Brian’s Highland Walk
Tuesday 27th June 2017 (Day 1)
The day had finally arrived, with all the practice done. I planned to make this a long day and, for those of you who may know Caithness, I wanted to get over Berriedale Braes, approximately 30 miles from Thurso.
Heading off at 5am, to take advantage of the long hours of daylight and lack of traffic, I managed about 11 miles before my support team (my partner, Jill) came out to meet me with coffee, bacon and sausages. After a rest it was onwards once more across the remote Causeway Mire, admiring the beautiful Caithness wilderness, and foraging the occasional ripe bramble along the way.
Twenty or so miles in, Dunbeath was a natural place to stop for lunch, before setting off again as the showers of rain started.
At around 4pm, Berriedale was directly ahead. If my legs weren’t sore going down the steep hairpin bends at the north side, then by the time I walked up the equally-steep, mile-long southern stretch they certainly were! I managed to soldier on for a few miles and finally stopped to await collection at a layby on the A9.
I was then whisked off, footsore and tired, for a meal, a shower and bed in a local hotel. (Total distance 58km.) I had feared I would be plagued by midges, but thankfully they had failed to make an appearance that day.
Day 2 (Out of Caithness)
From the first step (as I started from the A9 layby, where I had stopped the previous evening) I could tell my feet were not at all happy about this, but I still managed approximately 6 miles to Helmsdale before a break for breakfast. With the day being that bit warmer, I set off again with plenty of water in my backpack. My worries about the midges were unfounded again, as the breeze seemed to keep them away. I was sure I would pay for this later!
Walking along the coastal A9 road, I found that the traffic was heavier than on the previous day, so more care was needed on the road. There was still plenty of opportunity for admiring the view, and even learning a thing or two about local history along the way.
By the time 5pm came along, my feet finally said, “No more!” The car park at the end of Golspie’s main street became the end point for Day 2, with another 37km completed.
Day 3 (Golspie to Nigg)
I left Golspie and headed south along the A9. The road widening made dodging traffic much easier as I headed over the Dornoch Bridge to Tain. After a brief break, I headed off to catch the ferry from Nigg over to Cromarty. However, the heavens opened about 10 miles from Nigg and I could feel myself slowing down as I trudged along.
Resisting the offer of a lift from a kind lady a few miles outside Nigg, I took the opportunity to give her a soggy NMO leaflet and explain why I was walking in the downpour, and she seemed genuinely interested. I eventually arrived at Nigg 44km after setting out in the morning. I was just in time to see the last ferry leave about two minutes before I got to the jetty!
So there I was, cold wet and miserable, shivering in a bus shelter until Jill came along and, with the heating going full blast in the car, got me to the hotel. A steaming hot shower, a glass of wine and a huge plate of venison stew, and I was ready to sleep.
Strangely, there had been no midges that day either!
Day 4 (Friday , Black Isle to Inverness)
Rather than going back to Nigg for the ferry crossing to Cromarty, I started Friday from the Cromarty ferry terminal at the other side. So, with a fresh sense of purpose, off I went, heading for Inverness and the finishing line.
Coming out of the village of Cromarty there was a long slow climb of approximately 7km, according to the voice on the MapMyWalk app on my phone. Over the days I had really grown to look forward to her updates each kilometre, and got annoyed if traffic drowned out her voice!
By early afternoon, I arrived at my brother’s house in the village of Avoch (pronounced Och, as in loch). After a cuppa I was off again, knowing I had only about 10 miles left. By 4pm, I could finally see Inverness. A quick descent down the hill and back beside the A9 dual carriageway, and I was almost there.
I was so pleased to see my mum along with other family members, waiting for me, at the Inverness Caledonian Thistle football stadium. That was 35km for the day and a grand total of 174km or 108miles. Job done, and as a bonus, I had never encountered a single midge the whole way!