Day 77……….Time to stop walking ; )

The final walk – well today was D day……..

It never really sunk in & with the added delight of family & friends walking it made the last 5 miles fly by at an incredible speed. Not sure when it will start sinking in.

We were on back roads to start off with, which were continuing on the straight theme. Somehow the sheep up here are enormous & definitely didn’t want photographing. There were a lot of Stock type flowers in various colours, making a lovely colour & once again the wind was so strong the birds chose not to fly; the rain clouds came fast & wetly when they arrived.

Maureen & Peter had been taking pictures from various different spots en route, looking just like Paperazzi. I had no idea my sister; her husband; Siobhan’s boyfriend, Chris’s parents were all waiting to see us at the end. Eileen persuaded a piper waiting to pipe in a group of cyclists arriving from their 12 day Lands End to John o Groats trip to pipe me in as well.

Wow! How emotional……..

I was quite overwhelmed by the welcome & despite feeling very exposed to the public, I was able to shout a massive “whey hey” whilst cuddling the famous John O’Groats sign post.
My Lejog papers are finally stamped & signed & a certificate given. We have since had a celebratory lunch & now is the first chance to write.

It remains for me to sign off with a Huge Thank You to you all. You have been a constant source of encouragement, that has been so lovely & warm & kept you all close to me. Thank you everyone, who has been able to take time out to come & join me on several walks. Some folk I have never met, but it was like walking with old friends & family by the time our walks had finished. It has been wonderful to catch up with you and your families & to share the walk with you & to have your input on the flora & fauna seen. It has made the walks go faster & I only hope all feet, backs, hips & toes have survived. I have loved talking to you all. We have enjoyed the meals eaten with folk & the catch up time as well.

Thank you for the encouragement from our children Adrian, Anna-Lee, Siobhan & Chris & our Grandchildren Eleanor & Adam for their cards & encouraging words & for coming up here for the finish!

Also to Anne & Donald, Eileen & Steve, all who have been part of the intrigue & secret for today. Thank you Maureen & Peter for transporting us for the final walk. Thank you to Cath and Alec for walking with me on consecutive days leading up to the finish – your company was invaluable and so glad you joined us.

Thank you Dr Bharti for getting my feet able to complete the walk & for being ready to sort them next week.

Thank you all for being so generous in your donations. We have beaten the target which has blown us both away to be honest.

My biggest thanks goes to Pete, my husband, without whom I could not have done this. He planned the route, worked out the detours when paths seemed impossible, came with me to start most walks & met me for lunch & at the end he massaged my feet, cooked, & did everything. My job according to him was ‘to walk’. He encouraged me when I thought my feet were failing & drove selflessly to & from start & end points & all the time was secretly arranging the celebration ending. He has been a perfect manager. Now he can get his hair cut, having refused to have it cut, the whole time.

If I have missed anyone, it’s not intentional. You have all been Marvelous.

Thank you everyone for making this old lady very happy in bringing about my hearts desire. THANK YOU!!!!!

Day 76 – The Penultimate …… wowzers!

We woke to cloud & a great deal of very strong wind. Our route today was on straight roads the whole way, going through vast moorland & we could see each storm as it gathered in the distance & dress ourselves accordingly, before it reached us.

There were sheep & horses as our animals of today & a couple of Clydesdales were just like book ends. The wind was sending clouds skittering across the skies & keeping all our hair on end. Pete, who has refused to have his hair cut for the whole trip has hair curling out from under his helmet & in this wind it has stood out like bat wings.

We passed an auction mart in the middle of nowhere. The birds didn’t want to fly, because they would not have stayed or gone where they wanted. When it rained, the rain was horizontal & each storm soon blew over & still it was never cold.

We must have walked on the longest straight road with passing places in the country. Definitely Roman influences. We had lunch partway up the long road & then only had a wee distance to go to finish – our walk was 15.78 Fitbit miles.

Pete took me to John “o’ Groats with an excuse for why & we discovered Adrian, Anna-Lee & Siobhan all up here as a surprise to walk with me tomorrow. Wonderful & how sneaky! What a beautiful place.

DAY 75

We set out from Rangag in grey cloud & with a cool wind. The mountains of yesterday were topped by a blanket of cloud & the moorlands looked bleak & uninviting. There were sheep everywhere & some very wee lambs, which were delightful. A wind farm was extending its turbines & the roads were being put in place, but even so, it was quiet & peaceful.

The odd bunching of traffic disturbed the peace momentarily, but this is the A9 that further south is notorious for its death toll, and up here is quite the opposite. Pete came a little way to set us off & again he went partway ahead of us, to allow for any emergencies, which were not needed.

Today I left the A9 which I have been on, ( except for a slight detour round Culloden) since Perth. We came across a memorial & views that went right over to the hills of yesterday. We then turned up north on a B road which was remarkably straight. The fields around Caithness are fenced/walled by huge stone slabs, which when they are looked after, are a very effective field barrier. I expect the sheep enjoy the shelter given in, what must be violent storms across these moors.

We had fields of Cotton grass to delight us and masses of Flags – known as Yellow Iris. In the midst of the remoteness, with distant hills & moorland we came across an enormous stone quarry, so we had lorries to contend with, but they were all very kind.

We came across Highland cattle with the dearest calfs. While we picnic lunched in the van, we watched a flock of sheep running from some sheds, having been sheered & really irate at being so naked. What a racket they made.

Pete went on to the end & we walked on along continuous straight roads. Roman influence maybe. High hedges restricted our view for a while, but we had plenty of orchids & even some hawthorn flowering, even though we had the longest day, ending last night.

We were met near Watton by Pete;  they have a huge loch which is beautiful. We watched a heron, hunt, catch & eat its prey & men out fishing looking really tiny in the distance. Swans were out on the water shielding their three tiny cygnets. The sun had appeared by then, making it very warm. However we crossed the railway line which links Thurso to Wick. The train runs to Thurso & then reverses all the way to Wick. Main line train stuff!!

Another great day of 16.22 Fitbit miles.

Day 74…… surprisingly not as wet as it looked!

It was windy; cloudy & threatening rain as we set off from the camp site. However as we started walking, so the rain clouds disappeared & the clouds lifted. The sea was hazy, showing yet a different view of the Beatrice Field. The sea sparkled & danced over the tiny waves & in the distance a sailing boat was flying before the breeze on a perfect run.

We had orchids & clover growing everywhere & again the traffic was very people aware & gave us space.

We passed a museum croft with neat thatched roofs, with their own grass growing out of the tops & a village calked Latheronwheel, which to all intents & purposes looked like they threw their boats off the cliff into their harbour & dived in afterwards, because the village came to a sudden cliff & there didn’t seem to be a road to their harbour. There was no one to ask.

We have since discovered that there is a road heading downwards to their harbour.

We then turned north towards Thurso & at that point we had bushes & bushes of some shrub full of fruit that looked like raspberries, but was bright orange. No one knew what they were & wisely we didn’t try.

Pete met us to make sure everyone was ok & he then went on to the end.

The scenery became even more remote with vast moorlands leading to distant hazy hills. Scrub land with the odd house, some still lived in & others going to ruin. There were plenty of sheep & cows, some being highland cattle & just right for the countryside. We even saw a herd of red deer in the distance & they stayed clear of us humans. One house had a statue of a sheep, that is the only kind Pete would ever contemplate having. Wind turbine farms were lazily creating power & peewits & curlews anxiously kept watch over our approach.

It was so remote & yet so breathtakingly beautiful. The sun came out & the breeze kept us cool. A super day of 14.02 miles.

 

Day 73……. Loving to see this sign posts!

We started out in the rain.

Everything looked grey out to sea & the Beatrice oil field looking like spectres in the mist. Everything looked green & fresh & there was clover growing everywhere in different colours. Other pink & white flowers were orchids in patches & despite the rain it all looked beautiful. We saw a red deer hiding in the bushes & there are rabbits everywhere!

Pete started out to make sure everyone was ok & then he cycled back to take the van to Dunbeath, our final destination for today. The traffic was kind, trying not to splash us too much & lorry drivers would beep as they went past. Today’s weather released a few midges, which fortunately were not biting us.

We came to the Berridale Braes which is an incredible hill down & up to the village. Lorries struggled to reach the top; we took our time & thankfully everyone made it.

The sun eventually came out & wet bodies began to dry. The curlews; peewits & oyster catchers were in full voice & we could begin to see the line between the sea & sky that had been a faded grey colour with no difference.

There was an idyllic harbour at Berridale; their cemetery was at the top of the very steep brae, which must surely finish off others who pay their respects in the climb to the funeral.

Little mice scurried across the path & we started to warm up. Pete found us & we walked on to the van continuing on an undulating road. By the time we reached the van the Beatrice field was much more evident than before & the sea began to take in a glassy shade.

A great walk of 11.79 Fitbit miles. Tomorrow is a rest day. We move on to Dunnet bay, which is our last camp site before the end.

Day 72

Alex & Cath came with me today & Pete started out with us. We set off from Lothmore in breezy weather, but certainly not cold. We had orchids growing all down the verges & the sea was calmer & clearer than yesterday, with the Beatrice field, stark on the horizon.

The traffic today was really kind, with most folk waving as they went by & the lorries beeping in a friendly fashion as they drove past. The road undulated & wove around the coast line, with the sea lapping peacefully at the sands. The cormorants were on the rocks, wings wide open, drying in the breeze. A seal popped its head above the water on a couple of occasions & the seagulls fishing & diving into the sea.

Pete had gone back to the van to meet us from Helmsdale. Helmsdale has a harbour that has a lobster potting fleet & a statue commemorating the clearances.

Hamish, who walked with me when we were walking from home, was on his way to Orkney to see his father & stopped to talk to us as he went by.

We then had hills to climb from Helmsdale & a newer road where there was a new tarmacked section with space between the white line & the verge for few miles. That was comfortable walking.

We could see for miles out to sea & small lobster boats were busy chugging round their pots. Pete cycled back to meet us again & we saved him from having to go back up the biggest hill again by reaching the top of a really long slope. We all had lunch in a lay by at the top of a hill behind a Romanian lorry, which was resting with his doors open & making us look like we were illegal immigrants.

We finally reached our destination at Badbea, where they have a historic village from the time of the clearances. The sun had come out by then & would have been very warm to walk in, but we had the best of the day & walked 14.11 Fitbit miles.

A very happy day & not too long.

Day 71

We started really early today, because we wanted to be sure of finishing in time to catch up with a friend from my final school year in Uganda. She & her husband are driving north to visit their work partner & friend.

I started walking at 6.30 this morning & the Dunrobin Castle drive was stately & unsurprisingly empty. They own their own delightful little station & a statue of the Duke of Sutherland stands upright looking down towards the castle.

We walked along the A9 with less traffic, due to the time & before long passed the remains of a Broch that Laura used to delight in the likes of. These were the dwelling places for villages from 100BC. Very clever too. Circular with a double wall, within which the people lived. Makes me & probably Greig very glad that we were not of that era. At night they would bring the animals into the central circle. There are lots of them in Scotland. In the picture the walls used to go up in ever decreasing size & the grassy bit was the living space.

A bull didn’t like my orange jacket, but only stood watching me warily. On the one side we had the North Sea & on the other side, there was forest & mountains. Pete cycled back to take the motorhome to our destination point. I walked through Brora with its clock tower memorial to their war dead & which chimed its quarter hour giving me a huge fright.

The river Brora looked peaceful enough but I expect it can be quite furious. Cows were sleepily chewing the cud circled round one of the golf tees. Horrid thought really ! What a long village Brora is. Almost Ribbon Street Development. I had got past the camp site entrance when Pete reached me & we continued on along A9 with the numpties in their fast topless cars trying to prove a point in speeding. Abandoned houses being taken over by the countryside & fuchsias making beautiful shrubbery.

A seal was perched precariously on top of a rock having to work hard at maintaining it’s balance. In the distance the Beatrice Oil field that is no longer in use, could be seen & Pete is convinced he saw the two off-shore wind turbines that were put up in his time with SSE.

We had a few hills to climb & it being a muggy, but dry day it was quite hot. We reached the motorhome at Lothmore having walked 14 Fitbit miles. Despite the numpties , it was an enjoyable walk.

Day 70 – a sunscreen type of day!

We had sunshine to start off today & I even had to put sunscreen on!

The back road from Dornoch to the A9 just before a place called The Mound, was delightful, going along an old railway line beside Loch Fleet, which is a sea Loch. Pete started out with me for a short distance & we couldn’t count the amount of larks that were enjoying serenading the sun. Blackbirds were singing & starlings chattering as they gossiped in the fields.

It did decide to rain, as I walked on, which was cooling &at first & then wet, but they were only showers.

An old Castle stood majestically looking towards the sea & seals were basking on the sandbanks. June is the month when they produce their young & we had the delight of seeing one in the distance. There were chicks of some kind of seabird & a mallard leading 7 little chicks away from us humans.

The views were just wonderful & had I not got a target to reach, I could have sat watching for hours.

Pete met me & we braved the A9 together. Actually the traffic was very kind. We had a continual sea view as we walked along & had our picnic lunch next to a stone sculpture in Golspie, looking out on a wee fishing boat looking for lobsters.

Golspie is a only a short distance from Dunrobin Castle, which was our stop point for today. This is a castle that overlooks the sea rather than the land & the first Duke of Sutherland built a folly/monument overlooking the whole town on the hill behind Golspie. All to do with the clearances .

We entered the castle grounds via the back entrance & had a welcome cup of tea/water in their firemen’s room. A young student was playing the bagpipes outside the entrance & it was all very spectacular.

Another great day of 15 miles.

Day 69……I’m pretty sure I was promised short walks from now on!!

We had another early start to get to our start out point at a reasonable time. Pete came with me to see me on the road & our first encounter was with banks & banks of pungent Broom that dwarfed both Pete & myself.

We passed through forests & marshes interspersed were more random houses with gardens that reflected the presence of midges. One place had a robot lawn mower slowly wending its way up & down creating lines. They all had wonderful sea views.

Larks & robins were still singing & with wrens, swallows and all manner of marshland birds that I haven’t a scoobie as to their names. Pete cycled back to the motorhome & I carried on into Tain, which has a huge number of churches. I was told that one was from the 14th Century & a Pilgrimage church; which they were trying to reinstate the pilgrimage again.

I met Pete at the other end of a very busy town & he came with me past the famous Glenmorangie Distillery, that we visited a couple of years ago. We then went over the Dornoch Firth over a long bridge with the Firth & open North sea on one side & mountains on the other. Minus any cars, it might have been very peaceful.

Pete cycled back from there & I took a detour away from the A9 along a back road into Dornoch. This ran beside the sea & had sea grasses, cows & horses in the fields leading to the sea. We had our picnic lunch in the motorhome, sheltered from the start of the rain, before I walked on into Dornoch, with dog rises & wild raspberries humming with insect life.

Dornoch itself is a tourist town with a castle & a cathedral & very much on the Cruise liner’s visiting itinerary. People were being guided around by smartly dressed couriers & the locals were at a community market around the cathedral.

We walked through Dornoch & out on a back road where masses of housing development is taking place, but where history prevails with a well. Well (excuse the pun) it was called a well but was merely a monument that changed a boundary so  Sir Martin didn’t have to move house to vote.  Fields of poppies with a deer were grazing near these building sites & we stopped just before a place called Embo.

The rain was intermittent, but very warm & the walk was 19.07 Fitbit miles. A little longer than I was promised but thoroughly enjoyable.

 

Day 68 – rain on – rain off!!

We started out earlier from Brora, because we had a way to go back to Evanton, but started walking just after 8am.

Pete started out with me & the cycle path wove from one side of the road to the other making a meandering track. There was some creeping flower that was beautiful & is for you knowledgable folk to name. The rivers again full & fast after more rain. Above the village there is a monument called Cnoc Fyrish & about which I could find no information.

Everyone was in a hurry & didn’t want to talk.

The countryside was backed by mountains with trees & low level fields; the tide was out on the Cromarty Firth. Pete left me outside Alness & I followed the track through the town, over their river & up to the back road going towards Tain. The path edges were full of Mare’s Tail, which is apparently the oldest surviving weed in this country. It’s a very boring plant, hence no photos.

In the distance, on the Cromarty Firth, there were a huge number of standing oil rigs & jack ups, as they call them, all under wraps from the height of the oil industry. Dwarfed amongst them was a small cruise liner, moored & ready for the day’s tours round Scotland.

The road was lined with flowering dog roses & rhododendron are coming into bloom & are a wonderful sight.

Although I could hear the noise of the A9 traffic in the distance, I was well able to hear the mass songs of the larks; the strident, and beautiful robin song. The swallows were not flying so low, giving me a false sense of security that it might not rain.

Peter rode back to get me & we had our picnic lunch near the woods in the sunshine, before the rain finally caught up with us & we tested the efficacy of our rain coats. Petes failed!

Folk live locally along these back roads & houses of various sizes, with gardens of different types appeared in random places, some of them really fancy & others just usable. They all had views to die for.

We got back to the motorhome just before the next storm & had to change our clothing completely before traveling back to the camp site. A muggy day with some sun & lots if rain of 15.75 Fitbit miles.