Friday, April 03, 2009

Walk 209 -- Brough to Castletown

Ages:  Colin was 66 years and 330 days.  Rosemary was 64 years and 107 days.
Weather:  Brilliant!   All sunshine, light breeze.
Location:  Brough to Castletown.
Distance:  11½ miles.
Total distance:  1881 miles.
Terrain:  Quiet roads.  Rough across boggy moor with no path.  Two glorious miles of firm sandy beach.
Tide:  Out, coming in later.
Rivers:  No.168, Burn of Midsand.  No. 169, Burn of Garth.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
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 casually and caught the bus almost opposite the cottage to the crossroads at Brough.  We noted the “NO PARKING” stone was still in place where we had left it yesterday!
At the end, we walked into Castletown from the harbour to the cottage.  We didn’t use the car at all!
The next day we started our journey home to Malvern.  This took us two days as it is more than six hundred miles!  We stopped overnight at a B&B near Lockerbie.  It would have taken us an extra three hours on the second day had we still been living in Bognor.
We are finding it difficult to comprehend how far we have walked!

We had the same bus driver as yesterday, a friendly chap who asked us how the walking was going.  It’s nice that so many people are interested in our venture.  We were dropped off at the crossroads in Brough, and walked down the lane past the ‘NO PARKING’ stone which was still where we had left it yesterday! 
Very soon we came to the sea where about twenty seals were lying about on the beach and slipway.  They were enjoying the sunshine, as we were.  It was a beautiful day, brilliant sunshine, blue sky, warm, a light breeze and the sea was as calm as a mill pond.  It was hard to believe we were at the northernmost part of mainland Britain in early April!
We found it difficult to tear ourselves away from that beautiful scene, but the seals didn’t exactly do much.  Occasionally one would scratch itself with a flipper or wiggle into a more comfortable position, but most of the time they did nothing at all.  So we moved on. 
The road took us due west at first, then north-west to the very end of Dunnet Head.  We soon left all habitation behind and were out in the moorland.  As we climbed, the views got better and better.   
Colin was photographing birds, and snapped good pictures of a greenfinch and a pair of stonechats.  

 A mile post told us we had one mile to go before the lighthouse.  We climbed a hill and passed a loch — we could tell that the moorland all around us was very boggy.
We came to a gateway, and could see the lighthouse ahead.  But we turned right so we could climb to the highest point and look at the views.  On the way we passed a building — we didn’t know it’s purpose, but outside it stood a nice white bath-tub!!  I expect it was to provide water for livestock, though we didn’t see any about, but it just looked so funny having a bath-tub in such a place.  I sat in it (no water!) for a photo, couldn’t resist it!
We remembered the last time we came to Dunnet Head, about ten years ago.  We drove right to the end of the road, and the wind was so strong that the car was bouncing up and down.  I remembered Colin saying, “I don’t want to get out of the car!” to which I replied, “Neither do I!”  We did, for a very quick photo, but we could barely stand up in the wind so we soon departed.  How glad we were that the weather was more clement today — in fact it was unbelievably good!  The views were fantastic, just a trifle misty.
We looked to the east — we could see along the coast back to John O’Groats and Duncansby Head.
We looked to the south — we could see the rest of Britain!  (No we couldn’t, we could see the start of the rest of Britain.) 
We looked to the west — we could see much of the very north coast of mainland Britain, but not as far as Cape Wrath, it was too misty for that. 
We looked to the north — we could see the Orkney Islands. 
We felt we were on top of the world!
After revelling in these glorious vistas, we walked down to the lighthouse.  There a stone plaque told us we were at the most northerly point of mainland Britain.  (It is not John O’Groats as many people think!)  There were a few people about, so we asked a couple to photograph us by the plaque.
We have now ‘conquered’ two of the cardinal points — furthest East at Lowestoft on Walk 86, and furthest North at Dunnet Head on Walk 209.  Two more to go! 
Then we went down to a viewpoint next to the lighthouse, the place where Britain falls into the sea!  NEXT STOP IS THE NORTH POLE!!  We were looking towards Cape Wrath, trying to work out how much of the north coast we could actually see, when we noticed a white cat walking along the top of the cliff!  It looked like a domesticated pussy, and we were really puzzled as to where it came from.  The nearest houses were at least two miles back.  It was a bit too breezy to sit down comfortably, so we found a wall to shelter behind and had a short rest eating our pies.
Then we turned south — there wasn’t really any other direction we could turn!  We returned down the road for over a mile to where some tracks went off, according to the map.  In actual fact they were not really tracks, and very hard going.  I wanted to go back to the road, but Colin was determined, and convinced that we were saving miles in distance.  He wouldn’t look at the map or listen to my pleas that it wasn’t really much further going round by road.
The further we went, the more I wished we weren’t there.  We soon lost our bearings despite using a compass.  We made our way up to a couple of cairns because they were each on the top of a hill and we could see our way better.  Also the ground was drier up there, we were plagued with water-filled holes hidden under the heather.
From the second cairn we looked about and decided to make our way to some cottages we could see in the distance.  But we couldn’t walk in a straight line because we had to stick to tufts of heather — the grassy ground was boggy.  I was terrified of falling into a hole and/or breaking an ankle, either of us could have done that easily.  It took ages to cross that rough ground, we would have been much quicker going round by road.  I was very unhappy about that part of the Walk. 
We were almost at the cottages before we found a vestige of a track, and even this was boggy.  It took us past the back of some of the cottages and across to a road.  Relief!  We passed a farm worker and stopped for a chat.  He told us the tracks were for peat cutters, but no one cuts peat anymore so they are growing over. 
From there we had glorious views of Dunnet Bay — two miles of glorious sand!  We walked straight down to the beach and found a rock under the cliff to sit and eat our sarnies.  And our chocolate because we were only a couple of miles from the end of our Walk at Castletown.  It was lovely sitting there in the sun, I didn’t want to leave.
Colin leapt up and said, “Come on!” so I got up and followed him without looking back.  It was more than a week later, when we were at home, that I couldn’t find my overtrousers.  I tried to recall when I last used them, and realised that I had laid them on that rock before I sat down because it was a bit wet.  I completely forgot about them when I got up to follow Colin.  Oh well, I’d had them a few years and I had got a rip in them when I scaled a barbed wire fence south of Wick on Walk 205.  Perhaps it was time I bought a new pair.  And I have learned to always look behind as we leave a picnic site to make sure nothing is left behind.  So no harm done.
We were followed along the beach for a little while by a man on a horse being led by a woman carrying what looked and sounded like an old-fashioned ‘tranny’.  They had a dog which amused itself by chasing a big plastic container. 
It was wonderful walking along that beach in the sunshine.  It was difficult to believe we were in the very north of Scotland — that beach is worthy of the Mediterranean or even the Caribbean!  We were above the green slimey rocks to start with, walking on sand, but they had a beauty of their own.
I was interested to see a rock that looked like swirls of sand, but it was as hard as a rock.  My eye caught a beautiful orange twirly-shelled sea creature clinging to a rock, and I wished we had time to do a bit of rock-pooling.  Then it all gave way to miles of glorious sand.
By then the tide was right out, so it seemed like acres of sand.  A large patch was spattered with sandy worm-coils.
We crossed several little rivulets and two big ones, but neither of us got our feet wet.  It’s always good to walk alongside moving water, especially when the sun shines.
It got windier as we moved round the bay.  The surf got bigger, and it looked wonderful when the wind blew the spray off the tops of the waves.
There were some surfers in the water making the most of the waves. 
We were quite sorry to come to the end of the this wonderful beach, it was a grand ending to two weeks of walking during which we have covered no less than one hundred and one miles!
At the end of the beach we were already in Castletown.  We followed a narrow lane round to the harbour, and felt it was sadly in need of repair.  Luckily it is not much used by traffic. 
We wondered if the stone wall we passed on our left was the remains of the castle which gave Castletown its name — we couldn’t see any sign of a castle elsewhere. 
There were flagstones lining the lane, with a broken bench in front, but we decided to leave the ‘Flagstone Trail’ until the next time. 
We ended the Walk at the harbour.

That ended Walk no.209, we shall pick up Walk no.210 next time at the harbour in Castletown.  It was quarter past four, so the Walk had taken six and three-quarter hours.  We walked into Castletown to the cottage where we had our tea and caramel squares in comfort.  We were proud of the fact that we didn’t use the car at all today.
The next day we started our journey home to Malvern.  This took us two days as it is more than six hundred miles!  We stopped overnight at a B&B near Lockerbie.  It would have taken us an extra three hours on the second day had we still been living in Bognor.
We are finding it difficult to comprehend how far we have walked — all the way from Bognor Regis to the northernmost point of the Scottish mainland!

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