JOHN O’GROATS TRAIL. [Episode 2] Helmsdale to John O’Groats – a continuation.

Stacks of Duncansby, copyright Ken Crossan

Last summer I had a week walking up the coast from Inverness to Helmsdale on what is to be the John O’Groats Trail.   http://www.jogt.org.uk/

This was the penulitmate section of my 50 odd years linking Lands End to John O’Goats on foot.

I realised the trail was in the process of being developed by a gang of volunteers and I had little information. Most of the time I was able to walk at my will on beaches and minor roads in the general south to north direction. Occasionally I came across white  waymarks and stiles showing the proposed route.

This year I’ve been able to glean more information and have a download of the draft guide book as well as an optimistic Harveys Map of the route.

For this next part of the trail there are warnings of difficult walking over rough pathless ground, awkward or non existent stiles [take thick gardening gloves to negotiate the barbed wire], ticks and cattle, high summer vegetation [carry a sickle],dangerous river crossings  but also dramatic cliff tops, sea arches and stacks, abundant bird life, historic harbours and welcoming villages.

Can’t wait to get started.

I’ve a train ticket to Helmsdale, a 10hr journey, where I’m booked into the friendly Belgrave Arms. The forecast is good . It’s time to complete the trail.

There was some excitement at Perth where it was lassies day at the races.

As I passed through the highlands I couldn’t help but notice how what had been pony tracks were now harsh landrover highways. On reflection it must be 20 years since I’ve climbed a Munro.

After Inverness the train followed part of the coast I walked last year and I even spotted a backpacker heading north . I’m now waiting for my meal in the hotel with gorgeous evening light across the bay. I can’t help but notice the gorse covered hills looming up above the coast – tomorrow morning’s start.

Helmsdale across the bay from the train.  Dirty window.

The hills above Helmsdale.

Helmsdale harbour

For reference in my subsequent posts if the sea is on the right in photos I’m heading north if it’s on the left I’m looking back.

 

*****

 

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