Monday, 28 June 2010
today along the coastal road and plan to do the rest tomorrow. With a
6am start I should be there by 5pm. Then I will travel to the Orkney
islands and rest and see the sights for a few days.
The photo today shows a small fenced off field on the cliff tops just
next to the coastal road. The sign says "Marie Curie Cancer Care -
Field of Hope". There is no more information than that and nothing
obviously different about the field compared with the surrounding area.
but I wanted to walk through the night and see how long it gets dark
for up here and I wanted to find the limits of my capability so here's
how I did it:
Sat 10.30 left campsite at Dingwall, watched military parade in
Dingwall town centre for half an hour.
Sat 11.00 successfully left Dingwall
Sat 15.00 stopped for a lunch of pasties from the corner shop in
Marvelled at a stoat chasing a young rabbit around on the road along
with two cars that stopped. The rabbit got away!
Sat 18.00 chocolate bar stop
Sat 20.30 stopped at Bonar Bridge, very dissapointed to find that the
takeaway i'd been following signs for for the last two miles shut at 8
o'clock. Cooked noodles and sausage while watching the fly fisherman
and getting eaten by midges.
Sat 24.00 i'm somewhere on the road between Invershin and Lairg.
Distance covered on Saturday is 34 miles. It's been dark for an hour
but there's plenty of light to walk by.
Sun 01.00 Chocolate bar and biscuit break for 10 minutes.
Sun 04.00 its getting light and time for a pot noodle stop. Needed to
fill my water bottle from the stream at Rhian Bridge on the A836 (its
an A road but single track and nothing around for miles and miles and
miles!) and as I was doing so disturbed an otter which went hopping
off down the bank. Made my pot noodle and ate it while getting eaten
myself by midges.
Sun 08.00 Starting to feel very tired and weaker than I'm used to.
Made a big bowl of porridge with lots of sugar. The sun is out and the
road is following a small pretty river valley as it has for many
miles. There have been no junctions for hours!
Sun 10.30 it's no use I need some sleep. I blow up the air mattress
and lie down in the sun on a patch of grass away from the road with my
coat over me. Distance to here is around 50 miles. Slept for about an
hour and was up walking again.
Sun 12.00 Here's my turning, careful I don't miss it, it's the only
one for 20 miles! Joined the B873 that runs alongside Loch Naver for
about 5 miles. Scenery is beautiful but my body and mind are a bit of
a mess and I'm feeling a bit stupid for trying to do this.
Sun 13.00 ice cream stop at tiny caravan park on Loch Naver, and a
welcome chat with the owner to break the monotony of my own thoughts.
Sun 15.30 food and water stop. Topped up my bottle from the stream. So
pleased I brought the water filter that I carried all through England
without ever using. Ate some more chocolate and fig rolls; down to
just chocolate from here unless I get the stove going again. Heading
for Bettyhill on the north coast still some 12 miles or so way. Just
had a short rain storm but otherwise weather holding out fine.
Sun 18.00 Thunderstorm and lots of rain but it passes quickly. Feeling
depressed and wanting the day to end. Why did I try to do so much.
Feet hurt and i've run out of things to think about that I haven't
though about a hundred times before.
Sun 18.45 Thunderstorm and lots and lots and lots of rain. I'm walking
to higher ground and nearer to where I just saw lighning come to
ground. Feeling very uncomfortable!
Sun 19.00 reached Bettyhill. Still a mile and a half to the pub though.
Sun 19.30 Arrived at the pub and straight in to the small bar full of
all the locals watching footy. Someone commented that it hadn't been
snowing with reference to my walking poles (another variant is "you've
forgotten your skis"). So happy to have made it. Despite the jibes
they are friendly and good for a bit of a chat. They do B&B as well
and I will stay the night. I ordered steak and ale pie and apple pie
and ice cream, enjoyed it all immensely! Had a bath before getting
head down at half past nine. What a couple of days; 82 miles covered
and only 55 miles to John O Groats!
Friday, 25 June 2010
am posting for two days again today. Yesterdays route followed Loch
Ness climbing up in to the forests on the northern shore. There were a
couple of sustained climbs but in all it was a comparatively easy days
walking on forest track, footpath and road. I was interested to learn
that Foyers on the south side of Loch Ness was chosen as the site of
the first ever aluminium smelting plant in UK in 1896, a fact that led
it to be one of the few places in the highlands to be bombed during
WWII. The smelter used hydroelectricity to power the furnace. Today
the smelter has closed down but there is still a hydroelectric plant
in operation that generates power for the national grid by day and
uses energy from the grid at periods of low demand to pump water back
up to the top reservoir. Drumnadrochit itself was a pleasant small
town with plenty of Nessy tourist attractions and boat rides,
unfortunately I was too tired to make the mile walk out to see
Urquhart castle on the shore of Loch Ness but having visited it before
decided to let that one go.
This evening I have arrived in Dingwall about 21 miles to the north of
Drumnadrochit after a very tough day of road walking. In the last week
I have walked 170 miles and half way through today my energy levels
hit a low, so much so that I sat down on a grass verge and fell asleep
for half an hour. I realise I hadn't been taking in fluids in the
morning and that can't have helped. So, as you see from the picture, I
decided to treat myself to a dinner in the pub; steak and ale pie
followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. I feel much better now!
There are 140 miles remaining of my trek. As I am only doing this once
I will try to complete this as quickly as I can and make the shortest
time for the overall trip. In the toughest moments I just need to
remember that it's all for a good cause!
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
up in the hostel at 4am and felt claustrophobic. Following the Great
Glen Way along the Caledonian canal and the shores of Loch Lochy and
Loch Oich for some 31 miles I am now at Fort Augustus. After the
exertions of the West Highland Way today has been very long and taxing
despite it being very good terrain and mostly flat. Loch Ness awaits
first thing in the morning.
9 days and 180 miles to go to John O Groats!
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
the last 24 miles of the West Highland Way today culminating in a pass
by the foot of Ben Nevis. My earlier plans to climb Ben Nevis tomorrow
are now out of the window and I am making all haste up the Great Glen
to Dingwall to meet my friend Tom who will join me for the weekend.
After the last seven midge infested nights under canvas a night in the
hostel will allow me a good rest, chance to do my laundry and cook a
good meal and an early start with no tent to pack away tomorrow.
My trek is now well in to it's final fortnight and I am challenging
myself to finish the Friday after next!
Monday, 21 June 2010
most beautiful scenery, there's just one problem, midges! The little
critters come out of nowhere whenever I stop moving for a minute but
are at their worst in the morning and evening. I now have a net to go
over my head, a thin pair of gloves and wear clothes that cover
everywhere else when I'm in camp. Having said that there was a stiff
breeze last night that kept them away for a while.
I am now camped at kings house across the valley from Glen Coe ski
lifts just 25 miles from the end of the West Highland Way. On Sunday I
walked and camped with Tommy and Paul again who are finding the going
tough and suffering with blistered feet and fatigue. They were great
company but the pace walking with them was becoming too slow and I
decided to leave them to their own challenge and make some ground and
perhaps complete the WHW in 4 days.
Last nights camping was again free on a nice little spot between a
couple of streams with a pub only 50 metres away! I'm just filling
some time now waiting for the pub to open for breakfast; I just can't
resist a fry up! As the sun is heating and drying the tent the midges
are disappearing and I might soon dare to open the door.
If the weather is fine tomorrow I will leave much of burden in
Inverness and climb up Ben Nevis.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
making a Saturday start to this very popular route. The first 12 miles
were along very easy tracks with just one major hill climb before
reaching the shores of Loch Lomond at Drymen. Having got chatting to a
couple of guys doing the route for charity we have ended up walking
together. Paul and Tommy have IT careers in the army and are
challenging themselves to complete the 100 mile route in the shortest
possible time; I can really see the no nonsense army approach in their
gutsy attitudes but blisters are none the less causing problems.
Yesterday we made camp at 10.30 having clocked up 30 miles.
Unfortunately the Scottish midge descended on us immediately we
stopped and I was a case of getting the tent up and getting in it as
quickly as possible. The weather is beautiful today and so is the
scenery but is making for a much slower pace than yesterday. We will
shortly break from the shade of the bar and the refreshing couple of
shandies to try and put in another ten miles today.
Friday, 18 June 2010
camped. At 19 miles and having had an early start it was not the
hardest of days but the hot weather did make it taxing at times. I
took my time through the centre of Glasgow and enjoyed watching a
piping and drumming group who with bare tattooed chests and kilts
could have stepped straight from the set of braveheart and were in my
opinion rather good. In other parts of Glasgow I rushed on through not
feeling that comfortable with my jolly walker appearance among the
tracksuit and hoody crowd on the council estates. Tomorrow the west
highland way beckons!
Thursday, 17 June 2010
still been a bit iffy i've been able to get enough nutrition inside me
yesterday and today to be enjoying the walking again. A very good 10
hours of sleep no doubt helped as well; my apologies for the mistakes
at the end of yesterdays blog but I was dropping off!
This morning I left Biggar and headed to Lanark by a mixture of paths
and roads, staying as clear of the main roads as possible. After lunch
in Lanark I picked up the Clyde walkway and spent the rest of the
afternoon walking along the river headed for Glasgow centre. I'm now
camped in the council run campsite on the edge of Strathclyde loch
about 10 miles out from the city centre. Tomorrow I shall hopefully
reach the city centre in the morning and pick up the west highland way
in the afternoon headed for Loch Lomond. Having put in a relatively
long days walking today I covered 29 miles. I'm looking forward to
posting some nice pictures of the highlands for you over the next few
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
distance in the day, bought chips and battered sausage for my supper
as I came in to Peebles and been given a free pitch at the campsite
when they heard about my Trek. An early night and I would be set up
for another good day. Little did I know that I would be on my hands
and knees outside my tent at midnight relieving my stomach of it's
chips and sausage contents. Now in the ordinary scheme of things this
is just plain unpleasant but add to that that I'd done 24 miles
walking and the energy contents of my muscles must have been near nil
and this was going to stop them from recharging. I had a few more
hours sleep after this but not a great amount. I managed to haul
myself out of the campsite by half past eight in the morning but was
staggering from the outset. I told myself that it doesn't matter how
slowly you go just keep on going and you will get there. It was a
lovely sunny day all day today but this was one of those days where I
really earnt the money people have kindly donated. I've been so tired
and exhausted for most of the day all I've really wanted to do is sit
down. By 2pm I'd managed to clock up about 14 miles and decided that a
nicely mown section of grassy bank looked just too inviting to pass
by; I would take a good half hours rest. As I lay there with my eyes
closed basking in the warm sun I heard "is that Malcolm?" in a german
voice I recognised. It was Andy (Andreas) whom I'd met at Melrose YHA
passing by on his cycling tour headed for Lanark. We chatted for a
while before he set off again. I was headed for Biggar, just 3 miles
down the road and made my way there. I rescued a lamb that had it's
dshead stuck through the square wire holes in the fence as it tried to
reach the long juicy grass. Both it's horns where through and
preventing it from getting it's head otut
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
the west highland way at Milngavie just to the north of Glasgow. There
are no long distance paths to follow and I am linking up local rights
of way and the quietest roads I can find to make my way. Today much of
my route followed the River Tweed and a section of the Southern Upland
Way and I am now camped in Peebles 24 miles to the west of my starting
point in Melrose. Tomorrow I will aim to reach Lanark and then the
following day Glasgow city centre. It's 9pm and I have no
embarrassment saying that I'm going to bed! Goodnight :-)
Monday, 14 June 2010
for the trip so far covering more than 33 miles. After writing my last
blog yesterday lunch time I ascended out of Byrness and Redesdale on
the north side of the valley and quickly made the 2 miles over open
moor to the border with Scotland. There were no signs to mark the
border just a muddy ditch that would become the river coquet further
down the valley. It didn't matter, I had made it to Scotland at last.
A few miles further on I left the Penine Way and joined Dere Street,
an old Roman road heading north west. Dere Street lives up to the
Roman reputation of heading straight and made for very good walking.
The scenery in the borders was beautiful particularly along the edge
of the Cheviot Hills, the colours very fresh and vivid. Gradually
tiredness caught up with me and at 8pm when walking past a mossy grass
verge that looked liked it would make a comfy surface under the tent I
decided it was time to stop, cook some noodles and turn in for the
I woke this morning to howling wind and rain. So much for the
forecast. There's nothing else to do when it's like that than to get
the waterproofs on and get on with it. I decided that after four
nights in the tent and with over a week since I'd done any laundry it
was time to stay in a hostel for a night. Melrose was only 17 miles
along the road and leaving at half six I would be there for lunch!
I've now cooked a nice big pasta dinner and done all my laundry. It
feels great to be clean, warm and well fed!
Sunday, 13 June 2010
at 8am eager to get our first glimpse of the wall. It had been good to
have some company in camp for the last couple of days but with some
reluctance I was going to have to leave Stuart and Dave, the postal
workers from Crawley, and Steve and Phil the maintenance engineers
from Nottingham, to their own challenges and press on ahead. We walked
together to the first remains of the Wall and then I said my goodbyes.
I had 25 miles to cover over some very up-and-down terrain so I
lengthened my stride and pushed hard for Bellingham. I followed the
wall for about 12 miles before the Penine Way turned north. A short
detour to visit the roman fort half a mile further on and to have some
lunch and I struck northward again. In contrast to the ups and downs
of the wall the path going north was relatively flat and passed
through forest and open moor. By the middle of the afternoon I knew I
was going to make Bellingham by 5.30pm so eased up on the pace and
enjoyed a couple of 20 minute breaks. The weather had been good and my
legs have been getting very accustomed to their task so that a 25 mile
day on tough terrain no longer causes me to struggle. I stocked up on
supplies in Bellingham and broke camp early this morning. As I sit in
the only cafe for miles typing this at 1pm I already have 15 miles
under my belt; today may be one of those very rare 30 milers! I'll let
you know tomorrow...
stretches 100 miles from west of Carlisle to Newcastle. There were
fortififications every mile along the wall where traffic could pass
through. The wall is believed to have been about 4m high and painted
white. It's incredible to think this was all achieved almost 2000
years ago by an army several thousand miles from their home.
challengers. On the far left is Steve, to the rear is Dave and next to
me is Phil. Stuart is taking the photo. We have all shared a few
laughs in campsites on route and I will miss the cameraderie as I
leave them behind.
Friday, 11 June 2010
small village with a cafe, pub and youth hostel where the Penine Way
intersects with Hadrians Wall. It lies on the line between Carlisle
and Newcastle, 20 miles from Carlisle and 40 miles from Newcastle.
The sun has been shining beautifully for most of the day and it's been
great to walk in just a T-shirt again. I departed from the Penine Way
for about five miles to take an easier route along a dismantled
railway. In all it's been a relatively easy days walking in the
sunshine at 18 miles. I'm looking forward to a nice pub meal with the
guys I've met on the trail as I'll be moving ahead of them tomorrow in
a 25 mile leg to Bellingham.
I took the picture of the cow just in case anyone was missing my cow
chronicles but they've given me no trouble since I've been on the
penine way either because they are much more relaxed around walkers or
they have had longer out of the sheds and in the fields and have
settled down a bit. Tomorrow I will post some pictures of Hadrians Wall.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
just two T-shirts and my raincoat. As the ascent began up towards
cross fell and I started to get hot the raincoat came off. As I
climbed further the wind increased and shortly afterwards the mist
came down or I entered the low cloud. The raincoat was back on,
gloves, hat, neck warmer and it was still cold and the wind was strong
again. For the next 10 miles I was enveloped in mist navigating with
GPS. It was both invigorating and dull at the same time and I'm sure
you can appreciate why there are no pictures today. Descending from
the top of cross fell a figure materialised out of the mist; it was
Diana who had also stayed at Dufton YHA the previous evening and we
walked down a couple of miles together to Gregs Hut. Maintained by the
Mountain Bothy Association, Gregs Hut was a fantastic shelter for
those caught out in bad conditions, with wood pile, hearth, two rooms,
sleeping platform, and some food, eveything you need. When Diana left
I loitered to make a cup of soup and Graham soon turned up who I'd
passed on the ascent and we made the descent together. While the day
was poor for weather it was good for company.
Arriving in the campsite in Alston I found Phil and Steve already in
camp. These guys I'd met back near Hebden Bridge. They had emergency
camped on Cross Fell last night in the gale force winds when they got
too cold to continue at 2pm and came down to Alston today. They were
only a mile from Gregs hut but OS maps give no indication it's an
emergency shelter! I'm just impressed they had the wherewithal to get
in their tents even if Phils did collapse on him in the wind!
Distance covered - 21 miles.
Wednesday, 9 June 2010
the Penine Way from Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dufton but what a
beautiful leg of the journey it has been nonetheless. The first part
of the route followed the river Tees for about 10 miles past rapids
and the magnificent waterfall of High Force. Some difficult terrain
over wet boulders and scree along the river bank was thankfully short
before climbing up next to the imposing waterfall of Cauldron Snout
swollen by the recent rains. Well marked paths led from here over the
moors and then along the river of Maize Beck before climbing further
over the moor to approach the stunning valley of High Cup Nick. The
mists had been down for the last couple of hours but had thankfully
started to clear. At the same time the winds had gradually increased
to some of the strongest I've ever experienced; the slight drizzle
could be felt like small pieces of grit on the skin. I new there was a
large valley opening up before me with a craggy edge and the wind was
pushing me towards it increasing in strengh all the time. By the time
I could see the edge the wind was ferocious and I was walking on such
a lean as the wind hit my right shoulder that if I hadn't had my
walking poles I'd have been on the floor several times for certain.
Though going with care as I was there was no real danger my pulse was
up at the prospect of being blown over the edge. On a finer day I
would have stayed to take in the view for an hour, it was spectacular!
As it was I pressed on down to Dufton and refuge in the Youth Hostel
there. A spectacular section of the penine way and a good days walking
at 22 miles. As I write this the skies have cleared a bit though the
wind is still up. The forecast for tomorrow I'm pleased to say shows
improvement. There's a good little crowd of us in the Youth Hostel
doing the Penine Way willing there to be sun for our ascent of Cross
Fell, the highest peak in England outside of the lake district.
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
the lower section of my right trouser leg to shake loose a beetle
making it's way up there. My tent is still quite wet inside from last
nights rain and condensation and I'm resting on top of my inflatable
sleeping mat to keep dry. It's been a long day today with rain pretty
much all day; some of it heavy but for the most part just thoroughly
wetting. I started in Keld this morning, about 20 and something miles
from Horton-in-Ribblesdale where my train left me yesterday morning.
This evening I have arrived in Middleton-in-Teesdale 22 miles further
down the route of the Penine Way.
Yesterday was a much nicer day with only a slight touch of drizzle in
Horton itself. I took another picture of the railway station name sign
as I left to show that I hadn't skipped to the next station down the
line and set off wondering at the change in pace and scenery after the
weekend in London. The path steadily ascended to the top of the moor
and carried me past several interesting places where streams cascaded
into limestone caverns and dissapeared no doubt to reappear somewhere
further down the valley side. In another stream I was amazed to see
crayfish as I looked over the bridge and counted a total of six; how
did they get to a stream at the top of the moor! My early afternoon
break was at Hawes where I refuelled with several cups of tea and a
delicious slice of lemon Meringue pie. Hawes was a bustling tourist
spot with pretty cottages and shops and a nice river ford to cross as
I walked in. From Hawes to Keld was a relatively short hop of about
three hours since I chose to walk the very quiet road over the moor
rather than take the Penine way which looped round on a significantly
longer route. I camped in Keld and enjoyed a great pub meal eaten with
a fellow walker while discussing the merits of various bits of kit and
our experiences on route. The new boots I had bought at the weekend
had performed well on their first day of walking and still felt
reasonably comfortable even at the end of the day!
I left Keld at 7am this morning. The rain had started late evening and
gone on through the night making for a poor nights sleep but at least
I was up early. It rained from the moment I left the tent to when I
arrived at Tan Hill Inn at 9am. I was so pleased to find the doors
open, and putting my head round the doorway was told to come on in and
help myself to tea in the kitchen. They were cooking breakfast for
guests and without too much effort persuaded me to have one too. The
sign above the bar said "I can only be nice to one customer per day
and today is not your day". The same sarcasm was dished up with every
plate coming out of the kitchen but it was only a thin disguise on a
very warm welcome at this "the highest inn in England". I left the inn
with a group of walkers for a nice bit of company but half hour on I
headed off at my own pace again. The moor here was the wettest and
boggiest so far and I was grinning about my lovely new boots and dry
feet. Luckily I also had my gators snugly fastened otherwise the ooze
would have come over the boot top a few times. Little else of note
happened that I noticed through the horrible rain for the next 17
miles! Its good to be back at the challenge again but I won't deny
that some dry weather would be very welcome.
Thursday, 3 June 2010
with my blogging! It's Thursday evening as I'm writing this but I
suspect it will not post until Friday.
Day 26, Wednesday 2nd June
I left the Youth Hostel in Earby at a reasonably punctual 8.30 and
headed for the recommended cafe in town. Having had only beans on
toast, chocolate and fruit for supper the night before a little
breakfast treat was definately in order. My walking schedule now is
being dictated by the need to be at a train station by Friday morning
to journey down to London for the weekend for my very good friend
Damians stag do. This meant Wednesday and Thursday were going to be
easy days with only 16 and 12 miles respectively to cover. After a
very satisfying breakfast I set off for Malham; I'd heard that there
was a shop selling walking boots there and if I made it there early
enough might be able to get rid of this horrible pair of torture
impliments that are currently gracing my feet. The walking was easy
going and all at a low level, along the Leeds and Liverpool canal,
following valley bottoms and just a few gentle ascents up the valley
sides. I made Malham by half past three to find the Malham safari in
full swing and the village packed with hundreds of visitors. Each year
model animals are put on display all around the village and it looks
like a great event for young families. Sadly the outdoor clothing
store was just a small part of a larger cafe and gift store and they
stocked very few boots all of the same make that I had now come to
hate! I will persevere with the current ones until I find a decent
store and have been getting boot recommendations from everyone I meet
in the mean time.
I spent the evening under canvas in Malham and looking obviously in
need of some company and beer at the campsite was taken pity on by the
lovely Mariah and Alanah and had a very nice evening chatting till it
was too cold and dark to carry on. Coincidentally Alanah was already
planning her own lands end to john o groats trek!
Day 27, Thursday 3rd June
Today was a short but very beautiful hike from Malham to Horton-in-
Ribblesdale once again getting up on to the high moors and limestone
pavements this region is famous for. Starting at 7.30 and with a 20
minute break I arrived in Horton at about 12.30. I was unsure whether
to catch the train tonight or tomorrow but have now opted for the 7.30
train in the morning. The first half of my trek is complete, it's been
extremely hard at times but very interesting and a lot of fun. I shall
have this weekend break and come back refreshed and with new pair of
boots for the second act which mostly takes place in the wild places
of Scotland! I hope you will all join me there!
A bridge with a loft conversion on the Leeds and Liverpool canal
Some animal models at Malham safari (Wednesday)
A view across Malham tarn (Thursday)
Pen-y-Ghent from a distance, one of the highest peaks in the Yorkshire
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
It's been raining all day today and my new boots started letting in
water after only about two hours of walking. With the water my feet
started to puff up and rub around the toes and heel of the now too
small boots. I spent most of the day with excruciating pain in my feet
and in a very bad mood. Having left the free camping at Hebden Bridge
at 8.30am and travelling up on the moors I didn't manage to find
anywhere to eat my lunch out of the rain and so didn't stop for a
break until I hit Cowling at about 2pm. Despite the feet and my
miserable mood I'd put In a good distance. After a refuel of tea and a
burger in a cafe in Cowling and wringing out my socks I was back on
the road headed for nearby Earsby and dry bed at the Youth hostel
there. Happily the hostel turned out to be one of the most homely I've
stayed at and I now have my feet resting on thick carpet, my bum on a
comfy sofa, the gas fire on and a glass of red wine in my hand
courtesy of John, one of the other guests. Alls well that ends well!
Miles today ~ 23