LETJOG – Day 56: Monday 12 July – HELMSDALE to DUNBEATH (16 miles)
The word ‘antepenultimate’ doesn’t get nearly enough use, but today it has its moment. If all goes to plan, then after today I will have but two more days to go on my LETJOG challenge before I arrive in John O’Groats! The weather has continued to be kind to me during my walking hours, with no rain today and some warm sunny spells interspersed with some heavy low cloud, creating a day of weather contrasts.
And what a beautiful part of the world to walk in! I divided my trek today into two, taking the main A9 road (wide verges, little traffic) for the section from Helmsdale to Berriedale, then after a cuppa in the cafe by the river, I returned to the John O’Groats Trail. The rumours are all true – in this section the Trail takes about three times as long as the road, mile for mile, and desperately needs more foot traffic to establish a viable path through the vegetation as it weaves and undulates its way across the cliff tops on the stretch to Dunbeath. But what compensation in terms of the views, and the ambience, of the headlands, cliffs and rocky coves, that, undisturbed by man or predator, are the preserve of more seabirds than I can recall seeing anywhere. In order to cover the ‘hard miles’ the road sections are a requisite of my challenge, but these often entail sacrificing many of the sights and sounds experienced whilst following the John O’Groats Trail itself. I have heard the name Jay Wilson mentioned a few times in these parts, as being the individual behind the recent establishment of the Trail, and I wish him and his colleagues well in their attempts to develop the path and to open up further this beautiful coastline to walkers.
Tonight I am staying just north of Dunbeath in the Inver Park House B&B that also has a small and lovely campsite. Blue skies greeted my arrival, and then over the coming hour, as the sea fret, or haar, came in, the swirling mist created changes in the light every minute. On an evening stroll I had blue sky above but a rolling mist around me on three sides, with an ever-changing quality of evening light. Having been on the other side of the world for a while, this is my last evening alone, as Rachel is flying up tomorrow to join me, and I’m so pleased that we will be able to share together, for a few days, the experience of this beautiful corner of the country.