|Day 69 – June 20||Brora to Helmsdale|
|Weather: Cloudy||B&B: Kindale Guest House (£35)|
|Departed: 9:45 Arrived: 13:15||Walked: 3h 14m Rested: 0 hr 10m|
|Distance Today: 11.2 mi / 18.02 km||Total Distance: 1117.6 mi / 1798.60 km|
|% Complete: ~ 95.44%||Pint of the Day: Belhaven Best|
|GPS Track for: Day 69|
I had a lazy start today as I had less than 12 miles to walk, and so I enjoyed a nice chat with my host before heading out for another day on the A9. It was very cloudy and the forecast called for intermittent showers but for the moment it was good walking weather.
Initially I couldn’t decide if I should walk back into town and follow the beach for as long as possible or just continue on down the A9. Unfortunately there are no “official” footpaths along the beach and as I didn’t have good information (or a tide table) I opted to stick to the road, especially as the traffic seemed very light this morning. Last night I read in a Brora “town trail” pamphlet that there is a coastal path between Golspie and Brora, handy information had I known it yesterday. Hopefully the local communities will get together and publish more information, and a few “footpath” signposts wouldn’t hurt either.
Visibility was excellent despite the clouds and so I could see the coastline for at least half a dozen miles ahead of me. After leaving Brora there were a couple of miles of road where there was very little verge but after that it opened up and I had decent walking conditions all the way to Portgower. The A9 followed the beach and the railway and when the traffic died away I could clearly hear the waves rolling in. The walking was certainly more pleasant today than it was yesterday. There were far fewer heavy trucks too, although the first one that passed whipped my cap off and sent it flying 20 feet.
The landscape changed quite quickly a few miles out of Brora. The A9 began to twist and turn and there were a few minor hills after days of relatively flat terrain. The fields and farms to the west slowly gave way to large moorland hills covered in Scotch Broom. To the east were fields stretching to the water’s edge and more often than not covered in freshly-shorn sheep. There were plenty of birds around too but unfortunately I also walked past at least a dozen that had been hit by vehicles, no doubt struck while feasting on the never-ending supply of flat rabbits. Yesterday I passed a small deer that had been struck. I will now add road-kill to my list of reasons why to avoid roads whenever possible.
The one advantage to road-walking is speed. I averaged 3.5 miles per hour and by 12:30 I was marching into Portgower, a small collection of cottages two miles south of Helmsdale. After Portgower the road and railway tracks were sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between a hill and the sea, and so the walking became tricky until I reached a sidewalk on the outskirts of Helmsdale. I was crossing the bridge into town when it started to rain and as it was too early to check into my b&b I sought refuge in The Bridge Hotel.
The bar in the Bridge Hotel is quite posh, with its wood paneled rooms and leather wingback chairs. For a moment I thought I had stepped into a Gentlemen’s Club and so I felt slightly out of place. But despite not smelling like a gentlemen they were very welcoming and it was easily one of the friendliest pubs of my trip. All of the bar staff and most of the patrons were genuinely interested in my walk – after stating that I was, in no uncertain terms, “mad”. I highly recommend the Bridge Hotel to all my fellow nutters.
My b&b was located just around the corner and what a treat this place is. I have a very comfy leather sofa in my room – I haven’t sat on a sofa in well over two months and so I have some serious sofa sitting to do this evening.
Tomorrow is another march along the A9 as I make my way to Dunbeath.