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

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Day 7 22/6/2013 Pain stopped play!

Sad to say but we've pulled out of the last two days walk into Ullapool. Alfies feet have become too sore to walk on :-( hence the cheesy picture!

Having walked from the wild camp at slow pace due to Alfies sore paws and repeated attempts to bandage them failing we made it into Lochinver by about 9am, after a breakfast at the Fishermans mission (modern and clean tho not dog friendly) and much plodding around the village Alfie now having bandaged and duct taped feet.We picked up a bus at Lochinver bay just after 1pm and are now camping at the end of the route waiting for John to finish tomorrow or early Monday. Good luck mate!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Day 6, 21/6/2013

After a fitful sleep we face the dawn through a thick cloud of midges (still!). away from the wild camp without breakfast we had east in the direction of our next reprovisioning stop via a twisting and undulating road in thick low cloud, leaving much of the scenery to our imagination.

 a few hours in we reach the fishing village of Nedd with its eccentric road sign warning of pigs piglets sheep and dogs as you enter. Cute!, passing into this ancient village you see all the existing houses mixed in with the ruins of their predecessors and the odd gypsy caravan!. Leaving this quaint place in the mist I catch a sniff of garlic in the air, further along I find some wild ramsons and grab a handful for a light breakfast :-).
Over the hill to Drumbeg where the provisioning shop is, we find it closed for today..... Arse! Since we're all running low on food this could be a problem! So deciding to eat what we can we find the only shelter available to be the public toilets! Alfie enjoyed being held under the handryer for a bit lol!.
Continuing in the low cloud we head west to clashnessie picking up some eggs enroute, Entering Clashnessie we follow the single track road cut into the cliff....------------>
The bay has a lovely beach and very popular on a sunny day I imagine, for us it was a spot to boil up some of the eggs and make sandwiches and for Alfie an off lead opportunity!
The road out takes us across the neck of the Stoer peninsular to Stoer itself, a nice Crofters village with another nice beach through its neighbour Clachtolle and on to where a footpath runs along a stream to a ruin of a mill (pic), the grinding wheels still lay abandoned in the vicinity. The path continues to Achmelvich and is extremely dog unfriendly campsite!

We forgave them this as they filled out water bottles and sold us excellent fish and chips which we shared with the gulls. Probably a rule against this to ;-).
Moving on with filled stomachs and a food shortage averted we head into the hills north of Lochinver passing an ancient watermill for a wild camp and naturally more swarms of midges! This must be high season for the little b@5t£rds!.(isnt yet!)
Still once again the view more than made up for it!!!
View from our wild camp to Mount Suilven!

Day 5 20/6/2013 The A-B of roads

Away from Scourie bright and early for a full day of road walking starting with a quiet A Road that wended it's way through more of the rocky/lumpy post glacial landscape, passing Badcall bay where last night's salmon could have been landed from the Duart fisheries. a quick rest stop then continuing along the road we miss the track which would have given us an off road section,cant get everything right! so continuing on the road through Duartmore forest and then on to a viewpoint of the impressive mountains around Kylesku. here the award winning bridge crosses the sea loch via a small island. commemorated here was the incredibly heroic missions of British submariners from the second world war who piloted two man sub's into German harbours to sabotage the enemy fleet, far too many didnt make it back.
submariners cairn click to enlarge!

 The hotel at Kylesku warmly invited alfie in even knowing his breed! I had a smashing lamb pie while Ruth tucked into a bucket of muscles and John had fish cakes.
Back on the road passed Unapool and with the bulwark of Sail Garbh mountain ahead we join the B road to Drumbeg.

Swarming Midges!!!!
John heading towards Sail Garbh 

 passing the twin bulwark of Sail Ghorm with the accompanying gentle rain we follow the coast of loch a chairn bhain until we find a pitch the only available flat pitch around next to Alt na Claise burn where we are inundated by millions of midges, making for an early night.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Day 4 19/6/2013–sore paws and sleepy heads!

Awakening to more swarms of midges we had of quickly following the road South with stunning scenery all around, particularly Ben Stack behind us!

looking back from Tarbet Harbour
Following the road to Scourie in more of the amazingly rugged landscape we take a very busy  B road to the tiny harbour of Tarbet where excursions head out for bird watching on the isle of  Handa.
Tarbet Harbour


Passing up on this opportunity we take a vague path into the rocky territory for another 3 miles, briefly getting lost before we found the right path to Scourie, passing this wonderfull walled garden.....

Entering Scourie us wearily and Alfie with sore paws we take the opportunity to have an early day to rest and then head of to the hotel for dinner, haggis for starters and then salmon from loch Duart as a main...... Delicious!

 Then back to the campsite for another awesome sunset!......

Day 3 18/6/2013–is it me your looking for?

As has been the norm the day started slightly overcast but dry so no complaint, leaving the campsite in good time we were the first onto the beach only briefly waving hello to a couple Camped in the dunes, following the shore to the stacks (column of rock) until the indistinct path headed back into the dunes at the southern end of the beach. spying a lizard or stoat like creature crossing a nearby dune I headed off to investigate it's track as John and Ruth carried on,

the beasties tracks!

 at this point we lost track of each other completely and didn't meet up again for 6km! Not knowing if I was behind or in front of the others I continued along the path with the hope of catching or being caught up, many thanks go to the people I met heading towards the beach who carried my message of 'I'm in front' back to Ruth John and alfie who it turned out were behind me after searching the dunes for me :-). Eventually meeting at the road in Blairmore with much relief we headed southeast along the  B road in worsening weather, shortly before Kinlochbervie the skies opened and the rain came down waterproofs on until we find shelter and dinner at the Kinlochbervie hotel then off to the spar by the fish market to get provisions. Leaving town we meet the Durness bus driver again who entices us with a lift to Scourie!
Loch Inchard

Politely declining we continue along loch Inchard now under a pleasant bit of sunshine, views along the loch to the Atlantic included muscle beds being farmed tho we'd previously seen signs about not gathering wild muscles due to contamination?!.

At Richonich we start walking along a proper  A Road through the twisted rock formations of the area that were uncovered in the last ice age when glacier where up to a kilometer deep here!.
We carry on along this road in changing weather to Laxford bridge where a fisherman's path by the bridge led us to a suitable spot in the trees, unfortunately also a good spot for midges.
My tents view of Laxford bridge wild camp

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Day 2 17/6/2013– Evacuation!

Cape Wrath Light house
Waking to a clearing sky we get the nasty surprise of being told that everyone is being evacuated from Kearvaig as an Raf bombing practice is going to take place within the hour, no more than half a mile from the bothie!
Quickly packed this works to our advantage as the evacuation sees us getting a free lift to Cape wrath light house taking a chunk out of the route! Even better there's a cafe at the light house so tea and sandwiches are consumed as we watch a Typhoon circle kearvaig stack a small granite island the Raf have been bombing since 1927, tho this has allegedly caused no damage in all this time! Disappearing above the clouds the the Typhoon repeatedly hits the island with small and largely unimpressive bombs..... Could explain why the island still exists!

Distant explosion on An Garbh-eilean

With the bombing over and full belies (cunning easy to trap the tourist pound!) we leave the farthest north West point and head south along the wild and deeply undulating coastline in quickly improving weather, past a small group of dear we leave the track and start off across the unusually dry boggy landscape passing many cluster of insectivorous sundew plants (more obviously needed for midge control!), occasionally dodging inland or down and up we pass a variety of gulleys,  as lunch time arrives and with the sun now a regular thing we find a suntrap by steam to make tea and fill up on food.

As we progress south the cliff's become more broken and at one point look remarkably like abandoned building works! Or the building blocks of the gods ;-)
Heading steeply down to the bay of Keisgaig we sit to catch our breath and get the treat of watching two sea Otters playing and bathing by rocks in the bay, and briefly a seal showed it's head and then swam off, a great day for wildlife!.
As we get within reach of today's destination the river Strath Chailleach blocked our way and some fording was required. Boggy land beyond it before we climbed the last Hill and get presented with an impressive view of Sandwood bay which due to the appearance of two scout(?) groups wasn't the solitary beach experience expected, but beautiful none the less, setting up camp on the shore of the fresh water Sandwood loch we dine then settle in for the night with a view of the mountains east over the loch.

Sand wood bay in all its glory!!!

Day one 16/6/2013

Still sleepy after a good night at the Sangomore camp site in Durness and with a quick breakfast inside, we leave town on an impressively small  A Road that wouldn't even warrant a B classification back home and being Sunday morning no one was about but us tourists.
Reaching the kyle of Durness we turn right for the ferry at Keoldale, which left us with a wait till 11 am when the first ferry departure took the form of a small motor boat, squeezing in with a group of assorted tourists and college girls studying the local geology, we soon cross the quarter mile to the ramp on the opposing shore, uphill away from the vans our fellow tourists are taking to Cape wrath we gain a high view of the kyle and out to the north Sea.
Around a headland and down to an old rickety bailey bridge where a view past a tiny Dail farm entertained us while we had lunch.
Once more uphill on the only track to the lighthouse at cape wrath we pass into the military bombing danger area, passing an old bothie at loch inshore we walk between the peaks of Maovally and  Sgribhis-bheinn we reach the turn off to kearvaig bay and it's immaculate bothie.

 upon entering the bothie Alfie comes face to face with a double! Another border terrier also named Alfie! Belonging to one of three chaps who have the pleasure of maintaining Scotlands bothies, we later discovered that Alfie 2's dad looks after a bothie we passed when we walked to John O'groats... Small world!.
With the tents up on the grass overlooking bay we went of to explore the cliff's , so glad we did as just out of sight from the beach but visible from the cliff's were a small group of puffins! The first I've seen in the wild!

Back to the bothie to chat with our neighbours and the whisky Old  Poultney started to flow, way to soon this evening ended and we returned to the tents, but oh what what a beautifull sunset!!!!

A selection of the flora we got used to walking amongst.....


Pyramid Orchid

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Made it!

All connections for the journey went well, just a hiccup with the booking for the sleeper train but all turned out well so won't whinge about that :-)
We met up with JP in Inverness perfectly. had a breakfast in town then took the train to Lairg through some beautiful country passing some familiar sights from 2010.
Stepping straight from the train to the Durness bus we found ourselves having an unexpected guided tour from the bus driver who managed never to stop talking for the entire 57 mile trip including a tour of Durness,!!  All fascinating stories just a bit too much after travelling for 18 hours lol, he also stopped and waited for us to have a look into Smoo cave which was impressive.

Not as impressive as the moody north Sea crashing on the rocks by the campsite, with dry grey sky to enhance its mood!
Camping next to a pub which kindly broke it's own rule to allow alfie in :-), dinner and beer later we get an early night.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A taste of things to come!

At the end of this week a merry band of walkers will be heading north!
Alfie, Ruth, J P and myself are heading to the furthest northwest point of Scotland, the aim being to walk from Durness to Ullapool along the coast via the extremely remote cape wrath!
En-route and with a good dose of luck we will be passing through sandwood bay and if the weather holds we may have the pleasure to enjoy similar conditions to those in the picture!
Naturally the blog will be going live when possible but I'm not expecting to be able to post pictures as we go so thought this tastey pic should whet your appetites til an update is possible!
Whatever the weather this going to be spectacular so keep a close eye on the blog.