Walking 1004.9 miles from John O'Groats to Lands end in aid of Accommodation Concern! (starts august 3rd 2014)

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Blog Maintenance

Now that the walk is done the blog is going through a lot of changes!
All of the days blogs will be tidied up! and a lot more photos will be added, so far I have just worked out the exact distance walked. by taking a day to replot my route with the excellent "Maps to GPX" website.
Our original distance was going to be about 968 miles but now even after taking a few shortcuts and allowing for     getting lost going astray whatever! our final distance walked is a whopping 1013.51 miles!!!!!!! very pleased to have broken the thousand mile mark!

all distances have also be put into a new spreadsheet and the route in google maps is also available via links in the right bar, interesting to see !

So keep an eye on us here and see what else happens!

oh i am considering a new challenge already but other than via word of mouth i'm keeping quiet about what it is!
All in good time.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Two of two or the end ! 15/6

Not sure what to say yet will update the end blog asap , but job done !

Ok about time this was done I think! (24/6!!!)

The day started with a quick walk into Wick where a great little Cafe allowed Alfie In!  John and I full fried breakfast later hit the road (A99) out of Wick to the road NE to Ackergillshore where as the tide was out we were able to clamber over the rocks below the pier , made a nice find here of a massive sea urchin. >

.A bit further along and Alfie nearly got an early supper of young Cormorant luckily he came away when called, and the bird just got a bit shocked!, John then put the bird into the sea where it swam out to a rock where its mother waited.
Just above the the bay is the Impressive Ackergill Tower, more of a castle really!
Here a path enables you to avoid the rocky coastline and we started to make better progress, the beach here is sublime! and next to no one else was here, for any one planning a similar route there is a river cutting through the beach into the sea but when we walked through it was only boot deep so no great problem.

Coming off of the beach at Keiss views along the coast show the impressive ruin of old Keiss castle, but as lunch called a drink was taken at the local hotel, before the A99 lead our feet for another 5 miles or so to Freswick, where the bay is fronted by the formidable Freswick house which dominates the bay.

The last hill totally obscures the view of end of the walk till the you get within the last mile or so, but i doubt anyone would be concerned as the views of the Orkneys (weather permitting) are astonishing!

John O'Groats itself is surprisingly large albeit well spread out, with the last kilometer taking you to the now boarded up Hotel where the official finish line is, Why has no one taken over this old Hotel? surely there's an investment here?, Meeting up with Ruth again here (after she had met us on the road near Freswick!) and with the end sign post photos taken, a celebratory beer was had at a hotel up the road where we met up with Chris (lejoger) who was staying at the hotel till he headed home tomorrow.

For me and Alfie a few nights in a large tent with all needs catered for Thanks Ruth!!! were bliss full tho it had to come to an end. so as promised we gave John a lift back to Stafford where he picked up his train and the M6 took us back to the midlands and home.

I suppose the question I've left unanswered is would i do it again? well the answer is certainly not no! but at the moment its not yes either!
 in time when my finances allow I may well reverse the route or find another (stirling looks good!(yes looking already!)) but for now i'm letting my knees recover they seem to be very stiff now that i'm relaxing more!, 
the feet? well i suppose i've been lucky as other than lots of silly little blisters they've been fine!.

At the start of the walk I weighed a whopping 14+ stone (ouch!) by the end I'm considerably more trim weighing in at 12.5 stone so its safe to say I lost two stone or one seventh of my body mass during this expedition, hope I can keep this weight!

Alfie has amazingly had no problems at all during the entire walk! the only thing to slow him down was hot days and a quick dunk in a river or trough soon sorted him out!.

Biggest challenge now for me is work, I dont have a lot ! so if anyone needs an Electrician................

Monday, 14 June 2010

Lybster to Wick 14/6

What can you say about a whole day spent walking on the A99 ?
I hate to say that but the most interesting part by midday was walking past some trees...... ok if I hadn't spent the last week looking at the sea that view would have been mildly interesting with its scattering of Oil rigs ,oh one inland oil well at Lybster was of passing interest tho .
The promised pub at Thrumster didn't open on mondays so I boiled some water for coffee while sitting on a rock in the pub carpark , just as it boiled J P arrived (good timing!) So both had coffee and wandererd the last miles into Wick for a soft drink then onto the wick campsite for tonights pitch.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Badbea to lybster 13/6

A long slog today along the A9 and the A99 in a steady drizzle, the long descent into Berriedale and back out was no where near as bad as some blogs/ websites report so a better start than expected.
But as with most road walking you just spend time avoiding traffic not looking at the scenery, the coast here is all high level cliffs and expansive views of the sea (thru the rain!) To the oil fields.
Walking into Latheron Wheel the mist noticeable landmark was an arch formed by whale ribs.
Reaching Lybster we call it a day dizzy of road walking !
Can't believe its just two days walking now. already getting emotional !

Brora to Badbea 12/6

This morning saw a parting of the ways, John is very much an early morning man often walking by 6am so he started early and me and Alfie headed off at our usual 7.30.
Initially we walk thru Brora golf course where Signs warn of nesting Arctic Turns ! And so many too! Pic to follow if it came out! Also nesting were the gulls , sadly underfoot on the path ! Got past without damaging any thankfully just a wake of annoyed gulls, the north sea to our right is pancake flat with the sun sparkling on its surface , think of the north sea you think grey . Right? Wrong its just like the Mediterranean in the shallows with the brightest blue hue. Lovely day !
Passing the rocky shore south of lothbeg point we again share the coast with seals , hundreds of them ! Also the now common oyster catchers defending there nests.
Over lothbeg point and thru a campsite set in the remains of britains second world war defences, just concrete bunkers now but once the front line in our defence.
A further 4 miles of idyllic coast line we hop onto the A9 in mellow mood to stop at Helmsdales Bridge Inn , wow! So many pubs have not allowed Alfie therefore us in and now this Inn turns the tables and welcomes us with open arms ! All seating was studded leather armchairs hunting scenes and tartan tastefully displayed and just lovely staff to welcome this smelly traveller in. Go to this place its perfect.
After the great first half of the day the last stretch along the A9 for 10 km was ok made better by the fact the road was quiet weekend traffic !
Off trail to badbea the abandoned village , now just stone walls but a  good wind break for the tent !

Friday, 11 June 2010

Dornoch to Brora 11/6th

From our Dornoch wild camp on the north sea coastline our way led along a path then an abandoned railway to Embo ,passing quickly thru we keep to the railway and pass on our way the skeletal remains of Skelbo castle.
The trail goes around the sea loch Fleet where we see distant views of seals and the dread A9 !
All to soon we meet the road and spend 6 miles dodging juganaut and boy racers................. (leaving this bit blank to censor any comment about boy racers!)..........!
Entering Golspie we escape the havoc for the day, finding a nice cafe and an all day breakfast with  tea to calm the nerves, then following the coast thru tranquil pasture we find Dunrobin castle (pic) staggering architecture ! The coast to to Brora actually beats the castles beauty as we pass at least 50 seals! Got within 15 mtrs of two (pic to follow) and that was with Alfie in tow!
Dinner in a local hotels bar at Brora, then off to find a wild campsite.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Alness wild camp to Dornoch 10/6

After a mostly comfy night camping in the woods (damn that stick!) We carry on down the road to Tain nice place but not the most dog friendly.
Taking the A9 out of town we pass the Glen Morangie distillery ( yes I made it passed without a visit! May visit on drive home ;) ) 
The A9 follows the Dornoch Firth to the river crossing (just happens to be a pub here, not open but still served us!) As you cross the bridge the very first road sign for John O'Groats tells you 85 miles to go !
On the other side with the sun breaking through to give us the first sunny day since Aviemore, we head along a B road to Dornoch, a grand town with turrets on lots of buildings , here we meet Chris Torrington another lejog nutter! Before stocking up with food and heading out to the dunes for our first seaside wild camp!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Dingwall to wild camp past Alness 9/6

After a huge buy one get one free meal from the pub at Dingwall station we all over slept , didn't wake up till 7.20 !
Our neighbours in the tourer made tea for us nice people!
Walking into town for bacon rolls at a cafe , then walking a B road along the Cromerty Firth to Evanton , by now 11.30 so we stopped at the Cornerstone cafe for tea and pancakes, now this place is charity run and finding out that our walks were in a good cause our elevensies were free! What's more a donation was given too ! Do stop and support this place !
Walking from Alness thru Mossfield we follow a tiny b road till we hit the woods for a nights camp

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Inverness to Dingwall 8/6

After a lovely lazy day mostly not moving from the guest house, we meet with John (j.p) again and head off over the Moray Firth to follow a track along the southern edge of the Black Isle , saw a few big splashes in the Firth which may have been dolphin! But too distant to identify the dark shape that made the splash.
After a brief cupper at Milton we head on footpaths and roads to Conon bridge and then to Dingwall.
With tents set up on the edge of the crommerty Firth near to the Ross county football club ground who came second in the Scottish FA Cup.
We now only have 8 days left ......unbelievable!

Tomatin to Inverness 6/6

After a night of non stop rain the morning followed suit! So with grey skies and grey air! We opted for the just get today done approach , its a short day anyway so we hit the tarmac following paths along the A9 and then along the B 9154  past the Auchnahillin campsite which my original plan was to use, spoke to some long distance cyclists here and received the complement of " your Bloody hard core!" (Thanks) the road continued to Daviot via a wee suspension bridge over the river Nairn then the path crossed the A9, with no sign of the rain relenting we made a drastic accomodation change for our rest day and located a dog friendly guest house in Inverness on Google maps on the phone.
With 6 miles to walk and most of that downhill we sped along and into Inverness stopping at the castle for a while and chatting to a German girl named Kristen who was enjoying the views from the parapets too.
We then made our way to the guest house by about 3pm a nice early end to a very soggy day where Alfie made good use of the guest house bed!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Aviemore to Tomatin 5/6

A day of flirting with the last great obstacle , the dreaded A9 !!! Gonna see far to much of this road soon but at least today we can dodge it!
Leaving Aviemore we road walk to the A9 and follow its flanks for 200 yards or so before we head into forestry commission land aka the world of the wood ant every step you see hundreds of these industrious insects , hate to think how many I squashed! .
The woodland quickly changes from logging to wildfowl as lots of signs warn of the area being an important Capercaile breeding area, sorry didn't see one tho.
Now walking another military road we have a far better surface than near Aberfeldy thank goodness ! With as we pass Carrbridge an impressive old bridge at Sluggan (pic to follow) leaving the woods at Sloched we follow the old A9 now a cycle path till we head into Tomatin. Didn't expect much in facilities here so was pleased to find a little shop behind the now closed Inn even got a hot coffee here so very happy !
We are pitched just in town in a stretch of woodland on a track near the distillery , don't know which one yet so close and we have a dry night!

Friday, 4 June 2010

Chest of Dee to Aviemore

First off an omission from yesterday , a chap named Hugh Boyd donated to the charity and tonight the Williams family did too! Thanks to all !
The nights here are nearly not happening ! At 1.30am the sky was a deep blue but by 3am the sky was brighter so does it get really dark? I'm not planning on being awake to find out!
Our usual 7.30 start and we race off along glen Dee the river drops down a series of small falls and rapids with a Greeny blue hue to the water ,the water all along here is melt from the snow above and as such is excellent drinking water , so sweet!
Rounding Sgor Mor a low mountain we get ever expanding views of towards the Lairig Ghru which I can't believe is an old drove road ! The dominant landmark at this stage is the Devils Point a shear buttress of rock towering over Glens Geusachen and Dee left of pic.
On past Cairn Toul on our left and Ben Macdui on our right both around 3900 feet we have to ford deeply flowing streams swollen with melted snow Alfie does admirably for his small stature !
Up into the boulder field of the Lairig Ghru we find ourselves floundering over the still deep remnants of the winters snows, treacherously with the tributarys of river Dee rushing beneath our feet , keeping to the edge of the snows we pass beneath the  Cairn Lochan and Braeriach ranges to either side.
Down and out of the mountains we are swallowed by the Rothimurchus forest with a hot humid change from the cold winds of the tops.
Into Aviemore for a campsite for the night and the first pizza for two months ! Lovely! 

Blair Athol to Chest of Dee 3/6

Having been pushing it for the last few days to get to the Cairngorms while the forcast good weather held (nearly made up a days walk!) Our efforts have paid off! Perfect blue skys sunny and a cool wind, a bit too hot at 28 deg C ! But so nice!
The walk starts on the trail thru Blairauchdar wood with signs warning of a precipitous drop to our right, as warned the path rises and the river Tilt disapears into the woods below us, we soon meet the river again as we head up the gently sloping Glenn Tilt.
Passing a house called Marble Lodge the glen opens up before us to reveal a staggering sheer sided valley rising up to 2500 feet (approx) on either side! As we sit and marvel another incredible sight meets us as a Euro Fighter jet thunders down the valley and over our heads! The first of four jets to do so today, the trail becomes a footpath under the towering flanks of Dun Beag and in the midday heat we find to our left the lovely falls of Tarf (pic to follow) Alfie's straight in for a cooling paddle and I dip my feet into the freezing river, so nice! The path winds up and down the steep sides of Alt Garbh Buidhe and around the edge of a boggy area of water catchment from the surrounding hillsides, after fording some large streams we get to Geldie Burn now in wetter times this would cause huge problems crossing but for me it was on with the gaiters and start wading it still came up to just below my knee ,and even so I only got one wet foot, happy with that!.
With gobsmacking views of Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui to our left both snow capped, we set up camp at the Chest of Dee (by white bridge) , the path tomorrow goes between these two mountains via the Lairig Ghru sadly a hill in front obscures this so tomorrows callenge still remains a mystery!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Aberfeldy to Blair Athol 2/6

From our amazing wild(ish) campsite we descended into Aberfeldy for provisions and a quick look about, glad we did as this town is the place where clan chiefs loyal to the English/British  crown gathered troops to form the Highland watch now known as the Black Watch! To keep clans loyal to the Scottish crown in check.
The B road (again!) To Strathtay meanders along the Tay valley sadly on the opposite bank of the river to the Dewars distillery :( , with high hills either side the view is never dull, and upon reaching Strathtay a quick ice cream powers us up and over the hill to Pitlochry in the next valley over a pub lunch and we head west towards Killiekrankie (oh jimmy where are you now? Tee hee!) Along the lovely Loch Faskally through well tended woodland paths with sunlight now making the leaves glow! A lovely sight.
The path does run out at killiekrankie and we have a couple more hours on the road to Blair Athol a scenic village at the foot of Glenn Tilt where we will head into the wonders of the Cairngorms! If you don't here from us for a few days don't worry, we're heading into the wilds!  Woooohooooo!

Perth to Aberfeldy 1/6

Before I start to go on about today I'm just gonna break a mould I  know that my pet hate seems to be cities but things change ok?
Having had a rest day at Perth with all the usual camp chores finished ie repairs and washing we caught a bus into town on a sunny bankholiday Monday to find ourselves enjoying a quiet but still busy centre, no graffiti , tidy streets and a really pleasing vibe to the place! Plenty of parks and an old but well designed layout to the road system with grand buildings on all sides, you can really tell this used to be a capital city and that its still loved!
The campsite we stayed on had an equally nice vibe the place was spotless the two wardens couldn't do enough for you and it seemed that by the time we left everyone knew us by name with beers being given to us and our neighbours who left while we were in town left us a nice bucket barbie to cook on (sadly left this on site!) Oh the site is called "Noahs Ark" no idea why tho!.
After yesterdays sunshine todays drizzle is a shame but it is better walking weather.
So a stretch of footpath out of the site led us to a hop over the A85 into Almond Bank then into the pretty village of Pitcairngreen with its huge village green, from here a long long stretch of road walking through farmland past the usual animals and peacock with their haunting cries, to reach a turn onto single track road that runs parallel with Shochie Burn (great name!) This turns into a rutted track up Glen Shee for our first real taste of rough mountains ,tho the Scott's call them hills!, down and back onto roads towards Aberfeldy we pass our planned nights stop at 2pm so carrying on road walking we join one of General wades military roads by a land mark known as white cairn (of which there's neither s cairn or anything white!) The old road (dirt track) soon entered woodland where it degenerated into gooey squelchy bog....not easy or pleasant trust me! After two hours of this we leave the road(!?) Over a 12 foot high deer proof stile and hit tarmac walking past Loch na Craige a sign post pointed to a view point where we set up camp, with the sun setting we had a most spectacular view of the Cairngorms and nearer ranges, (names to follow and pic)