LEJOG62: Tain to Brora

On this day I was going to feel like I had a full time support team as Jenna was following me in the car and planning to meet up along the way. Luxury!

The day started by crossing the Dornoch Firth on the A9 road bridge. The firth looked amazing in the sunshine, a huge expanse of blue water with golden sandy banks that disappeared in a haze out to sea on my right. The road itself wasn’t actually dangerous because there was a sizeable hard shoulder, but it felt a bit scary whenever a large truck (of which there were many) roared past creating a wind which felt like it was going to pick you up and throw you over the (very substantial) railings. I even had to take my hat off about half way through to stop it becoming a casualty.

On safe ground I past a group of people sunning themselves outsde their house and had a quick chat. They talked about the other LEJOGers who had been this way and how long they had taken to get this far. I realised that from now on I was treading an incredibly well worn path and that residents must be quite used to seeing the sweaty and tired likes of me trudging past their doors. They still seemed impressed though. They also told me that the big group of bites on my feet were from horse flies not midges, and that these winged menaces were the biggest downside to living in this area. I was obviously going to have to be more vigilant in future.

At Dornoch I bumped into Jenna (fancy that!) and we had a quick coffee. It was a lovely little place and Jenna decided she wanted to live there. I agreed that it was pretty without being too twee or touristy but felt it was a bit too far from a Muji or Uniqlo for me to be comfortable settling down.

 I moved on up the coast until I got to Loch Fleet which wasnt really a lake but a big very sandy bay about 5km across with a small entrance to the sea, making it look more like a river with massive sandy banks. There were big skies and big dark green and brown hills at one end making it all look very dramatic, especially in the sun. It looked a great and well frequented spot for wild camping. Jenna was waiting and we had a barbeque with vegetable and haloumi kebabs-lovely!

 At this point the route joined up with the A9 and circled around the loch. However, one could cut a lot of this out by crossing the loch at it’s narrowest point near the coast. In fact, there was a point where only 20 metres or so seperated either side. I’d like to say that I put all my kit in a big waterproof bag and then swum these 20 metres. However, im a very weak swimmer so this would have been very dangerous. Failing that I’d like to say that a kindly local resident lent me his boat so I could row across. However such a person was not around. So instead what happened was that I closed my eyes, and about 30 minutes later both me, Jenna and the car suddenly miraculously appeared at the end of the road on the other side of the loch. While this might technically be classed as cheating I don’t feel it’s against te spirit of LEJOG which is about walking the best route up the country, not about walking on A roads. I have walked up the country-I just had help for 20 metres or so. My conscience is clean!

Jenna then joined me for a bit of coastal walking between Golspie and Brora. The coast is amazing here, little streches of golden sands and blue sea spread out forever. Along the way we spied seals, birds and even a huge fairytale castle called Dunrobin. Unfortunately the good weather couldn’t last and a massive thunderstorm broke. We huddled by an old wall to wait for it to subside but it kept getting worse and us wetter. After a while somebody came our of the house opposite and told us we could shelter in the stone shed on the other side of the wall. However as soon as we got in there was a woosh and a load of dark dirty water full of leaves started pouring in from where we’d just come in. Yelping we grabbed our bags and jumped out of the other door into the garden which had been on the otherside of the wall we’d been sheltering next and ran for cover underneath a large laurel bush. It was here that Jenna noticed that we were infact now in an ornamental garden which was directly overlooked by the now massive shape of the fairytale castle in whose grounds we had accidentally found ourselves in. It was quite spooky, especially as we were now locked in after the door we’d jumped out of had been shut behind us to stop more water getting in. I would have explored a bit more but the rain was pretty relentless. Eventually it subsided and we were let out. Neither of us had the guts at the time to ask the guy who let us in whether he owned the magical castle itself, so that will just have to remain a mystery.

We continued up the coast as the stormy afternoon turned into a calm sunny evening. The sea became as flat as a pancake and as silver as mercury with black rocks and seal snouts poking through like dirt on the surface of a mirror. Our clothes dried off gradually and eventually we reached Brora harbour, tired and hungry from a long day. Sent from my iPhone

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