Day 255: Culbokie to Fortrose
Distance: 31.76 miles
Ascent: 3990 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells & SHowers
Accommodation: Above Fortrose Cafe (Kindly Offered)
It had rained overnight and was still raining this morning, but fortunately no cows had appeared at any time but something smaller did come a sniffing around the tent. The rain lightened off whilst I depitched and actually stopped for a while as I left. Today was going to be an interesting one route wise, with a mixture of roads, farm tracks, paths and even some foreshore to try and keep as coastal as possible.
I had a couple of miles on the road which was not very busy before turning down on a farm track through the Toberchurn farms. I was not sure what this part would be like but it went fairly smoothly starting as a tarmacked track, before becoming a grass track and finally about a mile of sort of off piste across the fields and passing the ruin of Craig Castle before rejoining a very quiet road at Torvaig which would take me back up to the more main road.
The weather as it has been for the last couple of days was very sporadic, sunny one minute then showers the next so it was a constant yo-yoing with kit. After a couple of miles on the road I turned down a quiet lane all the way to the foreshore near Alnessferry. From here I followed the foreshore sometimes on the pebbles and sometimes on the grass where possible just of the beach. The views from this stretch back over to the industrial buildings and structures of Invergordon were great and the scale was incredible.
I reached a small ship building/repair yard near Balblair and from there it would be about 6 miles on roads to Cromarty. I checked my email at this point and I surprisingly had several emails offering food and accommodation around the Black Isle (where I was walking today) and I assumed someone must have shared something about the walk online. A couple were from Cromarty where I would be passing about 1 and so I emailed to say thanks for the offer but would be passing straight through about 1 and then I got an email back from Katie saying you can have lunch if you want which I gratefully accepted. On top of this I had an offer of accommodation and food in Fortrose which would be an extra 6/7 miles on an already long day, but I decided to gratefully extend and accept.
I reached Cromarty about 1 and was very warmly welcomed in by the Mackays and their cocker spaniel. They had cooked a lovely macaroni cheese, and then homemade scones with cream and jam for afters. I could easily have stayed for hours or even overnight but about 2:30 I managed to persuade myself to leave. This had been a lovely lunch and very kind of the whole family.
From Cromarty there was a lovely little path that slowly began to climb up to Sutors of Cromarty. It felt like the sun might stay out a bit longer at this point and from here the route became more improvised. I was firstly hoping to follow an old farm track near the top of the cliffs for a mile or so though this disappeared, but it was easy enough to follow the vague route anyway without any issues up until the thin strip of woodland. I was able to easily get through this, though did have to get over a barbed wire fence each side. From here I was able to follow the cliffs to just after Navity.
Here I had hoped to descend down the steep slope all the way to the beach near Eathie Fishing Station, this was far to overgrown so I had to follow the line of the top of the slope above the woodland and at one point thought I could get down but ended up descending about ½ the way down before having to admit defeat and climbing back up. So I went to plan B which involved heading to the quiet road and then at Eathie Mains taking the official track down to Eathie Fishing Station.
The dirt track down was really well done, presumably from the days when they used to fish at the bottom. I had been proposing to camp at the bottom here before the kind offer earlier, but when rechecking the route yesterday for today I had started to wonder if one of the old fishing buildings had been turned into a (semi secret) Bothy. In fact there were 2 buildings one a bit of a ruin and the other was a sort of bothy, it had been turned into a sort of info building for the history of the area as well as a bothy. It was not as homely as others I have stayed in, but is in a beautiful location and would have made a nice enough shelter.
It was already about 5:15 and I knew it would be a minimum of 2 hours until I got to Fortrose, so I sent an email saying I would be late and then continued on. According to my map there was once a proper path along the bottoms of these cliffs but now it is more just walking along the beach and occasionally having to thread through the groups of large rocks. There were several large caves here which were dry inside and would (and had) been good to shelter in. I was beginning to get very tired but finally made it to Rosemarkie.
From Rosemarkie it was only a very short distance to Fortrose but though I was exhausted I was going to have to walk out along the sort of spit to Chanonry Point meaning I still had a few miles to go. I am sure this part of the walk was lovely (and in fact as the sun was setting it was beautiful) but I was just far too tired. I had got to the point that I was ‘drunk’ walking, essentially being so tired at points I could barely walk in a straight line.
But then finally I reached Fortrose and turned up to the Fortrose Café which was obviously closed as it was about 8:15. But Janet whom owns the café had kindly offered to put me up for the night in her flat above the café. I was exhausted but after a shower I felt a bit more human and then after some lovely pasta courtesy of Janet I was very sleepy. As with earlier in the day I had been welcomed in so warmly and I am extremely grateful to the whole family.
Today was too long and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have gone this far but in the end and due to the two kind offers it all worked out. I had began packing my stuff about 6:30 this morning and only finished the walk about 8:15 as it was getting dark, a very long day.