Friday 17 August 2007

Highlands: Inverness - John O'Groats [11th-17th August]

[Update 12]

We passed the official end of the Great Glen Way at Inverness Castle and started the dreaded road walk to the end. It had some bonuses though, burger van goodies to pig on (Daisy did well with two free sausages) and we found two lucky pennies to help us on our way. Toilet spots were more tricky to find along the roadside though! We could smell the sea and at Dingwall, our friends Brian and Caroline treated us to a lovely roast beef dinner and a shower with dry, warm towels, an absolute treat!:-) We were quickly knocked back down to earth back at the campsite though - it was raining as usual, but one of our tent zips finally broke, so we duck-taped ourselves in away from the flies.

Next morning after stuffing ourselves with pastries, we met an interesting chap called John, outside Tesco. We had a lovely chat about his own Land's End to John O'Groats (LEJOG)'barefoot' walk in 1979, raising £50,000 for Leukemia, also how he served in the Royal Marines based in Portsmouth and how he had lived in a cave for 17 years. He later very kindly sent us a donation and his interesting press clippings!:-)
After John and some maltesers had raised our spirits, a smaller road took us to a sunnier Evanton where we met another LEJOGer, cycling this time. It was too cloudy to see the meteor shower that night though.

We had showers and wind for the last few days, except one morning when the suncream made a rare appearance and Irn Bru refreshed and helped us burp our way along the busy roads. We managed to get off the A9 for a bit around the lobster pot shoreline near Dunrobin Castle but it was soon back on again to face the dusty lorries. We saw a seal bobbing around at Helmsdale Bridge and had the best fish supper in Scotland so far (nothing can beat Yorkshire though)!

Passing lots of brochs and clearance villages, the weather got colder and windier and we were finding that we both had horrendous shooting pains up through our feet and into our legs, our bones must have known that we were near the end, the roads were finally finishing us off. After a car skidded off the road where we were walking two minutes before, we thankfully left the A9 to join a quiet country road to Watten. Surrounded by old forests and moorland, the road seemed to stretch on forever and we passed the ancient Cairns of Camster before the weather turned even more colder and windier. With 50mph gusts the wind farms in the distance must have been happy! Eventually a perfectly placed Public Convenience provided sanctuary from the cold shards of rain smacking our faces. After a hot pasty from the shop, Daisy shivered her way into Will's rucksack, while Will found out if the campsite, 4k off route would take dogs and tents. He came bounding back with an end of trek treat.... room 7 from the hotel! No en suite but dry, warm towels, a radiator, beds and a TV - weird! The drunk, swearing landlord was even weirder!

From weird to surreal, it was our last day!! On the long cold, barren road the wind howled eerily through the phone lines alongside the road. Finally, the Orkney Islands and the rough sea came into view - yippee! A contrast to anywhere else in the holiday season, there were B & B vacancies everywhere, then a car bibbed and waved at us for nearly completing, then the John O'Groats sign... it looked amazing! Before we knew it we were having our photo taken by a nice round faced photographer and signing the End to End book in the hotel. After a drink and sausages for tea, we had an overwhelming feeling of contentment, listening to the shore lapping and watching the lighthouses flash through the tent before falling into a deep sleep. Zzzzzzzzzz :-) Yes, Daisy snores too!

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