Friday 10 July 2015
Helmsdale to Wick
2 miles walked (bus trip)
Wick Caravan Site
I awoke to heavy rain pounding the roof of the hostel and wasn’t enthused about starting the day. I had already decided to get the bus up to Wick anyway because of the lack of footpaths, the difficulty of the terrain and the A9 being the best route North. The first bus was at 11.30 am so I had plenty of time to get up and laze around catching up on my blog. I got chatting to Catrina, who was catching the same bus on her way to the Orkney ferry, and didn’t get around to my blog. It was quite cold in the hostel, so cold that my washing hadn’t dried overnight and I spent all day walking around with a pair of damp socks in my pocket to try and dry them out.
The bus was late but it arrived. The views down the hill to the cliff top were occasionally spectacular and occasionally shrouded in mist. The road wound around a few geos and up and down a few steep hills. After a couple of miles I left Sutherland and entered Caithness, the most Northerly county on the mainland.
I caught the bus as far as Dunbeath, where I had decided to get off and look around before getting the next bus (that gave me almost 3 hours). It proved to be a good decision as the Dunbeath Heritage Centre was really interesting and Christine, who worked there, gave me a guided tour and made me tea and biscuits. (She was pitying me on another cold, wet day.) Best museum ever.
I had never heard of author Neil Gunn. He was born in Dunbeath and many of his books relate to the area, the Dunbeath River and the local people in the early 20th Century. Christine expertly described the books and their context, and I will now have to read some of his work. After reading all about the River, and following Christine’s instructions, I walked down to the harbour, complete with salmon bothy and boat shed. From here I had a great view of Dunbeath Castle, that has been restored and now looks like a big house, which is what it is.
I walked up the river for 15 minutes to see Chapel Hill and the 2,500 year old Broch. These are both of historical significance and the locals claim the place has a feeling.
I was admiring the River, which was the same deep red/brown as the Helmsdale River and should be full of salmon at the right time of year. I did see a fisherman on the bank, wearing all the wading gear.
I got back up the hill in time to catch the bus to Wick and once again enjoyed the views. It was just possible to see the Beatrice Oilfield, the only one visible from mainland Britain. Without a car it did mean I missed out on a few landmarks like the Hill O’ Stanes (Hill of Stones), a few stacks in the sea and more brochs. I arrived in Wick and walked to the campsite to pitch my tent before walking back into town to get a new battery for my watch. Being in town I stopped at the Norseman Hotel for an early dinner. It had stopped raining this afternoon but more was forecast this evening and through the night.