The A9 and the A99

A9 walking

This last week has included rather more road walking than we would have liked. In fact the nearer we got to Wick the less footpaths there seemed to be and the road and cars zooming by have been our constant companions. However there have been some interesting diversions. We managed to time our arrival in Helmsdale to coincide with the Highland Games there. It was the first time we have seen this spectacle and more can be read about in John’s part of the website under The Yorkshire Highlander’s Tale.

As we left the games we passed a very poignant sculpture to the ‘Emigrants’. These were the people who had been thrown off their lands in the sheltered glens to make room for sheep (which were more profitable than rent). The figure of the Duke of Sutherland dominates the hillside above Brora, his fairytale castle at Dunrobin is now a tourist attraction, but he was one of the culprits who caused such hardship to the Emigrants.

The 'Emigrants'
Dunrobin Castle

The now deserted village of Badbea is just a quarter of a mile away from the A9. This is right on the edge of the cliffs onstoney ground and was one of the difficult places that the Emigrants fled to. Others made it to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and took some of their Scottish culture with them.

Laidhay Croft Museum
Crofter's living room

We saw, at the Laidhay Croft Museum, the layout of a croft as it would have been and it included shoes found at the deserted village of Badbea.

Some of the beaches we have been able to walk along have been stunning and mostly deserted except for the seals who found in us a curiosity and so swam along with us parallel to the beach!

We have had some great encouragement and help from some of the folk up here and so ‘Hello’ to the dog walkers at Golspie, the Scottish Boot Campers north of Golspie – the running lasses and Paddy and ‘T’ the instructors; Sue met on Brora beach; Colin and Rose at the Helmsdale Highland Games and their children Abram, Jessie and Luis; Hugh, Mary, Marion, Willy and Maureen and the rest of the very friendly and welcoming congregation at the Associated Presbyterian church in Balintore; the cyclists doing LEJOG in 18 days: Gemma, Robyn, Bex, Hannah, Ellie and Robyn’s mum, Dave and Sue at Ubster, Mrs Leaske (thanks for your help) at Wick, and Esme, Henrietta, Margaret, Jane and Jim met at Esme’s house in Conisbay (after a lovely meal cooked by Esme).

Week 21 Statistics

Scrabble: Nancy 1 John 2

Kissing Gates 5

En route donations £17.50

Mileage 66 miles

Caithness Smoked cheese 206 g (lovely, thank you Henrietta!)

This is the last weekly posting … before … THE END John o’Groats !!!!!!!!!! Please note there is still time for more Scrabble games and for John to have a final spurt.

Pictures of that event will be coming shortly.


BBC Radio Scotland

John and Nancy are due to be part of the “Sunday Morning With Ricky Ross” show on BBC Radio Scotland this weekend.

Tune in on your radio (92-95 FM, DAB or 810 MW) or online. The show is on Sunday 21st August from 7am until 9am.

If you are not up that early this weekend it should (hopefully) be available for seven days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer:

Update 21st Aug: The programme has aired and is now available via the BBC iPlayer link above, as anticipated. John and Nancy can be heard at about 44 minutes in.

The Land of the Picts

We are now so far north that when people talk of those in the south, they do not mean London, or even England – they mean Edinburgh or Glasgow! This is a wonderful place. The air is clear and the scenery is wonderful. We have been walking through the villages of the Moray Firth, the Cromarty Firth (no longer just a shipping forecast to me) and the Dornoch Firth. This is the land of Easter Ross where the Picts lived in Roman times. In fact it was the Romans who named them Picts and it is thought that it was because of their body paint or tattoos. The Black Isle between the Moray Firth and Cromarty Firth was delightful.


Fortrose cathedral

We had a stunning walk from Avoch, through Fortrose and its disused Cathedral, to Chanonry point (where we saw the dolphins) and onto Rosemarkie and its very, very attractive fairy Glen.

Fairy Glen
Fairy Glen

Dolphins at Chanonry Point

Walking along the Eathie Road we could see the Mory Firth on one side (raining to the south but not where we were) and the cromarty Firth to the north (with its oil rigs and oil industry).

Shandwick Cross

Further north we greatly enjoyed finding out about Pictish Christianity. St Columba seemes to have been the star, but there were other Celtic saints who founded monasteries and spread the Gospel. There are immense standing stones at Nigg (in the church), Shandwick (on a hill overlooking the sea) and a replica stone at Hilton. We also spent an informative afternoon at Tarbat, overlooking the Dornoch Firth, where there is a disused church with a Pictish crypt. It is full of the Pictish history and carvings unearthed by a team from York University!! – strange how these things happen.

We now have less than 100 miles to go and by the time you read this, probably less than a week to walk. It will feel most strange stopping this lifestyle, which has been focused on walking nearer to John o’Groats every day. As we are now on the main lejog route heading north we are beginning to encounter more people either cycling or walking end to end.

We have continued to meet some very friendly and generous people this week- some of whom might be logging on to the website – so ‘Hi!’ to several people we have now met more than once! To John and Anne from the Wirral, Lara and Igor from USA, Bill and Cathy (from Manchester) walking lejog (thank you for the tips about Tain to Dornoch – lovely route) and a first ‘Hello!’ on line to Frank in N. Kessock TIC, Moira and Jim in Avoch, David the ferryman on the Nigg-Cromarty boat, Cosy, Charlie, Sophie and Emma (passengers on the ferry – and also cyclists round Balintore, Drew and Kathy from Alness, Barbara and Margaret met in Fortrose, David the runner from Derby, Pat who gave us a cup of tea in her lovely garden hideaway, the Balintore ladies watching the shoreline, Diana and Jessica near Balintore chemists, Harry and Joy and their friends on holiday in Balintore, Michelle who most encouragingly stopped her car to talk to us, David in Blaintore who took our mileage photo (Thanks David), Andrew in Tain, and Maureen and Sandra in Dornoch Cathedral (who told us the directions to get an ice-cream!) , to Andy on holiday from Maryport in Cumbria, to Steve taking photos of Loch Fleet and to Niamh, Hannah and their Mum and Gran in Lidl in Tain.


Week 20 Statistics

Scrabble: Nancy 2 John 0

Kissing Gates 20

En route donations £35.80

Mileage 75 miles

Iron Brew 500 ml (made in Scotland from Girrders!)

Scotch Pie 1