DAY 4: Dunbeath to Helmsdale – 15 miles
This morning could not have started better with the best shower so far of the trip, a wonderful home cooked breakfast from Rhonda and being able to step out into the sunshine with no aching limbs and a dry backpack. Leaving Dunbeath I could see what I was unable to see on the way in yesterday, a pretty coastline and cute little village (still no pub, cafe or shop though… just the one restaurant which apparently is open 6 nights a week!) I headed south on the main road and even though I now found myself ducking from side to side depending on which had the better verge for walking, the traffic was pretty light and the never-ending stunning coastline to my left more than made up for it. The dark rain clouds to my right however continued to loom ominously and I knew it was only a matter of time till they arrived.
I managed to make it to the bottom, then about half way up back up the particularly dramatic switch back at Berriedale (13% incline), stopping for a quick chat wth my first fellow Joglers (two lads from London cycling the same way as me) before it started to rain. Then like yesterday, there was no let up… and again, there was literally nowhere to stop so it was head down and plough through. Although never too far down as to keep an eye on the traffic coming towards me, jumping onto the one soggy verge where the road was extra narrow to avoid being sprayed too much as cars raced past. At one point I rounded a high up cliff bend and the bitter wind that came at me nearly knocked me off my feet. I honestly looked like one of those YouTube clips where someone is battling a raging wind, clothes flapping, trying to walk forward but in reality not actually getting anywhere. No exaggeration, THAT is how windy it was! Whilst most my clothing has been treating me well so far – and I honestly would not be able to do any of this without my head band/ear warmer thing – my legs and sleeve cuffs were now totally drenched so the skin beneath was practically numb. Knowing at that very moment the south east was expriencing a heat-wave, for the 100th time I asked myself what am I doing. Of course I know that answer, so I kept going…
I suppose the only thing that made today a little more bearable than yesterday was expectation and uncertainty. Or rather the lack of it. I now know not to expect to find anywhere to stop and shelter, so when I ended up walking today for five hours straight I was already resigned to it. Also Helmsdale, my final destination today, has no campsite so last night I pre booked myself into an AirBnb and knowing that was waiting for me, made a massive difference. And finally… good news, in that my backpack doesn’t feel quite as heavy as it did yesterday so unless I left some of my belongings at Rhonda’s haha I must be getting stronger, and that is only going to improve.
On arrival in Helmdale I was also pleased to see houses and shops! I went straight to my AirBnb where I was warmly welcomed by Ronnie, his daughter and a cup of tea. Of course, the weather had now miraculously improved so Ronnie took me and his daughter out for a drive to find some deer (not shoot some deer which with a horrified look of my face, I first thought he’d said!) We only saw deer from a great distance, but the drive was lovely and Ronnie gave me some commentary on the surroundings and history on the region. Bloody hell, no wonder Scots are mad at the English… but that is another story for another day. After the guided tour, I grabbed some chicken and chips from in town and once I had removed the inch thick batter surrounding the poor piece of chicken, enjoyed dinner on the sunny deck in Ronnie’s garden – being a good girl and declining a glass of wine.