Dornoch to Brora – 18.8 miles (1,013.5 total)
Today was a day of contrasting emotions. The morning was a delightful walk, along the coast and north to Loch Fleet, which is a National Nature Reserve; this was followed by an uncomfortable walk along the A9 to Golspie, which included a questionable rural diversion; the finale was another spectacular section along the coast before rejoining the A9 for the last mile and a half into Brora.
Pete met up with me at 9.15am and we immediately took a path along the edge of the golf course. The Royal Dornoch Golf Course is apparently very famous, very popular and very expensive to play on. As a walker, I am always wary of golf courses. Many paths and rights of way are close to playing areas. I am ever conscious that I may inadvertently trespass on to private areas, or sneeze at the wrong time and cause upset by default. There is also the quite obvious risk of being struck by a golf ball… but that hasn’t happened yet. Anyhow, this morning’s path was well-defined and safely sheltered by tall gorse bushes. We soon left the golf course with its hazards, both real and imaginary, behind, and reached the quaintly-named village of Embo.
Mostly following the course of the old railway we worked our way round into the estuary that is Loch Fleet. On the way we startled a very young fawn which ran away before I could even think about taking out my camera. Some highland cattle were a couple of fields further on, very docile but with horns to match their great bulk. The path led to a country road and then a viewing area with a bench, which offered us the opportunity for a seat and a drink of water. It was low tide in the loch so we saw masses of common seals stretching themselves on the exposed sandbanks, with lots of birds to keep them company.
At the head of Loch Fleet we reached The Mound to join the A9 just before the bridge. My plotted route stayed on the A9 all the way to Golspie. However, I spotted a path leading into Creag Bheag woods signposted as part of the John o’Groats Trail. Taking it seemed a good decision at first, but soon the path ran out and we found ourselves hemmed in between the railway and fields with locked gates. Cutting our losses, we took a track back to the dreaded A9. This was a real low point because it was very busy and offered little verge to walk on. Luckily we both had our Hi-Vis waistcoats on, so at least the traffic could see us as the cars and trucks whizzed by at 60mph. Pete had again decided on a curtailed day and planned to catch the bus in Golspie. I joined him for a pint before pressing on.
My afternoon route took me right along the coast to just short of Brora. It was a genuinely enjoyable walk and I hardly met a soul. As always, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. The easterly wind was blowing quite strongly, however, keeping me cool. I suspect it will be my constant companion until the finish. Not long after leaving Golspie, I passed Dunrobin Castle, which looked more like a French Chateau than a Scottish Castle. Many varieties of seabird were quite at home on this secluded part of the coastline. I cut back inland again at Sputie, where I knew I could cross under the railway line to once again follow the A9 in to Brora, passing the football ground of Brora Rangers before reaching my hotel.
An interesting postscript to my day was meeting a fellow walker doing LEJOG. Pete came round to the hotel to meet me once I’d had a shower. While having a drink outside in the sun he met Jules Forth accompanied by her son, Angus, who flew over from Australia, unannounced, to walk with her for a week. Pete called me down and the four of us had a wonderful half hour comparing notes and experiences. Jules started her walk on March 1st, early enough to catch the late-winter snowfall in Cornwall and Devon. It was quite a treat to meet a fellow walker doing LEJOG at exactly the same time as myself. We could have talked for hours but their booked taxi arrived to ferry them to their accommodation. It’s amazing that we only meet by chance now after both being on the road for so long. She is currently on Day 85 (I think) and plans to finish on Tuesday, 12th June – the day after me. Jules’ blog is: http://www.julesforth.com/walkingtheblackdog
Today saw me pass the 1,000 mile mark. That’s a lot of steps!