Tuesday 7 July 2015
Portmahomack to Dornoch
The Oystercatcher’s breakfast menu is overwhelming, and plenty of the dishes come with alcohol! I stuck to kippers and eggs, which were beautifully served.
The weather forecast was for a rainy day and there was another A9 bridge to cross in order to head across the Dornoch Firth and into Sutherland. It would not be possible to walk the coast all the way to the bridge because the RAF have a bombing range on the coast. A good day to get the bus and explore a couple of the towns instead of walking. As usual around here there was one bus to Tain at 9 am and, if I missed that, there would be about 4 hours to wait for the next one. The bus passed through Inver, a small town near the bombing range that had been evacuated during WW2 as the beach here was one of those selected as a possible practice area for the D-Day landings. In the end it wasn’t used.
Tain claims to be the oldest Royal Burgh in Scotland, it’s Tollbooth dates from 1630, and it was the birthplace of St Duthac in about 1000AD.
St Duthac’s shrine used to be in the old church and was a pilgrimage destination before it was destroyed during the Reformation. King James IV visited the St Duthac shrine many times and so the pilgrimage became known as the King’s Route. I visited the Tain museum and walked around the church and the graveyard, which contains the remains of the Ardjachie Pictish stone. (I was enjoying following a bit of the Highland Pictish Trail.)
The museum also has a good collection of silver items made in Tain and enthusiastic volunteers who gave me a guided tour.
I left the Royal Burgh of Tain and got the bus across the A9 bridge and into Sutherland. My destination was Dornoch, another pretty town and one that gave the impression of being a tourist destination. Naturally it has an impressive golf course as well as a beautiful, long sandy beach (although it was raining).
The cathedral is the main draw and I was told it was where Madonna got married. Part of the town’s market square was in the graveyard and so, amongst the gravestones, is the Plaiden Ell, a flat stone fixed measurement for merchants selling tartan cloth.
After 5 weeks of waiting, my new, and much lighter, tent and rucksack arrived. Yippee. They had been delivered to Ali in Edinburgh and she drove up in her campervan to bring them to me. This was a last minute decision so I was already booked in to a B&B for tonight, escaping the rain. It was great to see Ali and Morna, and it meant I had company for dinner in the Dornoch Arms (no table for one tonight!). I spent some time unpacking my new kit, transferring everything into my new rucksack, and cutting and attaching guy ropes to my new tent. Exciting stuff. We planned a couple of short walks tomorrow, interspersed with drives, and then a night camping. This sounds like an easier way to do this trip!