Day 252: Skelbo to Tarbat Ness

Distance: 27.90 miles

Ascent: 984 feet

Weather: Overcast, With Sunny SPells and Some Rain

Accommodation: Wild camp Tarbat Ness


I had been looked after so well on my rest day and been fed lots of lovely food, and this morning even though it was early Tony prepared me a lovely breakfast before I left. There had been an issue with OS maps online going down again almost for the whole of yesterday, though it did start working again very late last night so I have managed to pdf 3 of this weeks 8 routes and hopefully can do the others as the week goes on.

It was raining just before I left but as I walked out the door the rain stopped. I walked down the driveway and then after a short stretch on the quiet road I headed onto an old farm track. This meandered along the edge of Coul Links and made for a very scenic start to the day. This path took me to Embo which was not as scenic and had a large static caravan holiday park which never look good.

But from the end of the holiday park the path continued along the edge of the beach and then started skirting the edge of Royal Dornoch Golf Course. This course was apparently rated the 4th best golf course for playing in the world (I am not sure from what source), but it was very scenic and unlike some others merged nicely into the dunes and landscape.

Alison who hosted me for my rest day is a member at the course and was signing people in for a tournament today so had said to pop in. So under 2 hours after leaving I popped into the club house and very kindly Alison got me a tea and roll, and when I came to leaving the lady working in the lounge came out with a baguette and some snacks which I was very grateful for.

From Dornoch I took the route that the JoG trail takes up the single track road to Cuthill. Just before this turns and joins the A9, I took a path to the left which took a lovely route alongside the water and with great views of the Dornoch Firth Bridge. Unfortunately at this point I had to join the A9 for 3 miles or so, and this started OK as the first mile which was on the bridge had a pavement even if it had started raining. After the bridge the verge was quite wide so actually it was not too bad to walk even if not enjoyable.

I reached Tain which was a big town with several large supermarkets and got a few supplies and had my lunch on a bench in the town. It was not raining as I left which was a bonus though the route out of Tain was going to be interesting. I had plotted something a bit over clever which I followed pretty well though it did involve walking across a bit of a golf course. But once across I joined a road which would take me around the military base.

This military base was very active with jets flying over constantly and more impressively actually dropping missiles (unloaded I guess as no massive explosion when they hit deck) and it was amazing to see the trajectory they followed to the ground.

After a few miles on the road I turned off down to Inver which was a quaint if slightly bizarre place. From the end of the village there was a path that went all the way to Portmahomack and this path was lovely trhough the fields, dunes and beaches. Portmahomack was my original finish point for today, but I decided to carry on partially as I was feeling good, partially as it was raining a little so didn’t want to pitch tent yet.

I decided I would try and extend 3 miles or so to Tarbat Ness. On this stretch I came across a large whale skull which was quite interesting. The path started well on a nice coastal core path but then there were bullocks on the path and cows in other areas. They seem to have reverted to their very on edge, scatty behaviour as per in Spring just after they were let out but not sure what is the reason for the change now.

Anyway I just got through the first field as the bullocks were far enough away and so though they started running I was already over the gate by the time they got anywhere near, but about 1km later things got worse I got chased out of one field into another which it turns out had other cows in it and then they charged so I was over a fence and then into a little plantation island in the middle of the field so eventually I had to rejump this fence and just run to the gate onto the road. As I reached the road a couple were just passing and they laughed as I got over the gate, and then explained the very same had happened to them a couple of fields ago which was why they were now on the road.

Not long later I got to Tarbat Ness with its lighthouse, and this lighthouse is beautifully maintained. It was forecast to be fairly windy tonight so I was looking for somewhere sheltered to pitch. This turned out a bit more difficult that I expected, but eventually I settled for the first spot I had seen vaguely at the end of a little track but it had good shelter if a little to near the car park for Tarbat Ness, though after 6 no one would be in it anyway.

A good day and I was quite amazed when plotting the route that I had done just shy of 28 miles as it had seemed fairly easy.

charles compton