LEJOG Northern Scotland

Great Glen Waymarker

Day 65 To To Laggan Lochs

It’s a strange place Fort William, not disappointed to leave on the Great Glen Way. It seemed to take forever to walk round Caol to get to Neptune’s Staircase which was surprisingly difficult to photograph. The section of canal to Gairlochy was really quite nice, I imagine it’s stunning if the cloud is high enough to see the Nevis range. A quiet section of road then meanders through open forest to Clunes where the tarmac is left behind. This was dense commercial forest though and it became a matter of covering the miles to Kilfinnan and Laggan Locks, especially the muddy section where harvesting was taking place.

21 miles today, 952 miles total. Generally wet all day.

Loch Ness from a 100ft

Day 66 To Invermoriston

Seemed no time at all to get to the Laggan Swing Bridge, then another disused railway section allowed good progress on this busy section to Oich Bridge and then later a flight of Lochs at Fort Augustus. The weather had improved so I decided to take the high route from here (though it’s not on my map) and was pleased I did. A well made path above the forest provides excellent views along Loch Ness and I was disappointed when I reached the steep decent.

17 miles today, 969 miles total. After a damp start brightened up to give good if hazy views.

Meall Fuar-mhonaidh

Day 67 To Drumnadrochit

Hopeful of a similar day to day 66 I set off up the steep ascent with high expectations but this section doesn’t deliver in quite the same way. Eventually leaving the forest for a tarmac minor road this transpired to be the best section of the day. There were good views, especially of Meall Fuar-mhonaidh and this was a pleasant section again over far too soon.

14 miles today, 983 miles total. A bright start, hazy later.

The 1000th mile

Day 68 To Inverness

A couple of miles on the A82 this was the worst start of any section of the GGW, the steep climb took me to open woodland which teased with glimpses of Munros to the North and Northwest. The road section provided excellent views North to where I will be walking tomorrow. The second section of open woodland was the nicest woodland to date, though I am not generally a fan of this type of terrain. The last section was in heavy rain, what is it about Mondays?

19 miles today, 1002 miles total.

Kessock Bridge

Day 69 To Ardullie

Leaving from the castle it’s through the town to Kessock Bridge. The West footway is closed so have to cross the A9 to use the East footway, pleased that the footway is well protected from the traffic. Also pleased it’s not windy. Quite a steep little climb to Kessock Wood, then minor roads to Munlochy, a gentle climb now on National Cycle Route 1. Eventually Ben Wyvis comes into view. As I descend on the minor road towards the Cromarty Firth I put on my latest piece of walking kit, a hi-vis vest before walking on the verge of the A9 to cross the Cromarty Firth then the minor road towards Evanton. Interesting rail crossing where you have to open the gates.

15 miles today, 1017 miles total. Sunny to start, overcast later, little wind. 

Cromarty Firth

Day 70 To Tain.

I head North on the minor road to Evanston which proves to be a lovely village. It’s always good to be actually headed North. Then on the Sustrans National Cycle Route 1 again, all the way to Tain. At first the cycle route crosses an re-crosses the B817 but after Alness it’s on minor roads. Some of the straights are so long! It feels like I am in the country again, lots of birdsong, some large arable farms. Down on the Cromarty Firth there’s a lot of “steelwork” from the oil industry.

18 miles today, 1035 miles total. Warm and sunny, too warm for walking!

Loch Fleet

Day 71 To Skelbo Castle

Leaving Tain I soon cross the A9 on to a minor road to Morangie Lodge. (Same Morangie as the whiskey.) Then down a track marked private towards Tarlogie House, I still can’t get my mind round the Scottish access laws. A good farm track takes me to the A9 where I don the hi-vis vest again to cross the Dornoch Firth Bridge, leaving the Cycle Route 1 behind, will see it again in five days or so. There is a great view West from here. Immediately after the bridge it’s over the Armco barrier to descend to the John O Groats Trail which soon joins a minor road to Dornoch. Dornoch is so different to the other towns and villages since Inverness. It feels much more thriving. After Dornoch I cross the golf course and am soon on the edge of Loch Fleet. It’s stunning, helped by the tide being in and the sun being out. 

15 miles today, 1050 miles total. Warm and sunny again, rather humid though.

Path near Dunrobin

Day 72 To Brora

I start with a short section on The Mound, along the A9, which will be the last of the A9 I hope. It has a reputation as the most dangerous road in Scotland.  After a field edge it’s into the wood which is part of the Loch Fleet Nature Reserve and an interesting sign, then along the edge of yet another golf course. After Golspie the section though the Dunrobin estate is particularly lovely then the coast starts to become a little less manicured as I head to Brora. Still everyday the sound of Cuckoo’s is almost constant. The background hills are gradually getting closer to the coast.

14 miles today, 1064 miles total. Bright and sunny but cooler than of late.

Morven (in the middle)

Day 73 to Kildonan

Leaving Brora first there’s a lovely  loop around the  River Brora, then out along the edge of the golf course, it’s a strange sight, beef cattle on a golf course. The beach is vast and deserted, later I am sandwiched closely between the railway and the sea. I head inland crossing the railway and a good farm track takes me to Lothberg, emerging opposite the road up Glen Loth. Signs warn that this minor road is not gritted. The gentle climb goes on for ever until eventually I reach the col. The views from here are worth the effort. Morven, Maiden Pap and Scaraben are close by, distant views Ben Klibreck, Ben Loyal and I think maybe Foinaven. Ben Griam Mor and Ben Griam Beg in the middle ground.

14 miles today, 1078 miles total. Somewhat overcast and cooler.

Ben Griam pair

Day 74 To The Flow Country

Heading up Strath Kildonan, this area had a goldstrike in the 19th Century. The Helmsdale is one of the best fishing  rivers in Scotland. The Strath continues to broaden and I feel fortunate with the weather. The Ben Griam pair dominate the view ahead, but the most dominating feature is the sound of Curlews. Eventually I reach what appears to be the watershed and a sign proclaims that I am entering Mackay Country. Soon another sign tells me that this is Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve. Scotland has 15% of the world’s blanket bog and much of that is here. A shallow valley begins to form around  the Halladale River.

17 miles today 1095 miles total. Overcast and cool.

The Atlantic!

Day 75 To Shebster

Continuing down the Halladale River the valley is narrower than the Helmsdale of yesterday. It’s one of those days that is only just wet enough to need a coat and just dull enough to spoil the view for pics, can still enjoy it. It’s an intriguing area and it grows on you, despite going on forever. I look out for the sea and eventually catch a glimpse of it just before I get to Goval. Even the gentle rise of Cnoc a Mhail comes as a surprise after 27miles of such gentle terrain. Eventually there are glimpses of Orkney through the cloud. At Reay I fork right onto the B road so as to avoid views of Dounray. Back on National Cycle Route 1. Birds have been the feature of the day.  Did you know gorse smells like coconut?

17 miles today, 1112 miles total. Wet morning bright towards the end.

Orkney behind the coastal hamlets on the North coast

Day 76 To Barrock

It’s difficult to judge distance travelled on these very straight minor roads. It seems to take forever to get to Thurso.  The road to Castleton is busy, a lot of it will be NC500 traffic I suspect. Taking the minor road soon after, all is quiet again and I can enjoy the distant views of Orkney as well as closer views of Dunnet Bay, Dunnet Head and the coastal hamlets of the North Coast. On the minor roads the wildlife joins for a time but soon lost on the busier roads.

19 miles today, 1131 miles total. Patchy cloud clearing to clear blue skies with a strengthening wind.

Day 77 To John O’ Groats.

Leaving Barrock it takes around half an hour to do the first straight bit, that’s about a mile and a half, the Curlews, which have become my  barometer of the health of a moor are on good voice. Then the rain comes, gentle at first but then progressively harder until it’s bouncing off the tarmac and running down the verges. An End to End Cyclist (electric bike) stops for a chat. (Now there’s an idea.) Again there are good views of coastal hamlets and the Isle of Stroma. After Canisbay it’s a couple of miles on the A836 to J0’G. In the heavy rain the traffic is sparse and good mannered, all giving me plenty of space. As I approach JO’G the rain eases and by the time I reach the end it’s all but stopped. I pose for the obligatory pics but five minutes later do so again as the weather has changed so much.

9 miles today, 1140 miles total. Dry for first half hour the rain till almost there. The forecast strong winds arrive soon after.

Subsequently visit Duncansby Head and then Dunnet Head.