Saturday 9th November
19.15 miles … 2,966′ ascent … 2,992 calories … 41,210 steps … 7 hours 25 minutes
Sleeping patterns are a little irregular in Bablu, but we did sleep well… I just woke up rather too early for Fiona’s liking (and started huffing and puffing … Ed). Not so cold as usual and I made an early start at 7.20am. Fiona joined me for a short while, to warm up, until she was put off by the potential bull in the field of cows she would have to return through alone! Then it was another morning of following the coastline (literally) above very dramatic cliffs, with stacks of stacks.
The farmers fence their fields as close to the edge as possible, then the path runs outside the field, I climbed over several barbed wire fences, when it was a little closer to the edge! Plenty of photos to prove it.
I chose trainers rather than boots again, as although my feet are wet all day, at least they are comfortable. Both Compeed plasters on my little toes dropped off today after several days in action (I can certainly recommend Compeed!)
Apart from the obvious oil and gas platforms, far out to sea, there were rock platforms closer to the coast, with a selection of seals and shags resting on them. Today I came across a fox as I was walking on a path through the gorse and a hen harrier just finishing its lunch – I don’t think I have been so close to either before and needless to say, they didn’t hang around long enough to have their picture taken.
One of the well-known landmarks on this section of coastline are the Whalligoe steps; 360 steps built in the rock used in the height of the herring industry during the 1800’s. Of course, I couldn’t just walk on past them, and anxious to get my steps up for the day, I walked down to the bay below and obviously had to count them. I got to 300 but forgot the ones right down at the bottom next to the sea… and wasn’t going to count again. The women would carry creels of herring up the steps every day! Unfortunately, in all the excitement of the Whalligoe steps, I missed Bablu and Fiona and went on past (I was parked on the trail and am not small…Ed). Thank fully I got a mobile reception to send a message later on. We did meet up at Sarclet Haven harbour at about 1.30pm for a quick lunch in Bablu.
I continued along past more stacks and remnants of buildings from the 19th Century booming herring industry in several deep little bays. I think the many seals seen lounging on the beach below may consume a lot of the fish these days.
I finished the day at 4pm, when the light is beginning to fade this far north, at Wick. Wick Castle is just a ruin now, but in its heyday, it was a fine building and is one of the oldest Castles in Scotland, dating from the 12th century, it was inhabited by …. Who was half Norse and half Scots. Fiona, who is all Scots, walked to meet me in time for us to send a live Facebook video before we gratefully arrived at the home of Bruce and Sheelagh Paterson, parents of Sarah, who spent a year with Zoe in Italy with BMS pre-University. It was great to catch up with them all, wash and enjoy a warm, cosy house and comfy bed, after a delicious meal.
The mirror in our bedroom tonight has written on it ‘Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations’. I hope that anyone reading this blog today can take some encouragement from these words when life is particularly hard. Also, we do need to know that we don’t need to travel alone. I have been so encouraged by those who have journeyed this walk with me, physically and followed my progress from a distance. I have been aware of God’s protection … that he indeed, as the poem ‘Footprints in the Sand’ suggests, carried me when I can’t manage in my own strength. Acknowledging God who created this amazingly beautiful world and despite the scale of even this little place called ‘The British Isles’, that he is concerned about me and loves me, and wants to have an amazing relationship with me. The same is exactly true for you … whether you recognise it or not at the moment. A life with Him is infinitely more rewarding than one without Him, I can tell you that from my own experience.
I want to finish this journey to John O Groats well … but I have learned that, though the starting and finishing points may be mentioned most, it is what we do, how we respond, behave and learn on the journey AS it is happening. Take every opportunity available to you today, bless someone, encourage someone and be encouraged.