LETJOG – Day 54: Saturday 10 July – DORNOCH to BRORA (19 miles)
A super breakfast to start the day, provided by my super hosts Marelle and Edward: porridge and a ‘Full Scottish’ (grilled, not fried), including haggis. Maybe it’s two weeks of walking the moors, lochs and firths, or perhaps it’s the sea air, but I’m certainly getting the taste for haggis and whisky (even in the breakfast marmalade).
I have enjoyed Dornoch immensely. An attractive town, they say its secluded off-the-beaten-track location has, over the centuries, provided protection from would-be conquistadors, plunderers and tax collectors alike. Even with the opening, in 1991, of the Dornoch Firth Bridge, access to the town still involves a diversion from the A9, so it has retained some of the historical advantages of relative isolation. The town also has a dry climate and is something of a beach resort, though, from what I have seen, very few folk seem to have discovered its secrets.
So it was that I reflected on all of this as I left Dornoch, on another murky morning, via a three-mile northward lane across the peninsula, eventually taking me down to Loch Fleet via the wonderfully named hamlet of Fourpenny Paddock. Favoured by the low tide I was able to avoid much of my planned road walking in favour of the hard sand around the high-tide mark. Here, guarded over by the surrounding cloud-topped hills, I watched the seals and oystercatchers and chanced upon some salmon leaping at the mouth of the River Fleet.
After a short stretch on the A9 footpath over the Fleet Bridge a fabulous day ensued, as the sun emerged and my route took me down through deciduous forest and farmland, then into the pinewoods of the Loch Fleet Nature Reserve, and finally along a lane past the links golf course into Golspie.
Who cares about statistics on a day such as this? Well, OK, I do a little, and I have faced some big criticism for not including ‘500 Miles’ in my blog titles, dating back to the milestone I passed back in Yorkshire. But, as the song says: ‘I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more’, so what better place to proclaim the full thousand than here in Scotland? The clock ticked over just as I reached Golspie, a gentle coastal village with award-winning bathing beaches, so I celebrated on the front with a now familiar lunch of sandwich, flapjack and Diet Coke, and soon I was on my way once again.
If my morning had been good, my afternoon was quite extraordinary. With black cloud touching the tops of the mountains to my left, blue sky out to the east, an azure sea, and the sun upon me, I had the coastal footpath largely to myself for the six miles to Brora, traversing, variously, grassland, woods, cliffs, shingle and sand beaches. Such variety in any walk is so rare. Throw in Dunrobin Castle, a significant population of seals at such close quarters, and seabirds aplenty, and one has a quite memorable walk!
After a wonderful day I arrived in good time and great spirits at my Brora accommodation, the Sutherland Inn, with opportunity to enjoy a walk around the village before dinner and a sample from the local Clynelish distillery. Another lovely dram in another lovely place!