Day 257: Inverness to Culbin Forest
Distance: 28.19 miles
Ascent: 739 feet
Weather: Sunny Spells & SHowers
Accommodation: Wild Camp Culbin Forest
I was up early and ready physically to leave but my mind for some reason wasn’t wanting to walk today at that moment. After half an hour or so I persuaded myself to leave and the first couple of miles were on roads heading out of Inverness. I was glad I detoured slightly into Inverness, though the town centre is not much different from most other large towns.
At the junction with the A9 there was a large roundabout which was fortunately easy to get across for pedestrians and on the other side began the first of a series of either genius or stupid routes, depending on how they turned out, to keep me near the coast and off the busy roads. This first one involved climbing over the steep, high embankment of the A96 which I hoped had the remains of the old coastal road on the other side. And indeed, it was there and fully clear and took me all the way to Milton.
On my plot I had proposed to head inland slightly at Milton onto the main road and then drop back onto a quieter road after the sewage works. But stood here I thought I could walk on the foreshore in front of the sewage works and join the quiet road directly, and this turned out to be very simple. This quiet road took me out to Alturlie Point, from where I headed off piste along the foreshore just of the mud flats till near Castle Stuart. Here I had a slight problem crossing a stream, that though not wide was extremely muddy, there was the remnants of an old bridge which was unfortunately unusable but fortunately I found some rocks that just about got me across.
From here I walked right by the castle before joining a B road that would take me several miles to Ardersier. I had a short break on a bench in Ardersier before it rained so I carried on. There was a lovely path that took me along the coast to Fort George, this is a military base and I had begun to walk around the outside when I realised the red flags were down, so I should be able to go across it instead. I entered at the next gate and walked across it passing the rifle ranges.
At the point where I left the military range things began to become a bit weird, sort of like a scene out of a zombie apocalypse film. I followed a track that became clearly an old actual road though now a bit overgrown, there were sign boards, and even some traffic lights in the bushes and it looked like people had just left in a hurry. I have absolutely no idea what was here whether it was a proposed port of something but it felt very odd. In fact, on leaving it there was a perfect straight A quality road, with no traffic and it felt weird walking along it.
Once out of this oddness I had to get across the Carse of Delnies, a marshy area with some waterways I couldn’t cross, but fortunately there was a sheep trail which took me over to the track that ran along the coast. From here it was nice walking and I soon reached Nairn Golf Club, which has a public track along the side of it but a couple of the golfers on this course obviously thought otherwise. In fact, on one part where I was already half way along one hole and well within driving distance, a couple of golfers suddenly appeared on the tee and instead of waiting a minute or so for me to get passed, they hit the ball over me instead. I was fuming but couldn’t be bothered to confront them so just carried on. It was more annoying because when I am near a golf course I always try and be extremely courteous because even if I’m on a path I want to effect their game as little as possible.
Anyway, after the golf course I detoured inland slightly to the Co-op to stock up on supplies and then returned to the coast. Nairn was my proposed finish point for today but my Dad is turning up in Spey Bay on Monday night and I am staying with him, so it seems to make sense to try and extend today and tomorrow a little whilst in tent to try and arrive in Spey Bay a little earlier (though still won’t be that early as got over 75 miles across the 3 days.)
It was a bit after 4 and I told myself I would walk until 6 and then pitch. This final bit would take me into the massive Culbin Forest (surely the biggest wood I have walked on the walk.) I walked a mixture of along the edge of the salt marsh infront of the forest, and on tracks within the forest. I was slightly worried I could get lost in the wood but I made it to roughly where I had expected to get by 6pm. It was meant to get a little windy tonight, even if no wind this evening, so I walked 20m up a remote track from the salt marsh and pitched my tent directly on the track.
I felt so remote, all I could hear were the wading birds, and I was sure I was several hours walking from any person. I was just warming up in the tent and having my dinner as the sun was slowly beginning to go down when I heard a vehicle slowly approaching down the track which was a little worrying. On getting out it was the coastguard looking for a missing person with mental health needs within the woods, once they had ascertained it wasn’t me they carried on their search. In fact over the next hour another 2 coastguards vehicles pulled up and checked. It is amazing what these people do in the pouring rain, whilst it is getting dark to help someone they don’t even know. I just hope they find the person safe and well as quickly as possible.
A good day, and my extensive route planning helped massively today.