Day 101 – Dunbeath to Wick

The penultimate day, but unfortunately today ranked on a par with the long trek through Staffordshire via Uttoxeter – regular readers will understand that is not a good thing.
Today was a long day. Long, tedious, dangerous and tiring. It started well; I had a leisurely breakfast and was so enjoying chatting to my B&B hosts that I didn’t leave until gone 10:30. The sky was blue, traffic was relatively light, and I was fuelled by coffee and an excellent bacon sandwich – what could possibly go wrong?
I couldn’t find any sign of a clifftop path, so resigned myself to the A99 for a bit. By lunchtime, however, I was getting sick of the road and the traffic. I was happy to find I was in Lybster, a couple of miles further on than I thought I was, and had lunch sitting on the war memorial.
There wasn’t much to see from the road, but the walk was enlivened by a giant teddy bear sculpture made of straw bales (albeit my photo looks slightly like something else) and a signpost to the magnificently-named ‘Hill o’ Many Stanes’. I was intrigued, but not enough to go and check it out.
I soldiered on to Whaligoe, where my hopes of a cup of tea were dashed – the cafe at the top of the steps was closed due to a power cut. After that, the afternoon deteriorated rapidly. I had hoped to be able to get off the road and onto a clifftop path marked clearly on the map, but when I got to the end of the side road, I was faced with an impenetrable wall of gorse. I climbed a rickety gate nearby, only to wrench my ankle and find more gorse and a bog. There was absolutely no sign of a path anywhere.
Fighting back tears at the thought of another eight or so miles on the blasted A-road, I retraced my steps and trudged onwards. By the time I got to Thrumster, it was about 4;30 and the skies were dark and overcast. Although I was desperate to get off the A99, I couldn’t face walking an extra mile and a half to Sarclet (southeast, i.e. backwards) on the offchance that this time the clifftop path marked on the map would actually be there.
The only other option was to continue to Wick on the A99, which is what I ended up doing.
There were only two good things about the afternoon: it wasn’t raining, and I kept thinking ‘tomorrow is my last day’. Apart from that, it was a long, hard, horrible trek along the road, amid grey skies, diesel fumes, roadkill (including, distressingly, three cats), and the gusts of air displaced by huge lorries passing at high speeds about a foot away.
I limped into my B&B with a well-developed sense of grievance, which lifted somewhat with a shower and an excellent curry at the nearest tandoori. My landlady lent me a book about Scottish country houses to read over dinner, which was surprisingly interesting – having walked past Traquair and Dunrobin, it was good to learn a bit about their history. Better yet, I returned to the B&B to be presented with a nice glass of Pulteney liqueur whisky. Mmmm. 1 day and about 20 miles to go. The end is in sight!

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