Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Walk 204 -- Berriedale to Lybster

Ages: Colin was 66 years and 321 days. Rosemary was 64 years and 98 days.
Weather: A cold strong wind and occasional showers. It brightened up later and the wind dropped.
Location: Berriedale to Lybster.
Distance: 14½ miles.
Total distance: 1816½ miles.
Terrain: Mostly walking alongside the A9 which was quite soul-destroying. There was a nice path dipping through Dunbeath at lunchtime which gave us a little respite, and again at the end of the Walk dipping through Lybster.
Tide: In going out later.
Rivers: No.159, Dunbeath Water. No.160, Burn of Latheron. No. 161, Reisgill Burn.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.172 near Dunbeath. No. 173 near Lybster.
Pubs: None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage in Castletown. This morning we got up very early and drove about thirty miles to Lybster where nobody objected to us parking discreetly tucked away in a side street. We walked up to the main road and caught the bus to Berriedale.
At the end, we finished at the car. We had our tea and caramel squares, and remarked what a lovely evening it had turned out to be. Then we drove back to our cosy cottage in Castletown.

We started today’s Walk at the War Memorial in Berriedale. The door was open at the house where the “Can’t park here!” woman lives, but there was no sign of her. We blew a raspberry in her direction and walked out on to the main road! (Earlier this morning we had parked in front of someone’s house in Lybster, and no one objected to us doing so, neither then nor later when we returned.)
We walked up the steep hill out of the village and climbed some “granny’s teeth” to get into the cemetery. From there we could see an oil platform and several windmills far out to sea. 
We exited the cemetery via a gate, and there seemed to be a path along the cliffs. But once more we were to be frustrated. We came to a fence which I got under with great difficulty because my back was playing up. There was a lot of mud around which was an added complication. I can’t climb fences or gates like I used to because my back is so stiff, and we are both wondering if it will last me out to complete the Round-Britain-Walk. I’m not giving in yet! We decided to return to the road as there obviously wasn’t a clear path. We climbed a hill, then we had to climb over a gate (oh dear!), skip through someone’s garden and we were back on the road less than half a mile from Berriedale! Fourteen miles to go!
We both went into ‘route-march’ mode for miles and miles and miles. There was very little of note. We passed a lot of sheep with their new-born lambs, and we passed some hairy ponies. The weather wasn’t too good, but at least it wasn’t icily cold like it has been. The wind was quite gusty and blew us sideways several times, which wasn’t very pleasant. The A9 is busy with lots of heavy lorries, and we didn’t enjoy walking along it at all!
About a mile before Dunbeath a bit of ‘old road’ leads off which would give us some respite from the traffic. It seemed we would never get there! But we did eventually, of course. It was overgrown where it led off the present road, but that was only to stop traffic using it. There was no problem for us walkers!
It was such a relief to get off that road! We walked alongside a stone wall with lots of fuzzy trees behind it. There were loads of daffodils about, the buds just opening up. 
We walked into the delightful village of Dunbeath past the War Memorial — how pleased the residents must have been when the bypass was built! A woman driving a car stopped to enquire where we were going as she had seen us walk by her house on the main road earlier. So we explained about our project and she seemed very interested.
We came to a steep grassy bank from where we could see the harbour far below. The road turned left and went down to the old bridge, but there was a path going down to the right to a footbridge. That is the way we went, of course, and crossed Dunbeath Water on a metal bridge. We could see the main road going across on a modern viaduct a bit west of us.
We were fairly sheltered by the harbour, so we sat on a bench to eat our sandwiches. We were delighted (and relieved) to find the toilets there were OPEN! While we were sitting there a fishing boat came in and the catch was wheeled off in a barrow.
On the harbour wall is a sculpture of a boy carrying a huge fish. The plaque reads: “Kenn and the Salmon from ‘Highland River’ Erected by the Neil Gunn Society on 8th November 1991 in honour of Neil M. Gunn, highland writer, who was born in Dunbeath on 8th November 1891 and who died in Inverness on 15th January 1973” Apparently he had a lot to do with Scottish nationalism during his life.
Unfortunately our time at the ‘oasis’ of Dunbeath was short-lived. On leaving the harbour, we had to climb back on to the main road almost straight away. But on the way we did pass a cottage sporting a heart-shaped bush on its end wall! Then it was miles and miles more of road-walking and lorry-dodging, until we were almost in Lybster.
We bypassed the village of Latheron Wheel because it is a dead end and we didn’t have time to explore. But we did pass a whalebone arch because that was beside the main road. Searches on the internet have failed to reveal why it is there. 
An old stone bridge looked very picturesque, but we had to stay on the main road. At Latheron we went on to the A99, the Wick road, but the traffic didn’t seem to get any less. We sat on a wall there to eat our chocolate. We could still see the oil platform and windmills out to sea — it was as if we hadn’t made any progress all day!
Nearing Lybster we were at last able to turn off that wretched road. We followed a side road which took us almost to the clifftop, passing a farm with a lot of hairy cows. At last we got on to a real footpath, but that led us over a swamp and was a bit tricky in places. But the views were spectacular! 
We were high above Lybster Harbour, and coming down to the harbour we walked over a bridge which took us high above a deep gorge.
We climbed up a road into the village to where we had parked our car this morning. The wind had died down, the sun was low in the sky and it was turning into a beautiful evening.

That ended Walk no.204, we shall pick up Walk no.205 next time in the village of Lybster. It was half past five, so the Walk had taken seven and a half hours. We had our tea and caramel squares, and remarked what a lovely evening it had turned out to be. We were hoping the weather would now be more settled, but that proved to be a vain hope! We drove back to our cosy cottage in Castletown.

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