Day 247: Nybster to Near Whaligoe

Distance: 24.59 miles

Ascent: 3340 feet

Weather: Sunny Spells, Heavy Rain once Pitched

Accommodation: Wild camp in Farm Field


We were both up early and it was a beautiful morning, Tom kindly made me a coffee and I was on my way a little before 7:30. The forecast today was for nice weather until about 2/3 and then for a lot of rain. So, I was hoping if I moved fast I may have the opportunity to pitch before it had started to rain.

The first couple of miles to Keiss passing Keiss Castle were fairly easy and at Keiss I detoured inland a few hundred meters to reach the services and then so as not to return down the same road I walked along the main road for a couple of hundred meters and then took a track back to the coast. This next part was lovely following a little track along the back of the pebble beach before joining the long sandy beach for around 3 miles.

At the end of the beach is Ackergill Tower, which has been renovated beautifully and sympathetically and even has a pub now which obviously wasn’t open due to the time. In fact the JoG trail did a very good job negotiating this and I am not sure if the stone wall stiles and other infrastructure was already there and just made good use of or put in by the JoG trail team but either way it negotiated a possibly tricky area well.

From Ackergill Tower the path gets back to its old trick of wedging between the barbed wire fence and the cliff edge though wide enough at this point all the way up to Castle Sinclair Girnigoe. This may be a ruin but possibly the most impressive castle ruin I have seen on the walk and I must have seen well over a hundred by now, today I think there were 5 on its own.

After the castle the JoG trail markers surprised me rather than following the cliff directly to the lighthouse at Noss Head, which I was proposing to walk, they sent you up the track to the carpark. I decided to take this route assuming there was an issue with the cliff route. At the carpark I actually for the second time of the whole walk just wandered the wrong way, instead of taking a track to near the lighthouse and then following the cliffs I actually due to being directed to the carpark unexpectedly just followed the road into Broadhaven on the edge of Wick. This made very little difference but was just a weird thing for my mind to do.

Wick was the first biggish town I felt I had been to for a long time (Thurso still felt quite small) and as it was about lunchtime I decided to treat myself for once. Well treat myself might be wrong description but I went into Wetherspoons for a cheap lunch, it is quite bad that this is probably the first Wetherspoons I would have encountered in 4 months and I went in it. I was a little surprised to see the local vicar in there as well.

I picked up a couple of supplies in a local shop and then was on my way. It was about 1pm now and still no sign of imminent rain, so I was hoping to at least get to Sarclet before pitching or maybe even as far as Whaligoe. This next section started on a sort of plateau before getting back to its tactic of being wedged between barbed wire and the cliffs. There was one point where the official route was completely overgrown with gauze but a few hundred meters away I found a route around and then after bumping into an old cottage I rejoined onto the JoG trail via a track. Unfortunately, the path once again began to become too narrow to be safe so for the first time I detoured up to the main road hoping to rejoin the trail a few hundred meters later at Whaligoe.

This diversion was in fact a good reality check, this road (as I knew) is horrible, busy and with extremely fast cars and unfortunately other than for short sections is not really safe to walk and I therefore understand a bit more why the JoG trail still tries to persist in certain areas where it appears dangerous because maybe it is still safer than the road.

At Whaligoe I was hoping to find somewhere to pitch but there was nowhere obvious and as it was still not raining and looked like I had a bit of time I carried on aiming to stop at the first pitching spot I saw. This proved more difficult than expected with the first few fields having no wind protection which would not suffice with winds and rain forecast tonight. Then the path went through a clearing in the gauze and on the other side there was a possible pitch spot but it appeared cows had been here (dried dung and footprints). I investigated and though no cows in this field it looked like they could enter it from where they were about 500m away. I decided I had no other option so began to pitch and then decided it was too big a risk so quickly got rucksack back on and then carried on with the rain now looking quite close.

Now I entered the field with the cattle and for the first time in a while something wasn’t right they were extremely fidgety and then one charged and they all joined in forming a stampede (around 40 of them I guess) and I was over the barbed wire topped dry stone wall in no time at all. So, I had another quandary but decided to head up to the road and then I saw a building and just though I would knock and ask if they had a field I could pitch in.

There was a woman in, who said heading into that field of cattle was taking your life into your own hands, but she had several fields and said the furthest one would be best to pitch in. I pitched the tent in record time, quickly inflated the mattress and threw the sleeping bag in and then dived in myself with the rucksack literally seconds before it started tipping it down. I had dinner to cook and for the first time, I am amazed I haven’t risked it before, I put my burner inside the porch part of my tent and cooked in there. This worked absolutely perfectly and was no issue so don’t know why I was so worried about it before.

I did some good mileage today, and apart from the pitch issues & cattle at the end a good day. Though I am exhausted sitting here typing this in my tent with the rain thundering down against the canvas.

charles compton