DAY 7: Poles (Dornoch) to Milton (Invergorden) – 15.4 miles
Waking up this morning to clear blue sunny skies, more than made up for any lingering ankle ache or sore toe. What can I say, I’m that fickle… the A9 seemed quieter, the side verges wider, the water bluer and the flowers more beautiful. It was my best day so far by a mile, all 15.4 of them 😊 After an enjoyable morning making good time, I decided to make a small detour off the main road through Tain to find somewhere to take a break… and was rewarded with the prettiest of towns, and my first lunchtime opportunity for a pub pit-stop! Not quite hungry after another breakfast overload, I managed to swerve the cider winking at me, and plumped for a cappachino and lime & soda. I set up camp outside to watch the world go by whilst soaking up some sunshine. Simple pleasures…
The only problem I now faced, was which way to head this afternoon… ideally wanting to walk another 2-3 hours but of course realising that the chance of finding somewhere to stay in that narrow window was highly unlikely. There was a really obvious rural road I wanted to take bypassing the A9 but as always, that means there is literally nothing along that path to feed or house me. With the trauma of two nights ago still fresh in my mind – even though the weather looked like it was going to hold out – I wasn’t quite ready to take my bivi-tent wild camping. So when the barman suggested the Milton Inn in Milton, which was not only the right distance away, it also meant I could take half the rural route then cut back in to the A9… my afternoon was all set.
At 4pm just as I was ready to flop, hot and sweaty with blister plasters falling off, I reached Milton and the picturesque Milton Inn. Ringing the bell and getting no response I crossed the road to ask a lady sat outside her cottage (from Kent it turns out!) how I can get hold of someone at the Inn. Being told that she didn’t think they still rented rooms, I suddenly realised I didn’t have the energy to go on any further and my body started to react. For the next quarter of an hour I borrowed her phone (mine had no signal) to ring round and try find something else within a 5 mile radius… and was about to give up and go pitch my bivi-tent in the first cow-free field I could find, when the landlady of the Inn turned up. With a glimmer of hope I limped over, only to find out that she does rent rooms, but tonight there was no room at the Inn. Feeling totally beaten by the situation, I sat down to try sort out my feet… then I would work out what to do.
Taking another look at me, the landlady then said… “You can always come and stay in the spare room in our home, behind the pub” And that was that… Sandra (and her husband Duncan) proceeded to open up their beautiful cabin home to me as if they’d known me for years. Providing me with a huge attic ensuite bedroom, a lovely cooked meal, unlimited tea and coffee, laundry… whatever I want. I sat on their veranda enjoying the last of the glorious sunshine, with a mug of tea and the local newspaper, totally glowing… and it wasn’t just from the all the sunshine I’d had that day 💛