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Day 32 – Brora to Dunbeath (Berriedale)

Day 32 – Brora to Dunbeath (Berriedale)

Day 32 – Smellydale Berriedale

We awaken by the sound of a train passing us by, 30 cows around our tents and the busy trunk road heard. Not quite the scenic Wild camping Scotland we’d encountered along the way. However, there isn’t much choice on these last few days & in hindsight looking back, next time I’ll probably try heading up to Cape Wrath which goes through Scotlands Western Flank through the last wilderness with very little civilization for many days.

As we continue along the coast off the road and off the path, its very pleasant. Seals are seen and heard in the north sea which is an amazing experience for the 2 of us. We figure, if we just follow the coast, the walk would be nicer in so many ways. We take this plan, until we hit a river which isn’t really cross able.  Adam’s witty thinking leads us to throw big boulders for 20 minutes into the river making it crossable. Quite literally ‘Building bridges’ & whatever tensions has naturally arised between us during the trip diminished at this point as we rebuild not just physically but emotionally. I must say, no matter how puny the bridge was, it is the first time I have build a bridge. To be fair, it would make for a great team building exercise. We soon change our minds and decide the road is probably going to be the better option from now. The ghost town of Helmsdale is reached, pots of tea are had with a light lunch.

We make pace walking through the high winding roads which vaguely reminds me of a visit to the Pakistani Himalayas as a young boy. On a bus cutting through the cliff faces with view of the K2 mountain in the distant. It has me thinking I must visit that part of the world again at some point. What comes next is what all the locals have been talking about. Berriedale, which is a series of small, extremely steep hairpin bends. As we reach the bottom , into the very small hamlet of BerrieDale, we stop for tea & biscuits, air out our feet & rest. Berriedale Smellydale. It’s quite a steep climb back up but nothing compared to what we have experienced over the past month.

As we arrive in Dunbeath, we hope for a shop, but the spar is shut. So we check in at a campsite & proceed with cooking an extremely bland meal with a pack of pasta, a can of chopped tomatoes & some mince. Food for fuel I suppose. Not quite the lobster & champagne we had hoped for…. nethertheless, the high pressured, hot showers at the campsite made up for it all….

Day 20 – Sallochy to Inverarnan

Day 20 – Sallochy to Inverarnan

The birds tweet as I write this evening, gazing into the remote highlands. Skys have turned blue from a day of threating rain, and most importantly midgies are no where to be seen. A deep breath in and long sigh out… life is good. Like anything, walking is an art, a vast amount of people we bump into on the West Highland Way seem to be in some sort of state if shock. If only they walked the purgatorious Pennine Way instead…

Today is a sweet 16 mile, along the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond. A reasonably easy but slightly tedious in places due to the ups and downs on boulders. Apparently this is the hardest section of the trail… really? I ask myself. Either way as each day passing , more fulfilment, joy and perfection of this art are aquired. The key is what I saw printed on a board. ‘ keep calm and carry on walking’ ‘ Each soul I pass, encouragement is given to firstly accept and than really enjoy the ups and downs. Otherwise, whats the point of this all ? To prove a point ? To make a statement ? Or just to live, and today is one of those days I sit in my tent, kiss my feet and realise that I have never been so grateful to step foot on this earth. Sitting here away from all, but at the same time with everything.

I was supposed to right about my walk today, but the words above speaks more, and with the pictures below you may sense what is inspiring me. God bless

sdr

sdr

Day 19 – Drymen to Sallochy

Day 19 – Drymen to Sallochy

A wholesome interesting relatively short day. Weather is dreary and we are stuck in the clouds by the time we reach conic hill but Loch Lomond is seen for the first time through the mist.

Loch Lomond from Conic Hill
Loch Lomond from Conic Hill

The clouds start to lift as the sun rises and the route is packed full of walkers. Conic Hill looks higher than it actually is & we scale around the side before the descent into busy Balmaha. Coach loads are here spending money in the extortionate village shop. We pass through quickly and walk the beautiful shores of Loch Lomond all day..

dav

sdr

We eventually reach a simple campsite in Sallochy where we pitch up. Until now, Ive been under the impression the whole midgie thing is just the Scottish exaggerating, but no, it is a problem. A big problem, lol..

Chilling in Sallochy
Chilling in Sallochy 
Day 17 – Linlithgow to Croy hill

Day 17 – Linlithgow to Croy hill

Now following yesterdays blinding canal walk, we ramp up for the same again. But soon start to realise, theres only so much straight line walking with no gradients one can take. Especially as underfoot is mainly concrete. However we are overwhelmed by the musky aroma of fresh Yarrow growing along these canal banks…

Yarrow
YarroW
Long straight canal
Long straight canal

We are mildly impressed by the Falkirk wheel (featured pic), and before reaching we take a quick walk into Falkirk for some quick supplies which takes longer than expected. Which adds on a few miles to an already long walk.

As we reach the walks end, we walk up Croy hill overlooking Kilsyth, we set up camp, get a fire going and cook up a stir fry before departing to sleep..

Kilsyth from Croy Hill
Kilsyth from Croy Hill
Day 16 – Edinburgh to Linlithgow

Day 16 – Edinburgh to Linlithgow

Tranquillity…. Is a word I don’t use much. These days I barely read so my vocab isn’t to vast, but after today tranquillity is certainly a word I will be welcoming back into my life.

The walk today left Edinburgh Haymarket around 9am after a sharp cup of tea. We took the opportunity to walk around the city early morning to see it without the hustle and bustle. This old city shines in the light rain on this quiet Sunday morning.

The road out of Edinburgh took us out of Westwards joining onto the Union Canal. This canal goes all the way to Glasgow and we encounter only dog walkers & cyclists throughout our day. The setting is in constant change as we walk through the suburbs surrounded by the high rise blocks. Empty cans of buckfast are seen on the canal sidings.

As we leave the suburbs we hit various outstanding aquaducts until reaching a small village where we stop off for a quick cuppa. As we proceed we enter in Broxburn, an extremely deprived area. Adam comments along the lines of ‘this place makes modern day brixton look like Buckingham Palace’. 2 miles through this ghetto still along the canal, what comes next & for the remainder of the walk is truly wonderful & tranquil. Canal boats pass us every half hour along the wooded banks filled with wild flowers & hawthorns.

By the end of todays walk, 22 miles or so later, we stroll into Linlithgow (the birthplace of Mary queen of Scots) with a spring in our step…

 

 

Day 9 – Bellingham to Byrness

Day 9 – Bellingham to Byrness

Todays walk was an odd one, and my relationship with the pennine way holds mixed emotions, especially after today.

Which way ?
Which way ?

A strong start up into the moors and to be fair the moors north of Bellingham are well marked and easy to walk. Our peaceful walking is disturbed by the artillery range at nearby Otterburn.

Moor life
Moor life

Sun is beaming down once again, it has been since the start of the journey. Walking in the sun is lovely but the heat makes our movements a bit slower, not to mention what it does to our heads. I’m sure you’ll agree The english sun does funny things to the english man.

Moors for miles
Moors for miles

After climbing a monstrous hill, we sit by a wall and decide for some lunch. And we must be there for a good hour passed by fellow pennine wayers. Conversation lifts spirits we put our boots back on to walk once again on an asphalt forest road. This doesnt help my blistered feet. The end of this walk seems to take a long time and we are both tired….

However, upon reaching Byrness things change, and smiles hit our faces. This small village has a row of Houses, a phone box and a place called the forest view inn. Now upon seeing the sign we are confused…

Byrness has it all... apparently
Byrness has it all… apparently

So with confused looks we come across this forest view inn and meet the owner who is sitting outside. We mention, we need somewhere to camp and he says you can camp in my garden. We’ll do you a 2 course meal and breakfast also.. all for £21. We walk into the garden and relax at this lovely little homely b & b which also has a 24 tuck shop on site. Many walkers are staying here, so we share dinner together and have a crack.. I also make a new friend… Bracken is his name

img_20160605_183100.jpg

Good times, good people, and  good sleep, we couldnt have asked for much more after a tough day.

 

 

 

Day 8 – Haltwhistle to Bellingham

Day 8 – Haltwhistle to Bellingham

‘The only difference between a saint and an ordinary man is motivation’ is what a friend once told me. To strive for constant surrender of gods will is a life times work. To accept what is, and release what judgement takes residence in the body. Now in walking terms, without motivation & dedication, you will stroll round never getting to where you are getting do. Like my practise of prayer, early rises are a valuable key to a long days walk. Much like hotels in Mayfair on the monopoly board.

We make way today towards Hadrians wall. This walk is impressive to say the least, we walk through the mist, up and down, up and down, quite a tiresome start actually. However we move fast through the mist along this pile of stones built in 200ad. God only knows why it was actually built, there are the many versions of events depending on who you ask about anything really. His-story.

The wall
The wall

The wall itself isnt that impressive, its the ridge and rocky outcrop its built next too. A truly magnificent walk, and the muscles are definitely being worked.

The wall ridge
The wall ridge

Some miles later, we hit the signature pennine way ‘moor land’. Followed by Wark forest which I believe is part of the bigger Kielder forest. Northumberland is vast, bur nor often visited, it is spectacular and underrated. We take through these plantations for miles, followed by some smooth hills in the beaming sun to end the day.

Rivers and sunshine welcome us into Bellingham
Rivers and sunshine welcome us into Bellingham

 

 

Day 7 – Nenthead to Haltwhistle

Day 7 – Nenthead to Haltwhistle

The remaining 500 miles starts today and for pennine way continuity sake I continue from nearby Nenthead. I’m pleasantly surprised to be joined by my good friend Adam, he has a bad knee and it is courageous of him to come along.

Its a firm solid start up the moor, filled with confidence, enthusiasm & a sense of knowing. Until within 5 minutes of walking we go 1/4 mile off route. Once again I’m mapless for the start of the day, yes I know, a bad habit. However we find our way by looking at the lay of the land.

Every good walk is like a book, it has a beginning, a middle & an end. The beginning today took us down a few wrong paths but the sun hitting the dales keeps us heartened. Past Alston on a country lane we spot a sheep in a field hurt caught in barb wire. We take the time to cut the wire off and nurse the poor animal. He isn’t to responsive but we do our best to help than continue.

All of today follows the river Tyne mostly through picturesque hills and valleys. We follow a disused train line which is now the south tyne trail until we reach a village called Slaggyford, the perfect break for lunch on the old station platform. As we reach the hamlet of Slaggyford, it feels as if  the middle of the walk starts. Our feet start to ache, but not enough to raise a concern, for now….

The Tyne

Along the trail, we reach Lambley viaduct & we are blown away by its size, towering over the valley. Its like a massive version of the bridge at Monsal Head in Derbyshire.

Very big viaduct
Very big Lambley viaduct

We are both relieved the end is 5 miles on from here. And as we watch the clock and distance, the end of today is taking forever. This sometimes happens when walking, and staying present is essential. After all, one step at a time is good walking….

Finally, Haltwhistle, than a couple miles on to our campsite for a shower and rest, watching the sunset go down..

Rab Neutrino 200 sleeping bag

Rab Neutrino 200 sleeping bag

I have received this sleeping bag in the post today. I pretty much got an amazing deal. This bag retails for about £200, I got it for £130 through a friend of a friend who works in the industry. I’m extremely grateful for ‘the link’.I currently own a Rab Genesis 2, which I’m more than happy with, but its too heavy, big & perhaps a little to warm for the time of year i’ll be using it. I’m told, the Rab Neutrino 200 bag is the bollox. This bright orange bag isn’t subtle to say the least, but its bloody comfortable say’s Merlin. If it’s good enough for the wizard its good enough for me. I will be testing it as with all my other kit next week. It is the first down sleeping bag I have owned. Down is re nound for being super comfy but at the same time absolutely useless if it gets wet. The beauty of this bag for me is that it weights 610 grams. So, ultra lightweight.

 

All in all, I’m very happy that the financial damage so far is only £432.67 on kit. And the only other major item I really need to get is a decent backpack.