Sunday, 28 June 2009

Hotel Inversnaid to Aberfoyle June 26th Day 21

Today I was heading for Aberfoyle to take Bruce and Emma’s offer of a stay in the Inchrie Castle Hotel an ageing beauty set amongst the trees and a weekend off. Yippee a soak in a bath and three nights in a bed wonderful, but first the walk there. This was pleasant enough along three lochs Arklet, Katrine and Loch Ard. On a B road. Steady climb and the only road out of Inversnaid. It was sunny again today but with a gentle breeze a nice stroll. The midges had turned to flies and I felt like Jackie Chan constantly waving them away. I am going to enjoy this break and put my feet up.
Having a weekend off in such a nice place, looking back over the last few weeks and having time to reflect there are a few things you forget to mention like the fact that it never seems to go dark its so bright and even when the sun does go down how light the sky stays. In John o Groats the sun went down about ten but at two in the morning it was still as bright. But I am told that in the winter its dark by 3 pm and stays that way till 9 am. Lucky if you get 6.7 hours of daylight. And the wind is so powerful it knocks you off your feet.
The amount of right handed gloves I have noticed by the side of the road and footpaths and why this has LEFT me thinking and Midges, they are evil little blighters, you don’t notice them they can’t be seen very easy but when they strike you know it. No amount of lotions and potions seem to work. They get in everywhere and there have been times when you just get eaten alive. Or should I believe that they don’t bite they Pee on you which causes the sting so if anyone knows the truth and any cure please leave a comment. Skin so Soft by Avon seems to be the Scots choice but its hard to get hold of in the middle of nowhere with no postal address. And the odd places I have seen post offices in like, grand houses belonging to the estates, leisure centre’s, tatty old portacabins and a pub. Also the people who I’ve met doing this walk or similar and the amount of money they’ve spent on equipment like Maps £300 pound a time, gps’s, lightweight hiking clothes and boots at £200 at time. Mine were £35 and are doing just fine. I’m using a £1.99 map from the Works and its ok. The best map you can have is your mouth, just ask someone the way.
The weather also plays a big part in a walk like, too hot makes it hard work, too wet makes it miserable as everything gets soaked. But all in all the weather up to now has been kind. Well the next week should see Glasgow well behind, the border and England ever closer. As nice as it has been in Scotland it’s time to get a move on.

Tyndrum to Inversnaid 25th June Day 20

Leaving Tyndrum behind in the sunshine again I set off through the Wigwam campsite which weren’t wigwams at all but wooden huts. For about four miles its was pretty flat farm land and nice to be on a flatish path. A very steep climb up over Ben Lul mountain heading for Crianlarich before turning off on to the Glen Falloch path which by now had become a rough farm track but nothing compared to what was coming. For the first two or three miles passing reed beds and in the shade it was quite pleasant. I had been warned by various people that the path ahead was rough and unforgiving I was shocked when I arrived at the start of Loch Lomond which I may add was a wonderful view but the path, well what path was a disgrace and a danger as far as I am concerned. This section in my opinion should be renamed The Worst Highland Way it was ridiculous with narrow foot space and upwards of forty foot drops into the loch below, climbing over boulders and bridges that were in need of repair and in places having to climb down using foot holes sheer drops of around 8 foot. In this day and age of health and safety I am amazed that the path is still open. I suggest that members of the West Highland Way Management Group take a day off from sitting behind their desks and having expensive lunches and attempt to walk this path it is a disgrace to the Scottish Tourist Board who promote it.
Inversnaid Hotel that is at the end of these sections should be a lunatic asylum for those who have walked there although I must say served a well earned pint of lager at a reasonable price.

FOOTNOTE** Rob Roy’s cave is along this section of path no wonder the English couldn’t find him.

Kingshouse toTyndrum June 24th Day 19

Morning clouds hugging mountain tops

This morning I decided to start about 5.15am as it was a very warm night and I was awake. The mountains looked spectacular with the clouds hugging them like little bonnets. So off I headed on mainly military roads built by Telford. Quite an easy walk on flat but pebbled paths towards Inveroran Hotel where there was a steep climb to the top of yet another mountain, where I met Betsy from Seattle who insisted on taking my photograph and wishing me best of luck. Down the other side to the Bridge of Orchy for a rest and a soak of my plates in the river very nice too. It was only 11 o’clock by now and seemed daft to stop for the day so early so I decided to carry on another 7 miles and reach Tyndrum , so leaving the bridge behind I set off in the hot sunshine. This walk took me alongside the railway passing the village Post Office you have to see to believe it a green portacabin been there since 1972 and looked like a derelict builders shanty in the middle of nowhere. This route took me along side the Great Western Railway line which was pleasant enough until about a mile outside Tyndrum when the path became an assault course and not what I would call a path at all. I half expected to see Chris Bonnington handing out crampons. Which may I say was the last thing I needed having walked 18 miles is scorching sunshine. The village of Tyndrum if that’s what it was consists of a services called the Green Welly Stop selling over expensive outdoor wear and ice creams. One pub and a Little Chef which had been turned into a fish and chip restaurant . It has lots of coaches passing through so it was a busy little place where I watched people aimlessly walking up and down the road.

A break at the Bridge or Orchy 12 mile point

Kinglochleven to Kingshouse Hotel June 23rd Day 18

Left about ten in morning a steep climb for about an hour to reach first sumit. Worth every step because the views were stunning. The path nice thank you Alcan but it was very warm. At the top the pile of rocks you see were placed by each walker that passed by so I duly placed my own. They must be cleared on a regular basis as I am told 52,000 walkers do this every year. Across the top of the mountain ridge with a few walkers passing. There was a stunning view of the Blackwater Reservoir near the top of Devils staircase and an even better view of all the people puffing and panting coming up the other side. People of all ages and nationalities. Some carrying massive packs and on such a hot day. Luckily for me I was skipping down like a mountain goat. Leaving me an easy flat walk to Kingshouse.

FOOTNOTE ** Thanks Jimmy and Linda for sorting out the corn my feet feel wonderful.

Fort William – Lochleven 21st June Day 17

And now for you, the state of the path leaves a lot to be desired today I was on it for hours more like a dried up river bed than a path that left my energy low and very hard going having to watch where I walked all the time. The weather wasn’t too bad thank goodness cos to walk this path in bad weather would be awful. Its says look out for the wild life eg. Eagles, Red Deer and Feral Goats all I saw was sheep not one single sparrow. A young couple appeared from over the top of the mountain with a look of shock and bewilderment. To the young guys horror he could not believe he had got lost. Not a place to be lost in. I hope the path gets better cos this is not much fun.

A nice waterfall on the West Highland Way

At this point I must say thank you to the lady from Cancer Research at Fort William for the donation of Dry Warm Clothes so thank you for that much appreciated.

Gairlochy – Fort William 19th June Day 16

Along the canal all the way to neptunes staircase into the wind but nothing too harsh. Met a few walkers along the way. Got a few tips about the West Higland way and once at the post that reads The End of the West Highland Way I watch the walkers hobbling in looking worse for wear. Back in civilization what a shock the biggest town I’ve come to and time to build provisions and repair various bits of kit. And a rest for the weekend. And prepare for the start of WestHighland Way on Sunday.
The West Highland Way

South Laggan – Gairlochy 18th June Day 15

This was not a nice day a long drag through the forest a few nice views of Loch lochy walking in bad weather can zap your strength and it becomes hard work. Mainly forest tracks and a long bit on the road to Gairlochy soaked through and pretty miserable. Camped in a campsite tonight hot shower and warm tent.

Fort Augustus to South Laggan June 17th Day 14

Mostly along the Caledonian canal very nice. As far as the the Bridge Oich and on the the Abercahalder estate which was quite nice but the footpaths were boggy . Along side Logh Oich and Loch lochy. And a welcome pint on the river boat turned into a pub with two more new friends who were totaly nuts Bruce and Emma who had been touring islands and were on they’re way home but decided to stay another night and putting tents up in force 8 gales is no fun. Spending a night having a drink and sing song and the offer of a stay in his hotel in Aberfoyle an offer I shall take up thanks Bruce see you the weekend with any luck.
Bruce and Emma aka Donald and Morag. With Oliver Reed Lookalike on a windy rainy night in the tent.

Invermoriton – Fort Augustus 16th June Day 13

Ahoy Captain Tomorrow i set off for South Laggan

A drier day today on a nice path still with lochness in view through the trees a pleasant walk today arriving in Fort Augustus was a bit of a shock. Having spent so long away from people it felt like I’d walked into London there were tourists everywhere watching the boats going up and down the loch. Fort Augustus is a nice place and the Canal Loch keeper Lynne a very nice lady who gave me the key to the services and a place to camp. The services were really nice warm and spacious with loads of hot water . Here an evening spent with Tony and his mum Iris on their hired yacht thanks for the fish and chips. Tony over from oz to see his mum a very pleasant evening. A quick thank you to those people who donated a few pound to the Charity.

The glen way Drumnadrochit – Invermoriton 15th June Day 12

First day on the great glen way having missed out the beginning at Inverness. A steady climb with lovely views of Loch ness and a few chats with other walkers. The weather started ok but soon turned into rain and for the next few hours rained steadily.

The Great Glen Way
The path was very good and mainly through forestry to a wild camp and the midges. A wet night but spent in nice company as a couple of young Australians who were visiting Scotland on route to Europe and then back to Australia so everyone warmed by the fire and fed on jacket spuds very nice too.

Buely – Dromnadrochit. June 12th Day 11

Leaving Buely was the warmest day so far all road walking and a stiff climb nice countryside across the heath covered in gorse. The village was small and dedicated to the Lochness Monster with a museum and little shops and caf├ęs. Staying on the campsite at an equestrian centre where Mr and Mrs Macdonald Haig run a lovely stables with around 50 horses for trekking. Giving me three nights for only fifteen pounds inclusive. Thank you for that. There was a wonderful electrical storm across the mountains that were nice to see. A day off on Saturday ready for Sunday and The Great Glen Way.
Electrical Storm over the mountains

Evanton to Beuly June 11th Day 10

Beuly Village Centre Back out in the country side heading for Dingwall looking down onto the A 9 with glee as I walked along tree lined lanes that were peaceful and picturesque. Mountains to the right and Gromarty Firth to my left arriving into Dingwall for a coffee in Ladbrokes always good for a warm and ablutions. Pleasant village the biggest since Wick. Heading out to Connon Bridge luckily pavement so far the road from Connon Bridge to Beuly was tough due to the volume of traffic and the lack of walking space.
Arriving into Buely there were lots of industrial units and a nice golf course but hey why spoil a nice walk. I notice the further south I get the people and places change, it would appear that Beuly is not in economic decline or recession. It appears to be an affluent place with many expensive shops selling horsey type equipment . Spent the night in nice little spot by a farm with loads of sheep a very nice lady said if I didn’t spite roast an elephant I could have a fire. Thankyou for that.

Road to Connon Bridge

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Barbraville to Evanton June 10th 2009 Day 9

Today was a 12 mile walk throu Invergordon and the smell that hung in the air from the White & mckay distillary reminded me of wheatabix it was thick and heavy. Invergordon was an old naval port that used to be buzzing but now most shops are boarded up and very little is going on. There is there the biggest gift shop i've ever seen in my life, apparantly for the cruise liner tourist who end up docking there why i have no idea. In the middle of the loch is a oil rig awaiting repairs it sure is a weird place.
On to Alness only 2 mile up the road and a totally diferent feeling proudly boasting it numours Britain in bloom winnings a pleasant village and the 1st traffic warden i've seen since leaving John o Groats going about his business. Leaving Alness a winding walk to my camp for the evening a Evanton further along the Cromaty Firth. A what a smashing little spot i found besides a burial ground so fire light and food cooking i settled for the evening.

Dornoch to Barbraville 9th June 2009 Day 8

So leaving Dornoch a quiet sleepy villege behind, passing the church and towards Cuthill along a quiet little lane where a golden stoat ran accross the lane infront of me and jumped over the wall. Heading for that A9 again and onto the Dornoch Firth Bridge and beautiful views of the black mountains in the distance. In the loch a disuesed ferry had become redundant and two fabulous storks fishing for breakfast.

Up the hill towards Tain along side to Barbraville with RAF planes zooming over head. In Barbraville is a retirement villege that resenbled an old fashion holiday camp with new plastic grey bungalows all in rows. Really odd. Anyway a nights rest besides the Cromaty Firth tonight. Still enjoying the saunter no problems to speak of weather ok odd shower but nothing to get down about. 15.5 miles walked today almost 100 completed.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Loch Fleet to Dornoch 8th June 2009 Day 8

As short 8 mile trek round the Loch which was empty this morning it was a joy to walk off the main A9 road for the first time since leaving John o Groats now 79 miles approx behind me. Very flat for the first 4 miles and a steady climb over 3 miles and a descent in to the county town of Dornoch. A pleasant little town with not much retail therapy to be had. But a nice beach. A good long day rest in the sunshine. Feeling good feet fine. Stayed in a campsite got my washing done and a few supplies and enjoyed my afternoon.

Brora to Loch Fleet June 7th 2009 Day 7

Leaving Brora behind i headed towards Dornoch. Today was overcast and a bit chilly the road was pretty quiet and it was nice not to be darting off into the edge all the time out of the way of Hgv's. The sea still on my left and i could see the beaches and a fairytale castle in the distance nestled in the woods, that was Dunrobin Castle every little girls dream. So forward into Golpsie you could be forgiven for thinking you'd arrived in a spanish town in the middle of a siesta it was deserted or could have it been that it was a sunday afternoon, maybe. Out of Golspie and its awarded winning beaches but no people. I was back on deathrace 2000 dodging speeding cars, i will never understand why people come to scotland one of the most scenic and greenest parts of the brittish isles and race round like lunatics. About 4 miles from Golspie is Loch Fleet a beautiful sea loch and nature reserve/bird sanctuary. Under the bridge a perfect place to camp for the evening. A lady who was from down south now living and restoring a railway station built 1830 on the edge of the loch came for a chat, thanks for the quided tour and the firewood. What a lovely place to live overlooking the loch, with plenty of wild life. The Loch is tidal with sluice gates and a bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1877. Well worth a look. Lots of bird watchers came and a young fisher man caught me a sea trout very nice too thank you.

Loch Fleet as the sun goes down
The sluice gates at Loch Fleet

Helmsdale to Brora 6th June 2009 Day 6

After a days rest i was ready for Helmsdale to Brora 11.5 miles with the sea on my left and a railway a pleasant mornings walk on a relatively quiet A9. No blisters no sore feet, slight swollen ankle but nothing to complain about. Just a mile or so before Brora the skies turned grey and waterproofs were doned the road became quite narrow and winding but a mostly pleasant day. And to my campsite for the evening and a drink with a couple Kath and Jimmy who i'd met. They were co owners of the Belgrave Hotel in Helmsdale and having a break from work and was staying in a caravan originally from Warrington. Funny who you met when you travel.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Berriedale to Helmsdale 4th June 2009 Day 4

Berridale to Helmsdale 10 miles at the bottom of a big hill i met up with sophie and patch. Today was all up hill for the most part. The sea to the left of me all day, i passed a nice herd of deer and no people, the road to day was ok and with helmsdale in sight down a very long steep hill a place i was happy to see and that was enough for today. My ankle was swelling so a rest day was in order for tomorrow.

Latheronwheel to Berriedale 3rd June 2009 Day 3

Today was going to be a killer i had in the distance two very big hills one long steep down into Berriedale where i thought i would take a rest and leave the up for the following day. The north sea on my left the weather was wet and cold. The views were very nice with mountains in the distance this day i only did 8.6 miles it was a hard day but up was yet to come. The A9 is a main road to John o Groats so its quite busy so i have to keep my wits about me and it can be hard underfoot.

Wick to Latheronewheel 2nd June 2009 Day 2

Wick to Latheronwheel, a total of 18.5 miles today the weather was fine warm so with kendal mint cake and fluid in my back pack off i set. Out of Wick on to the A9 a slow climb southwards. I was amazed at the amount of petrified rabbits laid at the side of road. Feeling fit and well with no foot problems and pleasing walk to Libster halfway for a well earned cuppa and a sit down. After setting off i found it to be a bit of a slog and was feeling the burn. The countryside was mainly barren with the odd farmhouse and very devoid of humans. Arriving at latheronwheel i headed for the harbour and a nice little place to set camp for the night. Over looking the harbour in a little cove. Set out with a picnic area and sun shining down a perfect end to a nice day.

John o Groats to Wick 1st June 2009 Day 1

After years of talking about John o Groats to Lands End by foot i am finally doing it. Maybe raise a bit for cancer research and enjoy A summer saunter the length of Britain. The most northerly point is Duncansby Head so at 10am today i started heading for Wick which is 19 miles south. In thick rolling sea mist i set off. With the fog horns blarring in the distance the walk was a pleasant stroll taking about 5 hours. There are a few end to enders along the way some on bicycles some on moter bikes and a few walkers. A young girl called Sofie and her dog are walking for dogs trust carrying all her kit on her back. Arriving at wick campsite a hot shower and a sit down she arrived not long behind me. No doubt we will be passing and meeting up all the way down.