Day 253: Tarbat Ness to Nigg

Distance: 20.75 miles

Ascent: 2063 feet

Weather: Very Windy, SUnny Spells Bookended by Rain

Accommodation: NIgg Bay Bird Hide


Well the wind had changed direction completely last night a full 180’ shift, but it was still pretty strong as forecast. Fortunately, my tent was fairly shielded from all directions but still it was flexing a lot this morning. As always it was fun trying to pack the tent away in the wind but I am pretty good at it now. To my surprise there were 2 vehicles in the small parking area near the tent, one was a small car but the person had just slept in the front seat, the other was some massive war like thing used as a mobile home it looked like something from a UN convoy.

I set off with the wind already quite strong and forecast to get much stronger from around 10am (apparently we are getting the tail end of a hurricane) but at least where I was it was dry though could see several heavy rain spots only a few miles away. I dropped down to behind the beach and there was a lovely path that slowly wended its way all the way to Rockfield. This was a slightly bizarre village as the houses were quite small and fairly basic though all very well maintained and pretty but a lot of the cars seemed quite expensive which seemed a little strange.

From Rockfield a mixture of good tracks and path took me passed a little private bothy (maybe actually just a basic reclusive house) and onto Cadboll. Cadboll forms the first of 3 villages that are all joined together including Balintore and Shandwick to make a fairly sizable place. I am probably going to be camping every day this week so to ensure stuff remains charged I stopped at the community café to charge things up and had a little snack.

From Balintore there was no path for the next 3 miles to where I was hoping to join up with a farm track. I had proposed to walk along a path till its end and then just climb up to the top of the cliffs, but when I got to the end there was thick gorse everywhere and though there seemed to be a vague track up it petered out after 20m or so. So, I had to retrace my steps for 500m or so and then decided to take a cow track up the cliff that I had noticed earlier. This got me to the top fine but then there was more gorse, so had to divert inland a tiny bit before finding a way through to a farmers field which I had to climb over the barbed wire fence to enter. I managed to get across a little stream before there was even more and even deeper gorse and this time I had to climb a lot further up the hill to get around it and this was only the start of my issues as then the next ravine to be crossed was covered in gorse, so I had to scale a 2m deer fence, then climb several barbed wire fences to get across a field, the river and then another field before reaching a woodland. Luckily the woodland was not to dense so I could climb up through it until I reached a little track. So much effort had been put in negotiating all the little (some bigger) issues from Balintore, and the wind was now absolutely raging that I decided to take a little break here. As if to just clarify the point that this short section had been sent to challenge me a bloomin pine cone fell straight onto my head whilst I was having my break, fortunately it was small and didn’t hurt at all.

It turned out that this track took me to a nice short grass field and from there I was easily able to join the farm track and subsequent road that would take me to Nigg. The wind was really strong now and I was slightly apprehensive about finding a spot to pitch tonight, but there was a slightly cheeky/sneaky thought in the back of my head that a bird hide existed after Nigg that I may be able to shelter in tonight. I really enjoyed the descent to Nigg with views up the magnificent estuary with all the impressive industrial machinery slightly ironically being for either oil storage or wind turbine manufacture.

Not long after Nigg I reached the bird hide and it was lovely and completely weather tight. I was a little apprehensive about it but both the people in the car park and another man who came in seemed to think there was no issue with me kipping in here tonight to see out the bad weather conditions.

So I am all set up in the bird hide, protected well from the elements but due to its size I will wear more cloths in the sleeping bag as it may get cold in here tonight.

A very satisfying day in the end as though the section after Balintore was tough it was great to navigate a way through and the bird hide is a real treat with the atrocious conditions outside.

charles compton