Day 248: Near Whaligoe to Dunbeath
Distance: 14.25 miles
Ascent: 3789 feet
Weather: Sunny SPells
Accommodation: Inver House, Dunbeath (Kindly Offered)
It had rained heavily as I was going to sleep last night, but I had still slept well. Though when I woke up I was not raring to go and it took a little bit of time to get moving. The forecast for today had been for rain but I couldn’t hear any on the tent and when I opened the flap there were blue skies so I packed up as quickly as I could and got on my way.
My first challenge was to rejoin the JoG trail without disturbing the cows which fortunately was easy as they were several hundred meters away on the other side of the field. The trail markers seemed to disappear for a while but I just headed through the fields parallel to the sea, which was easy enough but I did have to climb several barbed wire fences which was annoying and one which had been clearly made awkward by the farmer as there was no other logic to it (a new second fence with one strand of barb wire a foot from the first making it very hard to negotiate.)
The path eventually returned to my ‘favourite’ type wedged between the cliff and the barbed wire fence though fortunately here it was mostly wide enough but where it started to narrow after a little ravine about 1km short of Lybster I decided to join a farm track, that joined a little road into Lybster. Lybster felt quite bizarre in some ways a nice village, in some ways it felt a bit like a deserted town.
I dropped down from Lybster on the road to the harbour and what a beautiful little harbour it is with a small lighthouse, small fishing fleet and strangly a little café that according to google/website would be open at 10am but unfortunately when I arrived at 10:30 it was shut and I really needed to fill water up and wanted a cup of tea so I decided to wait till 11 when the sign on the door said it would open. Whilst waiting I typed up this first half of the day and so far the weather had been good though clouds were starting to form.
From Lybster Harbour the trail climbed back up onto the cliffs on a well formed path up to a lovely viewpoint, the path returned to being overgrown and wedged between the cliffs and barbed wire fence. I have to admit this arrangement was really starting to get on my goat because you had to both try and not catch tent or clothing on the right (in fact I saw a piece of red MSR tent sack where someone else had obviously caught themselves), which involved twisting your body to make sure the rucksack slightly aimed away and being incredibly careful with the drop on the left and gently placing feet to assess what was under them. It was incredibly tiring due to this and I was making slow progress.
After heading up the ravine at Latheron Burn I decided to climb into the actual fields instead, as the other arrangement had done my head in and though this meant I had a few more barbed wire fences to climb I think at this stage it was the right choice. I passed a farm and then briefly joined a narrow road at Latheronwheel which took me down towards the most scenic harbour and after crossing a beautiful stone arch bridge I climbed back up to the top of the cliffs on a well made path. At the top there was a wanted posted about dog fouling and though I hate people leaving dog poo this poster asking for any information about dog foulers seems a bit too sneaky to me.
Anyway the path was actually really good for about 500m at the top of this cliff and I got my hopes up it might be like this all the way to Dunbeath my endpoint. How wrong I was, the path became very indistinct again and now I was wedged in a 1.5m gap between a deer fence on my right and a barbed wire fence on my left trudging through above waist deep bracken. At this point the JoG trail seemed to disappear and I decided when I got to the stone wall with no crossing I would cross into the upper field and follow this. This worked well in fact with several gates and damaged barbed wire fences meaning I had no hard crossings. But there was a funny moment with a frisky ram, who charged over towards me at speed a little scarily at first but as I had no chance of reaching the fence I stood my ground and he just started rubbing against my legs and every time I tried to get out of the field and on my way he tried to stop me. He was the friendliest ram I have met and seemed to want to join the walk.
I turned up towards the main road at the museum as I thought this would be the easiest place to reach my end point at Inver just shy of Dunbeath about 1km away and then followed the road down. I reached Inver House where I had kindly been offered a bed for the night by Amanda and Ray, and after a short mileage but surprisingly tough day I was glad to chill. They had two lovely puppies/young dogs who were very excitable and some rescue owls and falcons out back. After a lovely roast chicken dinner, and doing some admin I was definitely ready for bed.
A good day and hopefully the trail improves tomorrow, but I think tomorrow could be a very bad section to start with.
NB – I think I should state as I feel a bit bad for the people that are trying to create the JoG Trail after my comments, that in parts it is well thought out and I know an incredible amount of work has been put in to get it to this stage. But I think sometimes forcing a trail through purely to have a trail however dangerous or depressing that part is seems a bit silly. I know the only other alternative in places is stiles in and out of farm fields which requires the farmers permission which may not always be forthcoming.