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

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sunday 31st August

Horizontal all day! Now that's a rest day!

Day-26 Fruits, ruins and new friends

Last nights pitching of the tent had been a soggy affair, by this morning after a rainy night in a pine forest the tent was bone dry, love the advantage of forestry camping!.
Following B roads under a clearing sky into Lockerbie I get the days provisions from a greggs bakery, have to love the two pound coffee and sausage and bacon roll deal! I certainly have done in the past and it's taken four weeks of walking to get rid of the resulting belly!.
Some towns I can walk through and get no end of interest from pedestrians, to Lockerbie I was an oddly smelling ghost! Not a flicker of an interaction, I suppose with the towns horrific history they have a reason, though I'd hoped they would have left that in the past... Time will heal.
Uphill at Hayrigg I met a lady in horse back who admired my quest, wishing she could do it on her horse, like me she mentioned the freedom to roam Scotland and also the sheer inability to actually get anywhere off road!.... Glad it's not just me!
Directly south still following the Annandale way, with its excellent signs! I'm foraging the hedgerows for the huge blackberries while watching the ever present Buzzards drifting overhead, heading off road at Glenholm I'm following farm tracks to the most amazing find of the walk so far, imagine an old Hall from a hammer house of horror movie, covererd in ivy right? Ruined? Well this one certainly is! Wide open to enter at your own risk.... To tempting not too!
The porch is huge big enough to accommodate a horse and carriage, impressive steps into the house, where all the floors and roof have collapsed and been cleared out, trees now take advance of the walls shelter showing how long this place has been decaying, on a sunny day like today it's incredibly peaceful here, and to see the most beautiful fireplace still fixed to wall and balconies now looking only onto a lost past its impossible to not get lost in my imagination!
Stepping away from here I'm lost in reverie, hard to imagine this overgrown land to have once been immaculate gardens! And the fields either side may once have been parkland as after half a kilometer I reach a road and the ruined gates to this house! From the map I can only guess the house was known as Milkbank after the river that I'm following.
Beautiful old lanes bordered by trees add to this halcyon feeling and passing the nearby Hoddom castle is really the cherry on top of the cake, to mix my metaphors!
Keeping with the river and it's fly fisherman I get to Brydekirk and swap banks catching up with a group of walkers (pic) from Liverpool rotary club! I Walk the last miles to Annan with these lovely folk, and will hopefully meet up with them in Liverpool!
FYI guys I should be there on the tenth of September! Fingers crossed we do meet up!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Day-25 Crossing an old friend

After last nights sunny views of the beef tub this mornings were a bit damp in comparison, but that's what non stop rain will do to you!
I got a bit lucky packing up in a dry spell, so getting off worked well, the Annandale way path cuts out a loop of road going up and over a soggy lump of hill, not a huge gain from dodging the traffic!. Straight off of the road again and down a long soggy (spot the theme here?) track into the valley, plenty of cows galloping up expecting to be fed... Sorry girls!
At the bottom of the valley I join a nice single track road that runs all the way into Moffat, one last was doing multiple school runs past me so lots of smiles and waving going on! I do like how strangers can bond like this! It's one of those little things that gets you through the day :-)
Into Moffat I stop at the right cafe for breakfast, not only does it say walkers welcome but there's a pic of two border terriers up as well!, got served by a pretty blonde girl who got way to much attention from an old Londoner who comes in every day... Think I see why! Lol
Provisions topped up and out of town passing various gothic buildings! Under the M74 and I meet an old friend/adversary!  the southern upland way! Distant memories of 2000 when I set out on what was then only my second long distance walk! How many miles I've walked since then!!!
Up hill and my brief filtration with the past is cut short as The Annandale way carries me away in a generally southern and definitely rainy direction! Keep having to check if I'm growing gills these days! Nothing fishy about me or the path or likely even in the murky Kinnel water river, up into Oldshields wood they are typing down the trees to stop disease in the Larches, so the usual forestry devastation is my surrounding until normal woodland swallows me, emerging onto a road I cross into normal farmland, it takes a while for it to sink in that I'm out of the southern uplands here, it's starting to feel English! With the beech trees thinning out and Oaks becoming more common, past a cow farm and the usual churned up fields, then east along a Lane, it's here I find today's curiosity two plastic chairs fixed to the fence called Nono's seat, complete with a visitors book and claims to have its own Facebook page!... I'll have to look it up.... I think?
South again and I'm into woodland called Speedlings flow and nearby Speedlings tower, but by this stage I'm just concentrating on finding a pitch, so into the woods and down for the night.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Day-24 following the Clyde

The first glance out the tent told me the weather had changed, no longer is the top of Tinto visible, this morning she is wearing a veil of clouds, moody and menacing!.. Tho no longer my problem!
Kit packed and away in quickly into Wiston and out again onto a rough farm track to the A73. A very quiet A road happily.
Through Roberton with a brief sit down in a bus shelter, carrying on past an old mound once occupied by a Roman Fortlet now occupied by trees and farm equipment.
A quick dodge east and over the Clyde then under a railway and I'm on what must have been the only road along the valley in the past, a tiny single track road, how things change!
By now rather dehydrated I go into Abington where I have a shop marked on the map, groceries bought and a hot chocolate from a machine being drunk as I sit outside on a picnic bench, along come two lejog cyclists a father and son team who are making up they're route as they go!
Nicely refreshed I head on to Crawford in bright sunshine once again the only person in this tiny road, a ruined castle is my first impression of Crawford followed by a ruined hotel and another shut for staff training, not my day for a good hot meal then! The high light of Crawford was a pet parrot who could imitate the sound of a bubble popping perfectly! 
Walking from Crawford the clouds gather and visibility diminishing with the onset of heavy rain i now have the company of the A74 (M) motorway to add to my displeasure! Not a pleasing companion! Especially for 8km!..head down and keep going time!.
Finally into woodland and the roar of the motorway recedes, along with the clouds, thankfully this gives the ground a chance to dry before I pitch the tent, I push an additional 7km further than planned, passing various signs saying 'no unauthorised access' I've become very adept at missing these signs in the last four weeks!. The extra push was so worth while, as with the sun still shining I reach 'the Devils beef tub' a great gouge out the land (pic) and for me the start of the Annandale way!..but that's for tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day-23 one for our Marion at work!

Knowing today was a short distance day I allowed myself another late start eventually getting away at eight am, traffic on the roads was pretty loud by this time but not heavy on the my route. Lots of B roads today once again under an unblemished blue sky :-), a gentle breeze took the edge off of any excess of heat so the walking was perfect! Twisting along a flattish valley by the river mouse water I reach Carstairs and all I can imagine is some cheesy second world war army chap complaining to a fellow called Carstairs..Think it may have been Terry Thomas?.
With no clarification to mind I wander through the sister village of Carstairs junction and on and over the Clyde, following this south I pass a pass Covington a village with claims about Robert Burns and also murdered covenanters! Today it has an ancient ruined tower and dovecote and not a lot else!
Thankerton the next village suffers a similar fate with both the pub and café having closed down! Glad I'd bought provisions at Carstairs.
Out the village and Tinto hill is my next aim, this has been in sight all day and seemed pretty imposing! With each step I'm thinking that this has to be the steepest hill/mountain I've climbed on this trek! Certainly made me puff! On one of the many rest stops I looked back north and I'm fairly certain I could see sterling castle! Three days earlier on my route! The panorama in general was huge with Glasgow visible, Falkirk, Forth, and various other places I couldn't name in sight, great to be able to relive my recent days.
Over Totherin hill and a push up to the top of Tinto,great 360 degree views from this second highest point on the walk at 2477 feet according to my gps..the plaque at the top claimed less but I think that was more accurate.
With my route heading over the top to continue south my path leads down an impressively steep slope must be over 50 degrees of decent, ankles and knees were complaint about this but at least with this angle the route downhill was short, with a bit of dithering at the bottom I find a sheltered spot for my tent and cook up dinner.... Chicken korma... Not bad for a little stove cooking!... Chats with home then sleep till Dawn.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Day-22 long haul!

Bit of a late start sees me negotiating tiny farm tracks and more elusive os map black dotted paths! These ones not too bad, after a longish drag uphill to Wester Shieldhill it's 9.30 and I'm really just starting this is where I push to finishing catching up with the first day I need to claw back from Alfies return home... Going to be a long one!
The whole of the rest of this mornings route is on road threading through curvaceous farm land, and rough boggy land with only the company of farm animals expecting feed and the chirp of flocks of birds to distract me, pleasant but fairly anonymous landscape after the mountains, by lunch i'm at Blackridge and the first food stop of the day and a chinwag with home.
A couple of kilometers and I'm in Harthill briefly then over Polkemmet moor with the tall slag heaps of past industry and new woodlands of the pasts replacement. Provisions purchased at Fauldhouse and the road south west takes me past more huge slag heaps, South East and over the A71 at Headless Cross who's name is far more exciting than the reality! Just a farm bearing the name.
Traffic dodging up to the top of Black Law hill and the impressive array of wind turbines in the picture at my count is 52!. Down hill to Forth for end of the day food and a further push of about 1km sees me past my planned stop and now only one day behind schedule. After a 20+ mile day I'm well happy! Obviously a big feed is needed now to maintain this then sleep :-)

Monday, 25 August 2014

Day-21 itchy feet

My planned half rest day got of to a good start with a lay in until 7.30 then a good fry up at the Yha, breakfast was shared with a group of cyclists heading to John O'groats aiming to raise money for the air ambulance service,a nice friendly bunch :-)
Having packed my pack before breakfast and with the sun shining the lure of using today to catch up with lost time was to great, so somewhat sensibly I wandered slowly off through Stirling old town admiring the architecture... A truly grand town!
Following my nose out of town and I'm in gently undulating farm land, with a far from gentle history, this is Bannockburn the site of a great Scottish victory against the English, though now from my position as I  wandered through it was impossible to tell if I'd not already known.
A slight rise took me into Cowie for lunch a massive portion of chicken and chips, Lovely! That's three good meals in a row now, I'm in danger of gaining some weight here!
Loaded up with provisions and out of town on a cycle track that eventually passes a castellated tower attached to more recent though ancient house.A few turns in the road and under the M9 and over the M876 and I find myself getting lost in a new housing development at Larbert, as always I only ever get lost in towns! Still a friendly bloke with his springer spaniel pointed me in the right direction before I'd gone to far wrong.
Now earlier in the day I'd received a message from radio Northampton who wanted to an update on the walk certainly with regards to Alfie having retired from the trek.. Nice to see they are reading the blog!. We had arranged a time to do the interview (2.10pm) and this coincided with me walking in Larberts suburbs so there I was sitting on someone's wall doing a radio interview as people walked past giving me weird looks! Odd!
Normality resumed and I'm wandering through the town, over the railway line that I'd travelled coming back from taking Alfie home. Feels a long time ago now!.
A few twists in the road bring me a sight I've wanted to see since the early days of planning my lejog in 2009, The Falkirk Wheel! What piece of engineering, transferring barges from one canal to another and using no more than 3kw (a domestic kettles equivalent) of electricity to achieve it! Pic
After a coffee break here I'm off and into Howierig woods to pitch the tent. This puts me just the kilometers behind where I wanted to be yesterday, this catch up plan seems to working I just have to keep the engines stoked!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Day-20 Who dares wins!

Away from my nights rest (!).... And relieving my unfulfilled stomach with snacks from a shop, I pick up a B road twice the size of most A roads in the north and far busier traffic didn't seem to expect walkers along here.What I didn't expect was the statue in the photo, a memorial for Sir David Stirling the man who founded the SAS! It's quite a memorial too,it lists all the men who have died in the service of this great brigade, a very grounding moment.
Back on the B road and I really know I'm out of the wild as the road joins a massive roundabout on the end of the M9 giving me a whole new set of concerns as I struggle to cross multiple dual carriageways that join here!, around and on the road to Bridge of Allan another victorian spa town with its posh coffee shops, I settle for a fizzy drink from Tesco!
From here my next target is in easy sight the impressive Wallace monument that towers above the valley perched on Abbey Craig,well worth the climb to the top though I'm puffing a bit.....Think I was trying to show off to the tourists! Hehe!,spectacular views back to the mountains as much as at the exquisite architecture!.
My crossing of the river forth was much less time consuming than its eastern equivalent in 2010! Hard to imagine it's the river that eventually forms the Firth of Forth!. 
Into Stirling now I head straight to the grand Yha building to start my 24 hour rest period. Night all

Day-19 karma at play

Walking into the campsite took me a kilometer off route last night, it also put me within a hundred yards of my route! The problem being ten meters of the river balgie blocking my route, chewing over this problem with Hugh a chap I'd met walking into the site with his wife last night, he gives the ideal solution with the use of his canoe!
So many thanks Hugh :-)
Once again the crossing water thing left me a bit pale...I'm told! Still well worth it, across some rough farmland and onto the cycle trail again, as ever running smooth and easy over the landscape with pleasing views of Loch Lubnaig in the morning sun (!) one view I certainly didn't expect was to meet a young lass walking from Callandar in her party frock and carrying two heavy looking handbags! Poor girl did look a bit tired to say the least! So passing on some rations was the least I could do! Think that glucose drink helped :-)
Continuing along to a place called Stank (it didn't) I met another lady who was accompanied by a border terrier called Leonard! Lovely to fuss one, though it did bring home how much I miss Alfie :-/
The trail goes through a holiday park and consequently a few people were around jogging, cycling etc.. Leaving the holidaymakers to their exercise and heading into sun dappled woods beside the river my company is back to the usual little birds I've still to identify! (note to me!!!)
With one step I'm out of the woods and utterly blown away by how flat the land had become! No mountains ahead gave me a very weird albeit relieved feeling, the pressure should be off now, the hard graft of mountain walking is done, at least until I'm back in England.
A chap with his dogs passes me and donates a fiver, thanks!.
One thing I'm noticing quickly is how further advanced the local flora is here, in the mountains and only a few miles back the rose bay willow herb is only just in flower, here it's in seed! A remarkably different climate. Into Calandar for lunch and a huge fried breakfast is devoured quickly! Provisions purchased and I'm on the road once more via a tiny B road to Buchany, plenty of black berries here to gorge on making a change from all the tiny raspberries I've been nibbling on for the last few weeks!
Onto the main A road to Doune and into the village where I get a room in a very sub standard B&B... I was going to slate them here but I'll refrain at least I got my battery pack charged up.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Day-18 yours truly!

Up early today with the morning sun and blue sky (Yes sun!) changing the world around me from yesterday's cloudy view, such a view too this area is beautiful, and one I'll return to one day to explore in comfort.
A quick wander into town and scarcrows are everywhere! Apparently it's scarcrow week.... Just like JP and I found around Jedburgh in 2010 though still no idea why it's done!
A few groceries from the co-op and meths from an outdoors shop (who showed absolutely no interest in the trek! Anyone else found this in outdoors shops?) leaving town to the south west a bridge crosses the Drochter falls stunning even to my water wearied eyes, kindly two cyclists took the pic of me by the water, nice to prove I exist! Lol
The path out of town and indeed all day is on a Sustrans cycle path so good easy going! Initially walking through woodland I'm startled out of a reverie by two cyclists. I never can hear them as they draw close!, this was a father daughter team who I kept catching up with! Not sure if they are dawdling or I'm quick today?
The track crosses the A85 which it's been following and joins an old railway track, nice smooth and level! This runs high over Glen Ogle and is busy with cyclists and walkers fit about 5km until Lochearnhead where I met a couple of ladies who donate five pounds to the charity... Thank you both.
The path soon leaves this bit of railway and drops down to a viaduct repaired in memory of a cyclist who died on the dread A9.
Pushing on for a late lunch at a hotel (as I'm still not eating enough!) I gobble down some beautifully cooked fish and chips! Perfect for the push into Strathyre and my stop at the local campsite. Night all :-)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Day-17 fed and flying!

After yesterday's big feed up and rest I'm back to myself, though caution plays a big role at the start of today, so slowly I start walking out of the campsite and over a bridge that looked faintly nordic, then onto the main trail south and slightly west through Rannoch forest.
Following a ravine carved into the hill by Allt na Bogair (stream) uphill with steep drops into this impressive feature, made all the more so by the still constant rain and churning waters below.
Once out of the pleasant damp woods I'm walking amongst smoothly rounded hills etherically draped with wispy clouds and of course sheets of rain! This limits the view no end but I'm used to that here! Over the top of Lairig Ghallabhaich which with this title I assume this to be an old drove road which leads me down through more forestry commission wood's to Innerwick where I stop in the church porch to change maps without getting them soggy, glad I did as they proudly show off a bell here that's reputed to be 1200 years old, it certainly looks it.
With the weather improving I make a very welcome and unexpected find the Glenlyon post office and tea room!, hot tea and carrot cake on the solidly built wooden veranda was quickly shared with around ten cheeky chaffinches! A very amusing bunch!.
The weather holds on the way south up and out of the Glen all 7km of ascent on a steep smooth tarmac single track road (Alfie would have approved!) pretty waterfalls that I'd normally enjoy to my right and traffic coming from front and back, at one point a car pulls up next to me for a chat, heads of ten yards, stops then the driver gets out to give me some shortbread biscuits! Very nice :-)
Passing the shielings (livestock pens now no longer in evidence) that my original plan had been to stop at I head east with black clouds gathering over the rugged mountain ridges around me. Naturally and to form this meant more precipitation, straight down and heavy! Hey Ho!
With the road going south past lochan na Lairage with its forbidding dam looking like a grim granite castle, another car pulls over offering me a lift! Politely declined they gave me food instead!.... I must be looking really needy today!
With the dam receding in the distance and a stunning albeit cloudy mass of mountains ahead none of which I can name! I start the long decent into the valley of Loch Tay still getting rained on of course, passing a shepherd in just a fleece jacket I realise damp is the natural state for anyone in the hills hereabouts. I may be going local. The road along loch Tay is uneventful leading me to  High Creagan campsite charging £5 for the night and giving me a good finish time in fresh sunshine allowing me to dry last nights damp from the tent. Another great day! (quote JP)

Weds 20th the wall

Woke up tired, never a good start, but off I went, into Kinloch Rannoch to the shop, food for a day and a half purchased and a coffee for a boost.
Plodding out of town with loch Rannoch in all its beauty on my right I'm sitting back and enjoying the view, pace is at best ok. By ten I'd only clocked up three miles and I was exhausted. Looking at the food in my pack and the distance to walk at the pace I'm managing, well to say the least the numbers didn't add up!
So swallowing my pride and swearing at everything, while knowing I'm doing the right thing I turned around back to Kinloch Rannoch.
Which is where I am now making use of the WiFi in a cafe while eating a huge jacket spud with chilli the start of rebuilding my energy.
Point to note mobile coverage for O2 here is non existent and it seems that the WiFi in the cafe works along similar lines...... :-/
You know I said I'm stubborn? Well after getting in more provisions I wandered off again not to far I know I've got to rest, but far enough to know I won't be walking any track tomorrow that I'd walked today.
Had to get a positive start tomorrow ;-)

Day-16 sunshine again! Tues 19th

My first glance out of the tent was to a pure blue patch of sky! Think that was the only patch of blue as by the time I'd packed away the familiar grey was back!
Still the road goes on, and with a quick cup of garage coffee I march off south along the A9, this section has a good cycle track so no need for traffic dodging, just let the feet do  what they must and enjoy the view of the Drumochter pass, with its interestingly named mountains, Boar of Badenoch and The sow of Atholl amongst others!
Shortly before Dalnaspidal lodge I see more Balfour men at work using heavy machinery to break up the old pylons that I've seen laying in fields like old dinosaur skeletons since Strathpeffer. Turning south west at the lodge towards loch Garry I meet an old chap off fly fishing who donated £5 to the charity! and with this good fortune sunshine is also finally with me, and such timing! With sunlight twinkling on the loch it's a balm for my rain battered self! The loch is only about 4km long and about half way is building with plaque proclaiming the construction of the Garry tunnel....? Some research is required for this one as no tunnel is visible.
Passing a small waterfall, which in any other walk I'd have taken interest in, but I'm about done with cascading water for a bit! ;-). The track stops here and for once the black dotted line on the map corresponds with a visible path past Meall Doire, over a stream and a good track between two hills leads me through a herd of highland cattle and calf's, downhill the track splits with me heading south east as a heavy squall hits, quickly passing I met a game warden just off to pick up two fresh kills, at this point midges reappear after not being a problem since before Garve! That was a great break from them, but this is the Highlands and your never going to avoid them for long!.
Downhill and into tarmac I'm heading east to Kinloch Rannoch and upon the advice of the game warden the Mcdonald hotel... Extremely nice hotel just a bit out of my price range at £120 for the night! Still they did let me pitch at their marina.... Bit high class here innit! (mum!).
And that's where I'm writing this with a stunning view east along the loch towards the sharp peak of Schehallion, last seen on my trek north in 2010.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Day-15 Disney land.... Sort of!

After a warm nights sleep only disturbed by odd dreams which a psychologist would have had some fun explaining! I pack up for a late start of 8am with no concern as today is almost entirely valley walking albeit 19 miles of it.
The valley in question is the Spey valley famous for its whiskies (a pure accident of planning this ;-)..) this morning finds it raining again but lightly and with a milky mix of sunlight that does improve during the day, noticeably as I make tired but good progress to Garva bridge, during a quick sit down a convoy headed past back up the valley, the middle vehicle had blackened windows, I wonder which Toff/Mp/celebrity was off out for a shoot? I'll never know but they were all chuckling at my disheveled self! Which I can understand after my time on the trail.. I just smiled back.
Further on I met a chap by a dammed section of the Spey who was in charge of controlling the depth of this man made and unnamed loch, he looked a little shocked when I said I'd crossed the Corrie Yairack pass the day before...the locals have more sense I guess! Passing the dam I pick up another section of General wades road nice to be on agricultural land for a bit, passing highland cattle one of which posed beautifully for me (pic to follow).
Passing the ruin of Laggan church and what should have been a hotel.... Blowing my chance of a beer!.... I progress to posh cafe at Middleton to be accurate the cafe is Middleton no idea why every remote building on os maps in Scotland have names? But they do.
A much needed cappuccino later and cake of course, I carry on along the A889 traffic dodging on this almost single track A road for about 9km to Dalwhinnie, with great views of the cairngorm mountains to the east some of which still have pockets of snow visible, wonder if the Lairig Ghru has? Fond memoirs of my south to North walk come back to me.
A final loop of road and I'm in Dalwhinnie, curiously my feet walk me straight into the distillery! ;-)
A quick look around my version of Disney land and I head off with a small medicinal bottle for my pack!
Things go slightly awry here as I was hoping to get a room at the hotel to scrub up a bit.... Closed for renovation..... There was a cafe still open in the building so a quick burger and chips and a chat to the owner, who kindly allowed me to camp in the grounds for free... Good man!
And with this nice early finish at 4.30 and already fed I'm playing catch up with some needed rest!

Day-14 cheers Balfour Beatty!

After a long rainy night I get lucky while packing with a break in the rain! Away along the old military road to Allt Phocaichain (a stream) for the first of today's obstructions! Naturally overflowing with rain water I go through the now familiar process of beating my phobia of crossing fast running water by tentatively paddling across and filling my boots, as ever! Sloshing off over the top of the hill via the power line construction road passing all the usual no access signs! Tough I'm going this way!. Leaving the road to continue on the old military road into fort Augustus tiny town heaving with trekkers going this way and that.. All looking wet!, entering the first cafe I see I order a full breakfast... So needed today!
Then stocking up on provisions to keep me going for three day's making my pack bleeding heavy but that's unavoidable.
The trail for the Corrie Yairack pass is nicely marked, so uphill I go... Naturally in the rain, it's a long old slog up the first hill on a twisting and undulating track, feeling the weight of both my pack and my breakfast at this point! After a few kilometers I find Blackburn bothy right next to another overflowing stream that's about a foot deep in the track... Soggy feet once again!
The track continues past the fork in the valley to Glen Tarff and into the luxury of a bridge over the raging torrents of Allt Coire Uchdachan, the road now pushes steeply uphill for about 3km passing an old battered bothy where I rung my socks out, feet warmer now I continue up the hill still following the power line construction track though that now lies below me, into the clouds and the top foggily shows itself. This is the highest point on the trek and according to my gps tops out at 2700 feet (pic).
Finally downhill into the Corrie that gives the pass it's name, a great scoop of a valley, but that just means trouble in these conditions and so it proved with no end of streams /river's forging across the path, all sort of passable though occasionally risky.
With the corrie disappearing in the distance my path levels out as we head into the valley, then big trouble strikes, the Ford on the map is huge! No way I can cross this and the ruin of an ancient bridge to my right just rubs salt in the wound! Thinking about my surroundings the works on the power line bring an obvious solution to my trouble with the works track that's up the hill from me, bit of a scramble to reach it but the bridge over the torrent makes my day! Hence the title of this blog - it's also a bit of an apology to Balfour for all the ranting I've been doing about their health and safety signs doting the hillside today ;-)
Back downhill and on track we reach a little of nirvana in the shape of the Melgarve bothy. Tonight I'm sleeping on a warm albeit manky sofa in my toasty sleeping bag! Result.... Also my kit is hanging up and drying out.... Couldn't ask for more after today :-)

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Day-13 solo

Over sleeping after all the travelling, I wake up at 7.15, requiring a scramble to get everything packed away. I still managed after breakfast to be on the road by 8.30  so not too bad a start, first off I (weird not writing we!) stop at the shop in Cannich that's run by aussies (nice folk) and get the provisions topped up and had a good chin wag.
Then off down the road past yet another hydro electric dam! This one at an area called Fasnakyle, it's a great monolith of a building with random carvings of cows bears and a dragon or wyvern.... Wouldn't have looked out of place in Orwell's 1984!.
Over the great rocky channel of the river glass and on into the conservation village of Tomich with its quaint post office and imposing victorian water fountain.
Through an avenue of trees and then double back slightly to pick up the forestry commotion track up through the silver Birch woods, always a joy this but today I'm treated with a rainbow below me refracting from the sun behind me into the mists in the valley below, I can't think of a time I've looked down into a rainbow! With a little cheesy singing to myself I continue up and out of the woods and back into moor country, heading up to loch na Beinne Baine in increasing rain though still with some great mountain views (pic), I find a rather battered old bothy perfect timing for a dry lunch out of the rain!.
Fully fed I step out into improving weather and further great mountain vista to the west,I reach the highest point on the trail and look down on the valley of Invermoriston. At this point is convenient to mention the power lines that we've been following pretty much since Beauly an upgrade to the existing to a whopping 50kv line! Though here it looks unsightly and with the massive trail that was built for its construction it's a sad scar on the mountain behind and ahead of me, though the track does make my progress quick.
Descending rapidly the track heads Straight,but the old path leads east admittedly in the wrong direction but so much nicer to follow! Finding a path directly down hill through more Birch woods I stop for a breather on a very comfy rock with such a peaceful surrounding I could have easily dozed off! But with some miles yet to do I resisted.
Reaching the road in the valley I head over the river Moriston and pick up a trail heading diagonally up hill through the woods. This is until I reach an old General Wade road that's going to take me all the way to Fort Augustus tomorrow, tonight it just takes me past huge wood ant hills bustling with busy ants, further along and away from my industrious little friends I reach my planned stop for tonight, still in the woods but getting a nice 5pm finish is perfect, so the usual process of tent up, cook pasta do the blog and chill out starts for another evening.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Yoyo!

Well after 33 hours 18 of which were spent on trains I'm back at Cannich!
The last half hour in a taxi with a great driver named John Foy, who got me back in time to get a good kip before starting off on the trail again tomorrow.
Must admit I'm a bit too tired to string much of a blog together tonight but suffice to say it's going to be a very different walk without my stalwart companion!
Here's hoping this still works!

Happy hound!

A little update on Alfie, he's now home and enjoying lot's of sofa time! A few days off the trail and he's back to himself, the precaution of bringing him home before he gets hurt has paid off for him :-).
For me it's back on the train this morning for a another 10 hours trip!
The walk must go on!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Paws for thought

We're having to implement Alfie rescue!
His paw is getting no better sadly So the walk is on hold for a few days while I take him home.we're catching a return train from Inverness, with luck I'll get back to Cannich tomorrow or thereabouts, this way with an unnecessary rest day ahead we should only lose one days walking..... Fingers crossed

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Day-12 surpassed ourselves!

Waking in our wild camp it seems we've used the local dog walking woods! Happily clean woods!
Moving we enter the loose collection of homes called Dunmore with a few hellos as we go.. Always nice that!,  the twisting road carries us as we plod tiredly this morning, down eventually to a renovated chapel that is now the Kilmorack gallery we didn't enter but had look at a very tactile looking sea otter statue and a huge lizard fixed to the side of the building!
Passing over a bridge there's another hydro electric dam that blocks the river Beauly,onwards we plod slowly up and over a gentle hill really not on form this morning! This pleasant little road takes us to Hughton were we take a cheeky use of the bench in bus shelter for a quick break and jelly baby sugar fix!
This seems to help as we follow a very level road along the valley heading upstream with the Beauly river on our right, making a lot better time now we eventually stop for lunch with a view to the grave in the image! And there was me thinking Bambi was a cartoon character ;-)
Keeping level the path finally meets up with my planned route again at the beginning of Strath (valley?)Glass now this valley/Strath is really beautiful! And the road still so very level! With Mountains either side and gentle pasture on the valley floor with the river meandering along  its idyllic by 4.30 we'd reached my estimated end of day and decided to push on, by quarter to six we'd reached Cannich.... Which miraculously is the planned end of day! Not sure how we made all that distance up after yesterday's diversion but we have, that little dog rocks!!!

Day-11 Road blocks!

My A really nice night in the hotel with all the mod cons was great! everything is packed away and dry again and Bertha is finally going on her way!
One downside to hotel living is you never get away early so with a full stomach I head out at 9.30 with an hour and a half to make up, out of the pretty village of garve and into the woods again, first stop was to pick up a food and fuel cache that I'd hidden on the drive north, timing of this was perfect with my fuel for the stove low and down to one more use!
The trail takes us along the north east bank of Loch garve where the track is on a steep wooded hillside, Bertha had one last surprise for us (see pic) where her flood water had washed away the the track! After a few tentative checks of the depth and with dog under one arm and my walking pole for balance.we wade out, the strong flowing water made finding a footing treacherous, since the road surface was washed away and we were stumbling across hidden boulders, but make it across we did with boots full of water!
A familiar feeling squelching off again but the going underfoot was now easy, the track took us under a railway line and over a hill still in silver Birch woods towards Strathpeffer, a tiny loch just before town had a crannog in the middle (man made island!) not sure if I've seen one before? Still it was lunch and my stomach was calling again, and finding a reasonably priced steak baguette was just the job!
With provisions bought we headed back out of town the way we'd come to a hamlet called James town where passing a ruined church we find that the path marked on the map no longer exists! @#(§!!!!!!!
Finding a road route puts us further behind but gets us back on track and over the Moy bridge that crosses the river swollen river Conon.
Up into the woods and passed a comical robot letter box decked out in the pro independence 'yes campaign' stickers and flag (pic will follow). On to Aultgowrie and quick check of the river Allt Goibhre proves my suspicions of a further road block ahead to be very likely (we need to cross this river in the hills!).
So route change was in order taking us off the map and east towards conon bridge, turning south a few miles before town we aim for another 'path' that barely exists! (so many whinges could be put here!) onwards and around a hill with views of the Beuly firth and distant Inverness and the Kessock bridge we eventually find a pitch in woods for the night.
Though we now have about five extra miles to go and playing catch up with the plan will be a long term game.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Day-10 Bertha shows us!

What a night! fighting to keep dry, keep the tent from blowing away and trying to sleep... Didn't get much of the last plenty of the other two!
Hurricane Bertha was really putting us to the test, extremely heavy rain and winds up to 100 miles an hour made this a trip into survival not just an adventure, but stubborn gets me through most stuff, and this was something I can do, so packing everything away wet was not just optional, off the hill and finding a safe place to relaunch the trek was the order of the day, although not easily done in the high winds we did get away with some kind of order, just walking now proves difficult the wind behind isn't so bad you just lean back into it and keep going, where the track led across the flow of the wind is where It gets hard throwing you around and threatening to throw you on the floor at any moment.
Like this we pass loch Vaich where the mountains to either side are white with water gushing down into the valley and so on to flood the lower parts of the Glen. At Strathvaich lodge the river is swollen and churning white/brown where it hasn't already broken it's banks, splashing through this until black bridge where Bertha finally kicks us out the valley.
A bit of road walking past an old hotel and into forestry commission wood's soggy but under cover from the wind, a few miles of this till lunch where we shelter under a tree perched on a dry but uncomfortable rock while I heat some noodles and give Alfie ham and other treats.
From here we leave the woods aiming for Garve which we reach in his time and get a room at the hotel here, the room is soon converted into a drying room with my entire kit splayed around the room! At least we'll be starting in good order again tomorrow.

Day-9 positive pictures only!

Title will become obvious.....
Woke up to the most beautiful day, not a cloud in sight! Sunlight on the mountains around us and on the road as we headed along Strath Carron, butterflies skitting around and wrens hoping from post to post!
Great views of the rocky river Carron the photo was taken from a rusty old bridge near a building marked on the map as a school.
Waking into the woods of Amat where red squirrels live allegedly... None about, the sky clouds over pleasant still, up and around a hill for Dinner with a view from the track down Glean Mor. A really nice view point!, then we head down and it starts going wrong! The grey clouds have started to shower us, (probably needed!). Walking along a section marked in gaelic 'Abhain a Ghlinne Mhor' I translate this with zero knowledge of gaelic to mean 'abandoned hope! midges moor' and boy was it! Normally if you stop for a rest they attack, not here tho this breed hang around in gangs mugging you as you walk along!, even in the rain the persistent b@$t@rds!!!!!! Think they annoyed me!
Eventually the rain increased to such a level they dispersed, across the bridge at Deanich lodge and a quick break inside the generator house of said lodge (they have no mains connection) to avoid the deluge which didn't have the grace to stop! We pushed soggily on past Meall Chorainn (cor rain?  pretty accurate!) a great lump of a hill to descend in increasing weather towards loch Vaich where we gave up trying to find a good pitch and have curled up still soggy but fed for the night.
Hours later it's still raining and windy think this must be the promised tail end of hurricane Bertha
Well she knows what she can do!!! ;-)

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cheers!

Wow
Callum the same chap who said I could pitch here tonight, just turned up on his way to a party up the road with this for us!
What a great guy!

Day-8 what a day!!!!

Today looked in planning to be a short non discript day with an amorphous finish!
Couldn't be more wrong,Here's my best description of it!
We didn't leave the camp site (Dunroaming!) till 10.30 to complete the full days rest we both needed, the site has its own restaurant so we took advantage of a full fried breakfast at a very reasonable £4.95!
Then back to the pet shop from which I'd bought the treats Alfie didn't like, my idea being to buy more and give these to the lady (in the pic! sorry forgot your name!) who runs the place as she'd mentioned she has dogs, but no she was really kind and not only swapped the treats for ones he liked but also gave him some paw wax to protect him! One of those very special moments! Thank you again!
Back to the main road and the loch where we saw a cute 6 foot long house with its own wind turbine! Duck house presumably?!
Over the river shin to pick up the B road cyclists use along Achany Glen and the environment changes completely! From the boggy moorland we've walked through for the last seven days we now enter lush a wooded valley, I'd really missed this level of greenery and trees! of which we've seen so few.
Lots of pretty houses here and we discovered an old ruined mill house with the gearing still partially in place.
All along this Glen we had people waving to us.... Like minor celebrities! Ha!
Along the shin is a nice waterfall which would normally have had facilities but these apparently burnt down.
Leaving the B road we walk along the A836 (just for a change! It's the road from jog!) much wider here busier which Alfie found excessively boring, he slows down when he's bored so just to add a little extra weight and to increase speed I carried him... Much to the amusement of the traffic!
Eventually I got bored of his scheme and let him walk the rest of the way to Bonnar bridge passing a lady unloading peat from a trailer,who's husband Kenny Campbell is famous for carrying a piano up Ben Nevis! And he also walked lejog too!
Walking lejog seems to be a common occupation here as in town I got chatting to a lady outside the grocers named Norma Roche who has also walked it!
I walked on a little to the pub and supper of pan fried duck! Yummy and also cheap!
Over the bridge out of Bonner to Ardgay and past Gledfield house where a groundsman Calum allowed us to pitch by an unoccupied house that Gledfield own.

Day-7 to Lairg and rest!

Waking up to the sound of the midges was concerning! So a cold breakfast was eaten inside the tent and everything packed into the pack before braving the swarm!
Glad I bought my midge head net with me very much needed as I took the tent down even with smidge!
As ever once the packs on and your ten yards down the road you leave them behind, relief!
No rain this morning but it is overcast, so once again good walking weather, the road we're following eventually joins with the road to Durness bringing back memories of last year's trip to Cape Wrath. With that road behind we head on into Lairg with its hydro electric dam, seen in the distance in the pic, which also shows the town war memorial.
Up to the campsite for our first 24 hours rest, with some reprovisioning and lots of sleep being the order of the day!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Day-6 first injuries

After yesterday's push to get to Altnaharra we're both in pain this morning, Alfie with a sore pad which his boots soon sorted and me with a muscle or tendon strain in my ankle no quick fix there just hobble on!
And that's just what we did, on the same road all day.going out of Altnaharra with Ben Klibreck impressively catching the sun on our right the aches and pains were easily ignored and the steady stream of lejog cyclists heading north allowed for a stream of friendly greetings :-)
Not much notable really this morning so getting to the Crask Inn at midday for pint of black isle red kite ale was very welcome!
Ale drunk we headed along the road a bit to make and eat some sandwiches with views of a fine range of mountains to the west sadly couldn't identify any.... Just too many up here!
The road continued through the desolation of North Dalchork forest where the tree fellers had been busy, never a nice thing to see, juxtaposed to this was the arrival of Janet and Dave two lejog cyclists who passed us earlier in the week very friendly people (see pic) who Alfie soon had rubbing his belly!,they continued of having completed their trek to cycle back to Inverness to catch a plane home.
Immediately after they had gone Fay and Robert Crawford stopped their car to say hello having passed us three times in the last week! Very kindly they donated £5 to the charity! Lovely people.
Carrying on south to Rhian bridge to get Alfie a drink then on past the next, where with evening approaching we set up the tent as a heavy storm lashed us! Once the rain had passed we were besieged by billions of midges! Really nasty little creatures these and the scourge of the Highlands!
Suitably prepared with the best deterrent 'smidge' which worked very well inside the tent though the swarms outside didn't get the hint!
While settling down for the evening a car pulled up to inquire if Alfie was OK, confused by this I assured them he is fine, before they clarified that they had earlier seen us with Dave and Janet where Alfie had been rolling around on Daves feet. They had been concerned that he had been run over and wanted to make sure he was OK! People really can amaze me still!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Day-5 A change of plans

The day started overcast but dry no complaints here, so fed and packed we headed south past the hill and foundations of Dun Viden Broch,which in its day must have been imposing! Today in the dull grey light it just managed a little mysterious!
Carrying on the rain started a fine but persistent drizzle that required waterproofs, donning these in the shelter of an old farm chimney stack we carry on to Rhifail and much to the chagrin of the folk of Skelpick we made it back to the road! This carried us easily to Skail where you can see Alfie Inspecting a neolithic burial! (he passed it Jim!) fascinating spot and in the newly returned sunshine incredibly peaceful. The same can't be said about Alfie whenever sheep are within sniffing distance!
The road carries on for miles and at lunch we fill my water container in the river... Very clear water and I'm told a renowned salmon fishing river,all the same I purified the water and cooked up coffee and pasta, while doing so a car pulled up to say hello, apparently they had also seen me in my wanderings along the north coast! Fame at last! in this case I got a second helping, turning on my phone I received a message from radio Northampton saying they would like to do another over the phone interview today!. Packed and pushing on we round the corner to loch Naver avoiding my planned route via the river Mallat, the reason for this is my route took us off path through boggy terrain and after the mornings rain not worth the risk!
The phone rang at the appointed time and a rather surreal interview was had with me in the middle of nowhere chatting away! Can only be good for the charity.
Walking along the Naver with great views of the mountains only being spoilt by swarms of Scottish midges attacking we stopped at caravan site for a quick drink then rather than stop we upped a few gears and raced to the hotel at Altnaharra for dinner tonight, and a use of there bunkhouse to avoid the midges!
A good twenty mile day with plenty of interesting history!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Day 4- changing our ways

Firstly I should add a bit to last nights blog that being that we've left our first county going from caithness into Sutherland as the sign said we entered Mackay country!.not something monumental but crossing County borders becomes important when your on foot!
Back to today, leaving behind an excellent campsite and company we continue west out of town, passing an old chap whose house is festooned with vote yes for independence flags and stickers, stood around chatting for a good ten minutes, then made to leave at which point he uttered his goodbyes in the form of 'Good folk are scarce!' by his tone it was a complement, which struck me as a great way to say good bye! People can be so fascinating!
Back onto our old friend the A836 which claimed to have had eu grants to improve it and the going was certainly improved with nice wide edges for us wanderers to dodge traffic, today the roads character definitely changed with plenty of Hills so the going become tougher and by midday I was yawning! Quickly I recognised this for the sugar low that it was, and after eating a good hand full of jelly babies to boost my sugar decided I must pay more heed to my bodies needs... Takes a while to get back in the swing of the trail.
Closing on Bettyhill we come to a viewpoint with spectacular mountains rearing up to the west great to see and only slightly sad that my route won't pass through them. Into the village itself and and tea stop was had at the tourist information centre, much needed.
Up the hill and provisions were taken on board to keep us going for the next three days, the pack is ridiculously heavy now! With a new loaf of bread perched on top we head downhill passing a family just leaving there home on an errand, one daughter pipes up were you in Thurso yesterday, nodding the affirmation, she nods 'i thought I'd seen a walker with bread on top of his rucksack!' certainly one of the oddest things I've been recognised for!
Very warm by now and Alfie is lagging behind, luckily there's a simple cure for this....a good dunking! Into the river Naver he goes! And comes out instantly revitalised... Thankfully!
At this stage we've finally stopped walking west and have started walking south along the Strath Naver Valley, also said goodbye to the A road and are walking along a tiny B road busy with manicly driven hay carts! Loud enough to dodge. The road itself goes to a quiet hamlet called Skelpick, the occupants of which don't appear to like walkers, on three different occasions people stopped to tell me that this road is a dead end, and each looking a bit miffed when I pointed out that there is track to a place called Rhifail at the end of their (single street) village... Nod and smile!
And it's by that track that I've pitched for tonight. And where this pic of Alfie was taken

Monday, 4 August 2014

Day 3- Meeting of ways!

After a good night at Thurso campsite we were packed and saying our goodbyes to those we'd met, in good time to head into town for supplies, as so often in the past the goods required were purchased from the co op,always a welcome sight!!
The long drag uphill out of town took us past the architecturally pleasing local hospital, which appears to be am old Manor with fine Scottish towers!
Out of town the B road is a long 10 mile stretch to Raey famous for the Dounreay Powerstation, only a few things were worth note on this stretch firstly an old school or chapel in ruins which still had its bell now fallen in the bell tower! Secondly was the lack of traffic much needed after the a road yesterday, last but far from least was meeting a German girl named Marrissa who has been cycling for three months! Starting in the south of Spain she plans to finish in the Orkney's having travelled six thousand kilometers! What an achievement!
Into Raey and I'm sitting having lunch at the war memorial appropriately on the anniversary of the first world war starting. While I'm lunching who should pull up but Ruth en-route to Cape wrath for a second visit.... So tea was had :-).
Out of the village and up a long long Hill we for the first time properly leave the road! On (or rather through) a very indistinct track over the boggy moorland with Alfie making the most being off of his lead,a very happy chap!.
Coming off the moorland I notice a campsite on the opposite side of the valley so continuing along our track to a bridge over the river Halladale it was rather disconcerting to find the bridge closed and condemned! Decision time long walk around it or throw caution to the wind? Caution was thrown and we crossed the bridge.... To me it seemed pretty sound, I've certainly crossed worse! Blooming health and safety!
Up to the road with the beach at Melvich bay to our right we walk back to the campsite which handily had a pub attached, booked in and setting up tent next to two other small tents, we find the occupants to be Emily Walker (!) who is walking south to North and her father who joined her at Fort William, Emily completes her epic in three days so visit her blog and congratulate her please! Emjwalker@blogspot.com.
A pint and meal later and I'm just about ready to go sleep though my aching thighs may keep me awake tonight! Nothing to worry about just a phase of trekking that you have to go through!
No picture tonight as data is very weak, may struggle getting this out!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Day 2 Ha to Perfection!!

The Ha in the title refers to a the sea mist that covered the land this morning! Walking away from the last night's finish point has quite ethereal! Only seeing short distances and pretty much in monochrome! The only colour being the red of my mate Ruth and her car!.
This was soon left behind and the first miles of tiny road threaded through boggy farm country and past one unsociable farmer who refused to even acknowledge our existence! ........... Fill in your own words here!
Still we plodded on and the sky started to lighten as we passed a farm guarded not particularly well, by two border collies who both turned tail at my command!
Coming off of the b roads and on to the a836 near Barrock we headed to Dunnet where a local gun maker sported the Queen mothers coat of arms and badge of appointment!,out of Dunnet and straight to the beautiful beach, where the sun broke through as we sat down for sandwiches!
Three kilometers of walking the sands and we reach Castletown where a tea was bought in a local shop. Sitting on a wall to drink this I enquired of a local and my old mate JP if there was a coastal path to Thurso as my planning had indicated only an intermittent track, turns out there isn't so 7 kilometers of straight A road were started. Leaving the village a chap and his son (in a go kart) asked about the walk and a pleasant chat was had!
The road out required lots of traffic dodging but the view to the sea alleviated this.
Into Thurso past some castellated gates and over the river of the same name, following the coast took us past surfers hitting the waves and more views to the Orkney Islands until we reached today's destination camp site at 3.30, now making use of the WiFi here to send this blog.... A great day!....which leads to the perfection in the title!

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Day 1 And we're off!

We got to John O'groats about 4.30 pm and after doing the sign post photos headed west at 5pm. obviously not a long days walk! But planning required a 4 mile first leg (don't ask why!), a short path along the cliff took us down to a small beach where both Alfie and myself followed the ritual of dipping our toes in the sea and picking up a small rock to carry south.
Heading inland slightly we pick up the road west passing through the sparse boggy farmland of the far north until we reach a rather gothic looking church and graveyard, this being at most easterly point of Gills bay, who's pier (our destination for the end of the short walk) hosted a dramatic looking sunken ship slowly rotting into the sea, looking north the weather is still clear enough to see the Orkney Islands, quite a relief considering the weather report!

Day 1 And we're off!

We got to John O'groats about 4.30 pm and after doing the sign post photos headed west at 5pm. obviously not a long days walk! But planning required a 4 mile first leg (don't ask why!), a short path along the cliff took us down to a small beach where both Alfie and myself followed the ritual of dipping our toes in the sea and picking up a small rock to carry south.
Heading inland slightly we pick up the road west passing through the sparse boggy farmland of the far north until we reach a rather gothic looking church and graveyard, this being at most easterly point of Gills bay, who's pier (our destination for the end of the short walk) hosted a dramatic looking sunken ship slowly rotting into the sea, looking north the weather is still clear enough to see the Orkney Islands, quite a relief considering the weather report!

Friday, 1 August 2014

On the way up!

After a days easy travelling north with a stop at Lindisfarne to sight see the Holy isle, we've made camp at Perth in a very familiar place, Noahs ark camp site. where Alfie and I camped on our Lejog in 2010!!!
Not a lot has changed here and while the weather holds we have a great view of Glen Shee in the distance where we walked en route to Aberfeldy last time!
Sadly the weather is looking anything but good with heavy rain and gales due for Saturday and Sunday..... Them's the breaks!
Even now the walk doesn't feel real! But I'm sure after Sundays gales reality will hit!