. As I approach Gedgrave Marshes the public footpath turns inland. However, I recently read there is now a permissive footpath along the sea bank around to the Butley Ferry. The sea bank now follows the River Butley as I proceed upstream. The signage on the three gates/stiles I went through makes no mention of “permissive” but simply gives the direction and mileage to the ferry and Orford. It now has a Suffolk Council logo on. Just before I reach the ferry I notice a yacht, with people on board, that looks to have been beached – more about that later.

I reach the ferry, it not very wide and I could easily throw a ball to the other side. It’s only 8:30 and the ferry does not start until 11:00, but I have no intention of using it just yet. As there is no continuation of the footpath up the River Butley I must now follow public footpaths, roads and lanes to the first bridging point at Chillesford. I am now heading eastwards and am almost back at Orford before I head up a sandy farm track. I am amazed how sandy the soil is here. I pass multiple water irrigation pumps, essential as the soil holds little water. After passing a cricket pitch, where I see the groundsman preparing the wicket, obviously for a match later that day I meet two ladies, seated in small chairs. They tell me they are waiting for a group of children who are completing a hike as part of their Duke of Edinburgh award. They also tell me that the impressive Sudborne Hall that we are looking at, are now just expensive apartments.

Looking down the River Alde on a beautiful Sunday morning at Orford
Looking across to where The River Butley joins the River Alde
The River Butley Ferry

I continue on, walking along a lovely shaded woodland footpath. I eventually meet the groups of young walkers completing their DofE. The footpath leads out on to the B1084 at Chillesford. The road is quiet and has a footpath. It’s not long before I am heading south along a narrow quiet lane, passing through the hamlet of Butley Mills. I soon turn off down one of the many sandy tracks, used primary for agricultural vehicles. I pass through two farms before I take on Burrow Hill; at 10m high, it is slightly odds with the land around it. Burrow Hill was a fortified Saxon settlement and was an island, before the sea banks had been built. The site was excavated in the 1970’s and over 200 burials were found. The hill provided good views across the area and I could see the nearby Butley Ferry was now busy. I had now arrived on the opposite side of the river bank, to where I was a few hours before. I spoke to the ferryman and he reminded me that he finished at 16:00. I said I would return long before then.

I set off down the sea bank and passed by very close to the beached yacht I had seen earlier. The people on board gave me a wave and I asked how long they would have to wait, they said 4 hours. I continued on along the sea bank and re-joined the River Ore channel again. Speed boats and water skiers were now out on the river. I arrived back at my bike, close to the hamlet of Shingle Street. I now had to cycle back to Orford. I had already planned my return cycle route, which would make use of roads, farm tracks and the Butley Ferry, which would shave 4 – 5 miles off my cycling distance. Although my bike is foldable, I had seen earlier, full sized bicycles being ferried across. I should say also that the ferry is not motorised and requires the ferryman to row across. Butley Ferry is one of four foot ferries that operate in Suffolk

At Butley Mills
One of the large number of pig farms in the area
Looking down to the River Butley from Burrow Hill
Zoomed shot of the River Butley Ferry
At Boyton Dock with the beached yacht in the distance
Beached yacht on the River Butley
Looking across the River Butley towards Orford

Distance today = 17 miles

Total distance = 5,031 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

 

 

275. Bettyhill to Coldbackie

The heatwave forecast for the UK finally hit the far north of Scotland as I woke up to clear blue skies. As I was staying in Thurso, I had a long drive over to Coldbackie to catch the #803 bus service to Bettyhill. The minibus was full of school children on their way to Farr High School in Bettyhill.

After getting off the bus in Bettyhill I set off down the A836 for the short distance to the bridge over the River Naver. Immediately after crossing over the bridge I went through a gate and headed along the river out towards the estuary. The tide was well out, revealing large sand banks / dunes and unusual flora. Although I could have walked around the headland into the next bay, I opted to walk and over the Druim Chuibhe which I thought would be quicker. Descending into the next bay I could see most of the landmarks that would take me on towards Skerray. I could see the footbridge over the River Borgie, but not the bridge (which was not marked on the map) for a small stream that I also needed to cross. I was finding it very difficult to even get down to the stream, as the bracken and gorse seemed to block all ways forward. I followed the small burn upstream for about 600m before I was able to get past the bracken and gorse. I was really annoyed at not being able to find the bridge. As I retraced my steps, but on the opposite bank I was able to see the bridge amongst the bracken and gorse.

Looking acros to Torrisdale Bay from Bettyhil
Heading to the bridge over the River Naver
Heading up the shore of the River Naver
Heading across the Torrisdale Estuary
Looking towards Skerray across The River Borgie from the Druim Chuibhe
Looking out towards Torrisdale Bay

I joined a narrow road that was very quiet. The sun was now very hot and I started to think about my water consumption, I decided the remaining 500ml would  see me to the end of the walk. I passed through a myriad of tiny hamlets including Skerray, Torrisdale, Torroy, Lamoig and Strathan. Skerray was the largest settlement, with a Post Office doubling up as an Art Gallery. I was also amazed to see that Skerray also had street lighting. I hopped between footpaths, green lanes and roads as I passed through these hamlets.

Street lighting in Skerray
Verdant scenery near Skerray

I eventually arrived at Strathan, where I donned my walking boots before setting off along a marked path out to the ruins of Sletell. Although the settlement may have been initially ‘Cleared’, the hamlet was certainly re-settled, as the last occupant of the three crofts left in 1960. An impressive iron cooking hearth was still set within one of the croft’s chimneys. Researching Sletell later at the B&B there are a number of geocaches at the site, including written memories of someone who actually lived there! I wish I had known at the time. It’s always very poignant, for me, when visiting these ruined houses, be they ‘cleared’ or abandoned, as they were once somebody’s home.

Looking towards Port an t-Strathain
Looking westwards to Melness and Ben Hutig across the Rabbit Islands
Ruined croft at Sletell
Sletell
Fireplace and stove at Sletell

I climbed south away from Sletell and picked up a sheep track. The views over Tongue Bay towards Melness were amazing. The path came and went and I had to climb to get around a geo with very impressive cliffs. I descended across grassy terrain to arrive at the end of the public road at Skullomie. I could see my car parked in a layby about 600m away across a small v-shaped valley. I picked up a marked footpath which had Coldbackie 1km away. Unfortunately, for the second time on this walk I failed to pick up a small bridge which was heavily covered in vegetation. I ended up walking 2km to get back to Coldbackie. A tough walk today but some fantastic scenery.

The island of Eileann nan Ron
Heading south along Tongue Bay with Ben Hope in the far distance
Heading towards Skullomie
Looking across to Coldbackie with the impressive peak of Cnoc an Fhreiceadain behind

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=24625

Distance today = 14 miles

Total distance = 4,981 miles

 

 

274. Coldbackie to Hope Bridge

As the southern part of the UK braced itself for a heatwave I headed north to Sutherland to continue walking along its northern coast. I had managed to book a B&B, at an affordable rate, in Thurso for 3 nights giving me four days of walking. I had calculated I would still not reach John O’Groats on this trip, but at least I would be heading south down the Scottish East coast on my next trip to the far north. The logistics of the four days was quite complex, having to change direction of walking and using buses and my bike.

I drove up the previous day and just about reached Tongue before I pulled over for the night and slept in the back of the car. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to bring my thermal air bed, which made for a slightly uncomfortable night. As the Summer Solstice had only recently passed it remained very light and hardly got dark at all.

The following day I drove to a small pull-in just north of Hope Bridge and got on my bike. The road was very quiet when I set off towards Coldbackie. I had chosen to cycle in this direction because most of the cycling was to be downhill. I left my cycle in Coldbackie and started walking back up the A836. About a mile from Tongue I turned off down a narrow road which took me down to the shoreline of The Kyle of Tongue. The road continued back onto the A836 and then onto the impressive Tongue Bridge, which was basically a barrage or causeway, with a bridge at the far end, allowing the sea to enter further into The Kyle estuary. I leftthe main road, which had been very quiet, and taken a minor narrow road out to the hamlets of Melness, Midtown, Skinnet, Talmine, Achnahuaigh and East Strathan. The high position of the road offered brilliant views across Tongue Bay out to the uninhabited Rabbit Islands. With not a single car passing me I left the public road at Achiniver and took to a rough track that climbed onto the open moor. The track soon ended at Loch na h-Uamhachd and I set a compass bearing for Loch nan Aighean across open moorland. The going, although wet in a few places, was not difficult especially with the short vegetation. I was heading towards Whiten Head walking over the North-West shoulder of Ben Hutig (408m), which I had thought about climbing, but this would have extended the day somewhat. In the far distance I could make out the small forestry plantations close to the A836 where I had left my car that morning. Between me and it was a number of miles of gently rolling terrain, boggy in places, with numerous streams to cross. I set another bearing for the forestry and proceeded over boggy terrain. In what seemed like an age I finally reached the A836 a few hundred metres away from my car. Looking back at my route I could see that the cloud had come down and Ben Hutig was now in cloud.

I now had the long drive over the Thurso and my Airbnb for the next three nights.

On the A836 crossing the Tongue causeway
Looking out towards The Rabbit Islands
Achininver Beach
Looking back to Strath Melness with Ben Loyal in the background
Loch na h-Uamhacdh
Heading towards Whiten Head with Durness and Faraid Head in the hazy far distance
On the NW shoulder of Ben Hutig
Looking back eastwards towards The Rabbit Islands
Looking westwards towards Durness
Heading south over gently rolling grass and bog

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=24624

Distance today = 19 miles

Total distance = 4,967 miles