Monday 6 July 2015
Evanton to Portmahomack
The Oystercatcher Guest House
I was up early to catch a bus to Alness and then a train to Fearn in order to miss out more road walking and bits without paths. The bus was late so I missed the train (next one in 4 hours). Fortunately I managed to find 2 buses that could get me to Shandwick via Tain. The bus route took through Invergordon and around Nigg Bay.
Considering the thousands of cruise liner passengers that come through Invergordon it looked a bit run down, although I did like the murals on the ends of lots of the buildings.
I arrived in Shandwick at 10 am and the sun was shining and it was getting hot. I walked South for half a mile to check out the Sandwick Cross Slab, one of the Pictish stones that I had read about in the Rosemarkie museum.
It is on a hill in a farmer’s field and is now protected by a glass case. Seems a bit of overkill as it’s lasted at least 1200 years without one.
Shandwick Bay has a nice sandy beach and lots of signs pointing the way, indicating it is a popular spot, just not today.
I walked through the village into Balintore. The 3 Seaboard Villages of Shandwick, Balintore and Hilton all merge together and have quite a bloody history as the scene of several battles between the Picts and the Vikings. They also thrive on folklore and there is a mermaid on the beach (apparently a local man married one once).
Hilton of Cadboll also has a Pictish Cross Slab, although this one is only a replica as the real thing is in a museum in Edinburgh.
From here there was a sign for the path I wanted to Tarbat Ness and a notice board telling me it was an “easy 10 miles”. Hmmm. After about a mile, just past the disused fishermen’s huts, the path petered out. There was a track sort of visible but it was very overgrown and I was yet again forcing my way through. I suffered several nettle stings, one on my shoulder (that’s how high they were).
Sometimes, for a change, I walked over the shingle, but that was probably harder going and I felt more likely to break an ankle.
Despite the tough going being sandwiched between the sea and the cliff, the scenery was lovely and the sea looked very inviting.
As I approached Tarbat Ness I came across a small patch of beach between the rocks so I took the opportunity to strip off and take a dip. The water didn’t feel particularly cold and it was incredibly refreshing on a hot day.
A 40m tall red and white lighthouse stands at Tarbat Ness, which marks the point where the Great Glen fault line, that splits the Highlands in two, finally meets the sea. From here I could clearly see the mountains further North across the Dornoch Firth.
I walked the last couple of miles along the minor roads to Portmahomack on the Northern shore of Easter Ross. I was booked in to the Oystercatcher B&B, which has a restaurant with a fine reputation. Unfortunately it is closed on Mondays. I sat outside enjoying a beer and watching the clouds roll in before retiring to my room for a microwave meal.