Wednesday 6th November – with Rachel Aird in the afternoon
Dornoch – Brora
22.68 miles … 2,729 calories … 682′ ascent …47,166 steps … 7 hours 20 minutes
It was very cold overnight in Bablu, I could see my breath … but snug under the duvet!
Fiona joined me for the first part of the walk in beautiful early morning frosty light. Lying water on the Golf course was frozen, but on the Royal Dornoch Championship Links Course they were rolling new turf! I presume just to make it softer on my feet to walk.
Fiona took some great photos and it was a joy to walk along the shore, past Embo and then the sand dunes to reach the site, where in the summer you can cross the estuary by ferry (that would be cheating anyway…).
I soon reached the quiet side road leading eventually to the A9 again. I was able to follow the John O Groats footpath by the side of the Mound and the bridge beyond it. The further I go along the ‘John O Groats Trail’ I feel more of a pioneer … signage is quite good, but footpaths are rather uncertain, or non-existent.
After crossing through a forest, I found myself in a newly seeded field, alongside the railway. The next field had just had a heavy coat of dung spread on it, so my trainers were well covered…
The next field also had two large bulls in. I was OK walking alongside them, but many people wouldn’t be, especially if they had a dog for company. I walked passed more cattle, water buffalo may be the way forward if it continues to be so wet, and a great stockpile of straw bales.
I walked on through forest to yet another golf course at Golspie. Here I caught up with Rachel, who studied Geography with me in Durham quite a few years ago (and whose daughter happened to be studying Engineering at Durham at the same time as Tom was!). After lunch on a picnic bench in warm sunshine, Rachel and I left Fiona and followed the shoreline from Golspie towards Brora.
The first significant historical feature was Dunrobin Castle, built by the Duke of Sutherland, not particularly popular in these parts due to his role in the Highland Clearances. I had a great catch up with Rachel as we negotiated the odd river and coastal debris.
On arrival at Brora we learned more about this little coastal village, where my mother in law had spent many childhood holidays. in the 1600’s it was like the industrial capital of the Highlands, with coal mining and salt production to the fore. Another information board mentioned two brothers, John and Robert Naylor, who walked the whole way from John O Groats to Lands End starting in September 1871 … nearly 150 years ago. I look forward to reading the account of their journey online at the end of my journey. Interesting, they also walked about 25 miles a day!
Just 22.5 miles today, before a 4pm finish and Rachel treated us to supper at the Sutherland Inn, before another night in Bablu in another stunning location.
PS We are approaching £22,500 now raised for IJM. What a privilege to play a small part in giving people freedom …nearly enough for 5 rescues!