DAY 8: Milton (Invergordon) to Dingwall – 18.7 miles
Well it appears in Scotland, summer came and went in just over 24 hours. Oh well, it was lovely whilst it lasted. Rising quite late, I could easily have whiled away the day with Sandra in her home away from home… especially as the loud storms that had raged over head all night (apparently… I somehow slept through them!) were expected to continue throughout the day. But after I’d polished off my eggs and half a loaf of toast, I knew it was now or never. As usual never really knowing how far I was heading, I reluctantly said farewell to my lovely hosts, and ventured out into the gathering storm clouds. I think I made it about an hour (3 and half miles) before the heavens open… and down it poured. Actually it was ok. It wasn’t particularly cold and there was no wind so in the end I just fell into stride, and it became almost meditative. Was still nice though when I came across a large diner style restaurant on the side of the main road a couple of hours later… not really realising until I stood there dripping in the entrance as all went quiet and everyone turned to look at me, just what a drowned rat I really was!
I didn’t really need cheering up but still thought I owed it to myself to have a large coffee and even larger slab of chocolate crispie cake 🙂 Back on the road, the heavy rain had subsided and low cloud hung on the horizon turning the whole landscape into a scene from gorillas in the mist. A few hours passed, until I approached the golden 15 mile mark… and then it was the same old problem, being ready to stop walking but with no sign of anywhere to stay, and insufficient wifi to get researching I therefore had no choice but to keep going. I had a potential couch surfing opportunity a little further down the track, but that was a bit too far for this night and probably too close to be broken up into two. So my only option now was to keep going through to Dingwall, a larger town another 3+ miles away where I knew there would be options. So as I turned onto a new B road with about an hours walk left for the day… I thought I was home and dry.
The next 60+ minutes however turned out to be at anything but dry… as the heavens suddenly opened again and the B road keeping me from my final destination became more and more narrow, winding with no side verges at all, a surface full of puddles, fading light and local drivers obviously all in a major hurry to get somewhere. I found myself darting from left to right side, to avoid walking straight into each blind bend… flapping my inner arm up and down to try add extra warning of my presence, turning that flap into a thumbs up as they passed (if they chose to give me a decent wide berth that is – many didn’t). It was relentless and I’m not ashamed to say I shed my first tears of this trip… mainly through sheer frustration. Walking that extra 3 miles on top of my regular 15 didn’t help matters either, with the plasters on my sodden feet actually starting to irritate as much as the blisters and grazes they were there to protect.
Ironically just as the rain cleared and the sun made a brief appearance from behind the large black cloud, a police van pulled up on the other side of the road. Both officers got out and beckoned me over. They had received a call from a passing motorist, concerned that I was walking along the road on the wrong side during such hazardous conditions. I explained that I was walking on whichever was the safest in that moment, not necessarily sticking to the right side if a blind bend was approaching. They seemed satisfied with that, but said they would prefer to drop me the last couple of miles into town. Especially as the rain had now stopped I explained thanks – but no thanks – I am doing this walk for charity and want to complete the route in its entirety without any cheating. So satisfied that I was being careful, they left me to it and at 5:30pm I finally made it to Dingwall.
After this hideous final stretch, I was tempted to treat myself at the first hotel I came to, but thankfully the town wasn’t that big so I easily found somewhere nearby which was much more reasonable. Turns out it was actually Dingwalls answer to Faulty Towers but hey, it was only for one night… On the plus side, while they cleaned my room (using the word clean very loosely) I found a gorgeous little Thai restaurant nearby which was actually fully booked, but they let me take take one of the pretty window seats until that party turned up. Which was more than enough time for me to wolf down a nice spicy green curry. Only trouble was after sitting down for 30 minutes I was almost unable to stand unaided and it took me an age to hobble back to Faulty Towers. Yep, I definitely over-did it today…