DAY 6: Dunbeath to Poles (Dornoch) – 14.2 miles
Ok so onwards and upwards… and whilst I was pretty knackered, at least I was finally up early and moving, and moving without too much discomfort from the day before. Probably the stiffest and sorest part of my body is now my ankles, but they soon warmed up as I walked the mile back into Dunbeath. Turns out that the centre of this fairly small town has its own free wifi and when I also stumbled across my first proper cafe at 7am just as it was opening… I knew today was going to be a good day. After my shortbread dinner last night I had some making up to do… so plumped for a full English, with my first taste of a lorne (square) Scottish sausage, toast with homemade raspberry jam, a large pot of tea and an extra cappuccino for good measure. My campsite last night set me back £8 and this breakfast £9.50, but it was worth every penny!
So after all that I didn’t actually start walking out of Dunbeath until 8:45, and then within couple hours I reached Golspie, where I had intended to get to the night before. Another cute town, with another coffee shop so I felt obliged to stop for another cappuccino, plus there appeared to be a few options on which way to walk south, so I wanted to tap someone’s brain. The most direct and probably scenic route meant crossing a small body of water and being an expert river wader now, I wanted to know whether it would be possible. The lady in the cafe said no, as did the very helpful man tending to his garden on my way out of town… apparently there used to be a flat bottom boat that took cargo and people across the little strait but once the A9 was built they stopped the service. So looks like I’m 40 years too late.
Continuing along the A9 for the rest of my day – whilst the cows remained menacing – it was interesting to see the landscape changing, from exposed stretches of flat terrain to more wooded areas, and my first proper Scottish loch! And thankfully whilst the sky was overcast and never without a black cloud, I seemed to miss all but the odd bit of drizzle. Obviously there was no way I could get lost, but I still continued forward not really knowing where I was going to stay that night – just praying that when I’d had enough of walking I would chance upon somewhere to stay. Judging from my experience so far this trip, this is obviously a very risky method but I was feeling lucky. And just as I was about to give up and turn off to Dornoch (where I knew I would be able to find a bed, but of course it would mean veering off course then retracing those steps the next morning) at the side of a particularly uninspiring stretch of road, The Trentham Hotel suddenly appeared, as if my magic. Yes they had a single room (separate bathroom) for £35 inc breakfast, yes their bar did decent pub food, and yes I could whack on the radiator and get all my wet camping gear dry. A lovely warm foot soak, a double spicy chicken curry from the over helpful barman/cook and the most glorious sunset finished off this pretty good day.