(total 975 miles)
This week was mostly spent in Aberdeenshire and saw me cross into the Highlands and round the NE corner of the UK map into the Moray Firth. Despite seeing several adverts referring to the coastal path, there hasn’t really one this far North. At least not one that is consistent or maintained. The theme of the week seems to have been wet feet as I spent so much time forcing my way along overgrown paths or skirting around farmers’ fields and climbing fences. It hasn’t been ideal, and nor has the weather: grey and dull for most of the week. I was beginning to wonder if the sun ever shone this far North but then it came out on Saturday, and what a difference it made. The grey stone buildings looked a lot more beautiful in the sunshine. The sunny weekend was just the pick-me-up that I required; sunshine, better paths and vibrant little towns.
The further North I get the coastal towns feel more remote and are definitely geared more towards fishing than tourism. A consequence of this is cafes, pubs and shops are becoming scarcer on the coast with many towns seemingly having no facilities at all.
I have started to get buses more frequently as I try and avoid walking on roads, difficult areas with no paths and bad weather. I am thinking a bus tour of Britain might be a better idea. I don’t particularly enjoy walking for walking’s sake; head down trying not to stumble or no views to look at.
There was a definite pattern to the fishing towns towards the end of the week in Aberdeenshire and Moray. They were all built into hills with a Seatown at the bottom, which was where the fishermen’s cottages were, many of them built side-on to the sea. I am pretty sure every town I walked through had a Seafield Road as well. The houses are much the same but can be brightened up by painting the window surrounds, or the house itself, in vibrant colours. Each town had a harbour as its focal point and many still have the net-drying posts still in place. My favourite small fishing towns were Portsoy and Cullen as they seemed to have a community spirit and things going on. Some towns almost seemed shut.
I was really lucky this week to have been hosted by Fran and Sam, Rohan and Oli. Without their kindness and company I would have struggled this week. I’m hoping for better weather in July. Because of the poor weather I have not wanted to camp and so have stayed in guest houses for several nights. I have not been bowled over by the standard of guest houses up here, and they have not been cheaper than further South. Each one I’ve stayed in has provided only one of the following: clean accommodation, private bathroom or a proper breakfast. All of them seem to have purchased £10 mattresses from Argos. Easier than camping in the rain, but not a lot nicer. Still, beggars can’t be choosers I suppose.