Watten Amazing Place

A short day of flat walking along the quiet back lanes of Caithness.

Again I have been walking in ancient footsteps – the way has been dotted with hut circles and standing stones. The juxtaposition between the 3000-year-old standing stones and the modern wind farm is an interesting one.

It’s been a short walk because we chose a nice loch-side wild camping location at Watten for me to meet up with the motorhome. I’m not keen on walking along roads other than country lanes and Kerriann is not keen on driving Dickie along the very narrow roads which means there are not many places where we can meet up.

Loch Watten looked ideal on the maps and when I arrived after some 4 hours Kerriann had found a lovely flat place to park in the shade, alongside the loch.
So today I’ve walked about 8 miles but tomorrow I will be walking around 18 miles to a campsite just 2 miles from John o’Groats. On Saturday, all being well, I should complete the last two miles of my marathon journey.
I’m not sure how I will feel about finishing; mixed emotions. Sadness, pride, elation? We’ll see.

Dornoch Appealing

Another longish walk today partly in the rain.The first half of the walk was on minor roads and the afternoon was mainly forest tracks.

local wildlife

I deviated from my planned route a little so that I could finish at the campsite that Kerriann has taken the motorhome to. We had hoped that we could park up at the Glenmorangie Distillery but when Kerriann popped in to purchase a bottle for me they were very nice but couldn’t let motorhomes stay overnight. Never mind – the campsite is fine but it did mean a slight diversion.

The paths through the forest were not where they should have been – Many of the tracks marked on the OS maps were no longer there and others that did exists were not marked at all.

In the end I decided to simply take a bearing and go for it – walk in the right direction for about two miles through thick woodland – this was great fun but very slow. I ended up within where I intended to end but an hour later than I expected too. The forest up here are seriously big, I cant think of a southern woodland that you could walk for miles in without crossing a track.

Walking in the woods filled every crevice, pocket and fold in my clothing with needles but it was a great change from road walking and I now smell like lavatory cleaner.

Going to have a shorter walk tomorrow and a look around Dornoch.

One Thousand Miles

Yes I have walked 1000 miles and more. I was hoping that the 1000 mile point would be somewhere special and as my gps was reading 999.8 a deer ran across the path in front of me.
I walked to that point and the gps declared that I had walked 1000 miles. As I was on my own I marked the point with a 1000 in sticks and ‘miles’ in little gravel stones so that I had something to photograph.I was then passed by a group of fellow walkers that I had seen yesterday; they were suitably impressed with my milestone.

Just reached Drumnadrochit and met the group again so have put my slightly damp tent up in the corner of the tourist carpark. There is a nice flat grass verge next to a field with a cow in it and I hope that the carpark will be quiet at night. Not my usual middle of nowhere type pitch but it might be good to go out for a meal tonight and celebrate.

st Columba’s Well
note washing facilities in background
my tent mate
no sign of Nessie
ooops should be on the green path
getting pine needles out of my socks

The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is a lovely walk but for me not a patch on the West Highland Way.Maybe my view will change tomorrow but today’s walking was a lot of forestry tracks, old railway lines and yet more old military roads all of which tend to be wide and straightish. There were some lovely glimpses of Loch Ness but not as many as I had hoped for – still not seen the monster.  Maybe my slightly less upbeat review is due to my feet still aching because of the new boots or maybe because of the rain. I have had lovely sunshine all day and made good progress to Fort Augustus where I had a lovely meal. After lunch I climbed the hill in scorching heat and took a nap resting on my rucksack. I was awoken by a lovely couple of German walkers who were much amused by my snoozing and much impressed by the distance I have covered.

loch ness
first glimpse of loch ness
caledonian canal
caledonian canal

I carried on till about 5.30 when the sky was clouding over – as I started pitching my tent the rain started – I got the tent up and got in it in record time and that is where I am writing this – it is still raining outside but I am nice and snug. I just hope it all dries up for tomorrow’s walk.I am amazed to see that I have covered nearly 25 miles today.

view from my tent
tonight’s pitch

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Sore feet by a Lochy 

Breaking in new boots on a long walk was never going to be easy but it has to be done. Also I have long thought that it is the feet that have to be broken in as much as the boots. Skin hardens where needed, leather softens and stretches – eventually the boots and feet adjust to become perfect matches – in theory. But today my feet hurt. Still, I covered 19 miles and have a lovely wild pitch by Lake Lochy. It even has a fire pit.A local info panel says that there are lots of Pine Martens here and that they are secretive and smelly – I can relate to that …

 tent by a lake
tonight’s pitch
sign for end kf west highlxnd way
end of west highland way

Waxing Lyrical

Yesterday’s walk was shorter than usual partly due to the hangover forced on me by fellow walkers. Today’s walk was also a mere 12 miles into Fort William where I am stocking up with supplies and sorting out my kit. Top priority was boots.

new boots
look at me… new boots

Fort William has more outdoor shops than any town could possibly need – every second shop is catering for the massive West Highland Way market.  Having finish the WHW my memories of it are wonderful. The views are awesome – they almost moved me to tears. To wake up in a Scottish Glen surrounded by mountains with snow in gullies and clouds forming around their peaks, with the sun creeping over the horizon sending beams onto a distant loch, and realise that you are the only human to witness this show is very special indeed. Every day, every hour, the show is different. The interaction of sun and shadow on this landscape is fantastic but I think It might be a somewhat different experience in a winter blizzard. Strangely, I also enjoyed the interaction with people. I tend to be a bit of a loner when walking but I really enjoyed the comradery and the banter between the walkers on the WHW – it was rather like the Santiago de Compostela.  

ben nevis mountain in clouds
Ben Nevis in the clouds

sign  showing wnd of west highland way
the end of one more road

Having said that, I’m looking forward to walking my next leg – The Great Glen across to Inverness. I think I will enjoy the Caledonian canal and also Nessie watching on the banks of Loch Ness and lots of solitude.I called in to Cotswold Clothing and told them I had purchased my boots from their Truro branch a few months ago and showed them their condition – within 10 minutes they had issued me with new pair. Once again I congratulate Cotswold Outdoor for their excellent service. I had a chat with the manager and he pointed out the difficulty in recommending a boot for the type of walk I was doing i.e. Fell walking, mountain/ hill scrambling, grass/ gravel canal tow paths, paved and unpaved forest tracks. Most modern boots are designed to suit one of these categories not all of them.

fort william cotswold
fort william cotswold
old boots with hole on sole
not looking great

I would also point out that, touch wood, I haven’t had any blisters yet unlike most of the walkers I have met on the WHW. 

Staying in a B&B tonight to catch up with my washing.Congratulation to all my new friends who are completing the West Highland Way and commiserations to those who have had to drop out through injury. Those who have finished and those who haven’t have undergone a remarkable life enriching challenge and I look forward to meeting you again on another hillside path…

whisky
a treat for the end of the way
inchgower whisky
favorite of my seven tasters

Busy on the West Highland Way

A fairly good night in the bothy – it would have been an excellent night had two lads not arrived at 11 o’clock at night when all of the rest off us were fast asleep…….never mind.

graham on the trail
looking good

I have not had any wifi all day so have not been able to read the advice that Kerriann tells me has been sent regarding my leg pain. Thanks anyway – I will try and get it later but there is no 3 or 4G phone signal here so it might not work.

The good news is that the leg has been very much better today. I think a combination of being gentle with it yesterday, the anti- inflammatory tablets and creams and a good(ish) night’s sleep has done the trick.

I’m noticing that I have quite a lot of insect bites on my legs and a few on my face so have just applied loads of anti-midge spray – I will do the same in the morning.The ‘Way’ was very busy today and I kept meeting the same people over and over. One would stop for a break and the other would pass then the other way round. One woman I met had booked the walking week with some girlfriends then tripped on a paving stone resulting in multiple fractures. Rather than cancel the trip she was walking a ‘lite’ version of the walk and meeting up with her friends in the evening. She was getting pain from the metal pins holding her foot together. Her ‘lite’ walk was incidentally long and quite strenuous by most peoples’ standards. Good for her.

kings house hotel
had to stop here

There were a lot of strugglers on the trail again today – lots of blisters and muscle pains – often the young macho men with all the kit and usually with overloaded rucksacks.

I met a lovely group of American women who were clearly enjoying every moment of their holiday. They asked how far I had walked and on checking the gps it was exactly 900.0 miles – they were somewhat surprised and got a fellow walker to take a picture of me with them. Maybe they will send this blog a copy….  

I think having a cheery disposition like these ladies helps on a walk – even when limbs and feet are aching singing a song or trying to walk with a relaxed spring in your step makes the pain a little easier to bear. 

The views today have been superb – I will let the photos speak for themselves.

I am in a beautiful but not ideal spot tonight – lovely views but on a bit of a slope and quite close to a railway line. At about 6 pm I had done enough walking for the day and this spot looked better that it actually is. I think I will sleep well though.

Kerriann has set out from home in the motorhome assisted by Hugo out little dog. She has taken it to Taunton and had the MOT renewed and has had to stay an extra day to get new break disks/pads fitted. Then she will slowly make her way up to Scotland and support me on my last leg up to John O’Groats. This is a big adventure for her – agreeing to drive a big motorhome all the way up here is no mean feat. Well done K!