Inverness to Dingwall – 15 miles (962.5 total)
Today starts my final sub-section of LEJOG 2018. The planned 8 day walk between Inverness and John o’Groats is still ahead of me. It’s virtually all road walking, mainly because there are few possible alternatives as I head north and east. My plan is to follow National Cycle Route 1 (NCR1) for the first 3 days, then, when that goes in a different direction, I will use the A9 main road until I pick up the A99 to take me along to the finish line. A very few short path options look possible on the map – I’ll only know if they’re viable once I am physically there! There is a way walk being developed, the John o’Groats Trail, but it involves some wild – and possibly dangerous – walking, is not comprehensively signposted and would take nearly twice as long to complete.
My rest day in Inverness yesterday (Sunday) with Elizabeth was the perfect tonic. We did a mile or so of today’s walk to officially allow Elizabeth to be one of my walking companions, then soaked up the sunshine and relaxed for the remainder of our limited time together. This morning saw her return home while I set off for the last week of my journey.
My plotted route out of the city followed the River Ness and the harbour area, keeping to the west of the Longman Industrial Estate. As I’ve detailed previously (Bridgwater/Manchester) industrial estates are rarely walker friendly. This morning I did have pavements to walk on… if I could negotiate my way around the cars parked on them. I also witnessed 3 lorries carrying spectacularly long loads exiting the docks area.
Soon my path across the Beauly Firth was towering above me – the Kessock Bridge. Completed in 1982 it is over 1 kilometre in length and carries 30,000 vehicles a day. Unsurprisingly, I was the lone pedestrian making the crossing. It was also my first encounter with the A9, a road, as I said earlier, which I will see a lot of in the days ahead. The walk across was a bit intimidating, as you would expect – thank goodness I wasn’t attempting it on a windy day! On making landfall I entered the County of Ross and Cromarty and the area known as the Black Isle.
I followed the cycle route down to the shoreline at North Kessock giving me clear views across the firth to Inverness, my starting point. From there it was a pleasant stroll, following NCR1 through Tore, past Conon Bridge and Maryburgh to my day’s destination of Dingwall. Conditions were slightly cooler than the last few weeks but still warm. Cloud persisted all day with little threat of rain.
This is the first time I can recall visiting this part of Scotland – the whole journey north, now, for me, will be a voyage of discovery. Early indications are that I’m back to being a lone walker although I did pass a number of cyclists heading south – some of them possibly cycling JOGLE (John o’Groats to Lands End). One cyclist, sporting a grey beard and a pained expression, shouted to me (in an English accent) ‘ When is this bloody hill going to end? ’. I smiled to myself, partly because I was walking downhill, but mostly because I knew what was ahead of him. Although I still have some long days to come, thankfully most of the gradient is over.
Pete is joining me for the third time, tomorrow evening in Alness, with the possibility that he’ll be keeping me company until the end. Eddie is also driving a long way to join me for the second time, in Wick, to walk the final leg with me. Tomorrow, God-willing, should be my last Tuesday of LEJOG.