|Day 70 – June 21||Helmsdale to Dunbeath|
|Weather: Rain||B&B: Tormore Farm B&B (£25)|
|Departed: 9:30 Arrived: 17:00||Walked: 4h 37m Rested: 2 hr 53m|
|Distance Today: 16.0 mi / 25.75 km||Total Distance: 1133.6 mi / 1824.35 km|
|% Complete: ~ 96.81%||Pint of the Day: Cairngorm’s Trade Winds Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 70|
Today was a day to test my resolve and to remind me how lucky I’ve been with the weather since I began my walk 11 weeks ago.
For the third day in a row I had a nice conversation over breakfast, this time with an older gentlemen from Oxfordshire, and as a result I got away a little later than planned. When I looked out the window this morning it was dry but by the time I left Kindale Guest House a fine drizzle had begun to fall.
I climbed out of Helmsdale on the A9 and took advantage of a new bypass that cut the corner near Navidale. The visibility was limited and it would deteriorate further as I moved higher up the hillside. Eventually I ended up in a cloud bank and saw nothing for mile after mile. Occasionally a gap would open up and I‘d catch a glimpse of the surrounding countryside, but I never saw the North Sea again until I neared Berriedale a couple of hours later.
The drizzle eventually turned to a steady downpour and that, combined with the soggy verge and spray from passing vehicles, left me well and truly soaked. Worse of all the Gortex lining in my trusty hiking shoes finally failed and I had sopping wet feet within half an hour of leaving Helmsdale. I’ve put nearly 1500 miles on this pair of shoes so they certainly owe me nothing. At the moment they are stuffed with newspaper and sitting in front of Mrs MacDonald’s stove in hopes that they‘ll be dry by morning. Earlier in the day I was concerned that my wet feet could develop blisters but fortunately that was not the case.
About half way along my walk I passed “Badbea Historic Clearance Village” but the thick fog and mist made a visit pointless. Badbea is not the world’s first discount Factory Outlet, it’s an early 19th-century settlement that resulted from the Highland Clearances. The settlement, perched precariously on the cliff, was occupied by farmers and their families who were driven from their homes by landlords who discovered that sheep farming was more profitable than collecting rents from tenant farmers.
I continued my walk and found there were a few good climbs, including one zigzagging section just past Berriedale. However it was the weather and not the hills that defined today’s march and so it was a relief to pass the “Welcome to Dunbeath” sign just after 2pm.
Dunbeath is divided in half by a bridge that spans Dunbeath Water and so I veered off the A9 to visit the Post Office in the top half where I received some information on the whereabouts of the local pub and my farmhouse b&b. The Bay Owl pub and restaurant is located at the other end of Dunbeath and from the outside it doesn’t really look like a pub at all. It’s a fairly plain post-war pub but what it lacks in character it makes up for it in friendliness and hospitality. Besides it was dry, it had real ale and the Switzerland – Chile football match was just about to start. I spent over two hours there and had an early supper.
I reached Tormore Farm b&b just before 5pm and was greeted by Mrs MacDonald who has seen more End-to-Enders than most. She knew exactly what was needed and took my soggy shoes away and made me a pot of tea which I enjoyed in her warm and comfortable lounge.
The skies are brightening this evening and so my fingers are crossed I will have a drier day tomorrow. Day 71 will be spent walking to Watten and the good news is that less than 6 miles of it will be on the A9.