Day 209 North Anglesey and Wylfa Head

Saturday 31 October 2015 (Happy birthday Evelyn!)

Bull Bay to Cemlyn

10 miles

Barbara and Barry’s house (AirB&B)

Breakfast was big and I surprised myself by how easily I ate it; the last 2 days had been hard walking. I had a late start so I could catch up on my blog. 

I caught the bus back to Bull Bay and set off on today’s shorter walk. Within an hour it was raining, a fine drizzle that came with a most: a muzzle. It was still really warm and humid so I decided there was no point wearing waterproofs and I just got wet.  

Looking back at Bull Bay
 Today was a proper, hilly cliff top walk, along wet, slippery tracks. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately there were no great views to speak of because of the weather but at least I could see Middle Mouse island for most of the day. Opposite Middle Mouse is the small headland Dinas Gynfor, Wales’ most Northerly mainland point. There is an old, vandalised monument here but I don’t know what it was for.  

The monument at Dinas Gynfor, Wales’ most Northerly point
 No sooner had I left Bull Bay than I spotted a pod of dolphins swimming near to the cliffs. I tried to keep pace with them and they stopped at a point and started to circle. I watched for a while and then had to carry on.  

Porth Wen brickworks
 I came across the Porth Wen Brickworks, which closed in 1924, and the 19th Century China Clay Works at Porth Llanlleiana. Both were quite impressive nestled in little bays.  

Another view of the brickworks and Porth Wen
Porth Llanlleiana china clay works
 Around lunchtime I arrived back in Cemaes Bay and stopped for a big lunch, and to dry off, in the deli/cafe. Although Cemaes is a village, it seems to have more facilities than Amlwch, which is a town. It also has St Patrick’s Bell in the bay, put there because Patrick was saved in a nearby shipwreck.  

St Patrick’s Bell in Cemaes Bay
 Wylfa Head sticks out and protects Cemaes Bay, and Wylfa Nuclear Power Station overshadows it. Apparently a new one is being built soon and Barbara and Barry’s house will disappear under the earthworks.  

Wylfa Head
Wylfa Nuclear Power Station
 I ended up walking less mileage than I thought because the map on AirB&B placed Barbara and Barry’s house a mile and a half away from its actual location. Lucky I phoned up for directions before I passed it. Barbara didn’t see this as a problem because it’s only 5 minutes away…in a car! So I was stuck in the countryside watching Saturday night tv with 2 strangers. They had cheese and biscuits for tea and, fortunately, invited me to join them. Good job I had anticipated a lack of food and ate a big lunch!  


Day 88 Fort George

Thursday 2 July 2015

Bus to Inverness

6 miles

Bazpackers Hostel, Inverness

There was a big thunderstorm during the night that cleared the air a bit. I was up at 4.15 am as Dave was heading to Inverness Airport for an early flight and kindly dropped me off at Ardersier enroute. From there it was a 1.5 mile walk along the Inverness estuary to Fort George. As there are no coastal paths between Findhorn and Inverness I had decided not to bother walking and just to visit Fort George instead as it seemed like an interesting place right on the ‘neck’ of the Moray Firth, directly opposite Chanonry Point.  

Fort George guarding the ‘neck’ of the Moray Firth
 Yet again I had been really lucky and very well looked after by Dave and Cally. Staying with friends provides a welcome morale boost.  

Looking across the Moray Firth to Inverness and the Kessock Bridge
 It was so quiet and peaceful at 6 am; no one was about, the sky looked huge and the water was dead calm. A great morning for sitting on the rocky shore and watching dolphins. What a treat I was in for, an hour long show. At first I only saw one, very close to the shore, but soon there were lots, in many small groups. It was so calm I could hear them breathe out through their blowholes before I could see them. I was able to watch them for ages and occasionally was treated to breaching and big dives. Fantastic.  

There’s the first dolphin
Leaping out of the water
A dolphin in front of Chanonry Point
 Once the show was over I spent some time enjoying the calm and catching up on blog writing until Fort George opened to the public at 9.30 am. 

On the shore outside Fort George early in the morning
  It’s a popular place and there was already a coach in the car park by 9.45. It is the only fort in the country that is open as a museum and is still a working barracks, hence there were soldiers wandering around.  

The formal building layout inside the fort
 The fort is so well preserved and well designed that I’m sure it would have been impregnable in the mid-1700s, it’s just a pity it took over 20 years to build and so was surplus to requirements by the time it was finished in 1770. Nothing ever changes in the military! The fort was designed by William Skinner after the Battle of Culloden, which was just a few miles down the road, in 1746. The Crown beat the Rebelling Highlanders and built Fort George to contain any possible future threats from those pesky Scots. By the time it was finished, however, England and Scotland were quite well united.  

Protection from the Highlanders
 The Highlanders museum and the Seaforth Arms display were both impressive. I spent a good couple of hours wandering around. I went for a coffee and was asked if I was in the Army – I must still have a military look about me! I explained I was in the RAF and I think that still qualified me for a discount.  

The bridge to get in
 I had to walk back to Ardersier to catch a bus to Inverness in the afternoon.  

 I wandered through the ‘Capital of the Highlands’ and booked into one of the backpackers’ hostels. I think I’m too old to appreciate these sort of places. I needed to go shopping for a couple of things so did a tour of the outdoors-type shops and bought a hat, a tick remover tool and a new t-shirt to replace my one that’s falling apart after 3 months of constant wear. 

I was feeling a bit glum as planning was going badly so I treated myself to a restaurant meal as I couldn’t face navigating the hostel kitchen. 

Day 85 The Moray Harbour Towns

Monday 29 June 2015

Cullen to Lossiemouth 

16.5 miles

Dave and Cally’s house, Elgin

I was fortunate not to have a hangover this morning. But the sun was shining and it was nice to sit outside the hostel with a cup of tea admiring the view across the harbour.  

Cullen Beach, Seatown, and the disused railway line
 Having left the pub without paying last night I had to walk back up the town, get an envelope and post some money through the letterbox of the Three Kings. Once that was done I could set off, through Seatown and across the Cullen links golf course.  

Looking down on Cullen Beach and the links golf course
 I climbed up the cliff and watched a fishing boat setting creels to catch lobster and crab.  

A fishing boat setting creels
 There was a path along the headland and I was able to admire all the amazing rock formations and stacks produced by the deeply folded beds of Cullen quartzite. The best one is Bow Fiddle Rock.  

The Bow Fiddle Rock
 Portknockie was the next town, and then Findochty (can be pronounced Finickty). All of these towns are built to the same mould but some, like Findochty, look brighter with their brightly painted houses.  

Port Knockie Harbour
Findochty Harbour
I stopped at The Admirals pub for a coffee and to do some blog writing. I ended up staying for a spot of lunch. I had Cullen Skink, a creamy seafood and fish soup with potato and onions. Delicious. 

I climbed up the cliff again and stopped at the war memorial to admire the view. Then it was a walk around yet another golf course and down the hill to Buckie. The town of Buckie seems to have swallowed the small towns of Portessie, Ianstown and Gordonsburgh, although all 3 have their own nameplates there is nothing to them. There is a colony of grey seals on Craigenroan Rock just offshore from the old Strathlene lido that is now filled in with stones.  

Craigenroan Rock with its noisy seals and the remains of Strathlene Lido
 I walked along the Buckie sea front and this town did not have the same feel as the other harbour towns. Buckie is bigger and still has a small shipbuilding industry, which used to build the herring fleet trawlers. Buckie had a large herring fishing fleet in the early 1900s and the Cluny Fish Kilns are still in operation, smoking fish for over a century.  

Cluny Fish Kilns still in operation
 I saw dolphins swimming along not far off shore. I managed to get a photo of one breaching, although it’s not very good without a proper camera.  

That is a dolphin breaching, honest
 I stood quite some time watching the dolphins and getting talked to by a young lady with incredibly bad teeth (probably from drinking cans of Irn Bru or Monster as I frequently see). Eventually I said I had to go and carried on to Portgordon, which seemed really rundown and there were several houses up for sale. I then headed inland slightly and onto the Speyside Way, a National trail that follows the River Spey, Britain’s fastest flowing river.  

Nice to walk through woods for a change, The Speyside Way from Port Gordon
 At Spey Bay I stopped to check out the Scottish Dolphin Centre and there were quite a lot of people trying to spot dolphins (I didn’t boast that I’d had a great view of some at Buckie). The Moray Firth is home to a pod of almost 200 bottlenose Dolphins and they are significantly larger and fatter than other bottlenoses as this is the farthest North and the coldest sea they are found.  

The Scottish Dolphin Centre right at the mouth of the Spey Bey, complete with a David Annand sculpture of an osprey
 I walked about a mile up the River Spey to the first bridge and crossed it into Garmouth where my friend Dave had agreed to pick me up. 

  From here to Lossiemouth involved a long, and dull walk along shingle next to a forest so I decided to give it a miss. It had been a long enough walk and Dave’s wife, Cally, had cooked a lovely dinner and I was keen to meet the children and answer their questions. 

Looking up the River Spey
Amazing hospitality, even a chocolate on my pillow! Thanks Cally

Day 78 Dolphins and a Lighthouse

Monday 22 June 2015

St Cyrus to Tod Head, Catalline
14 miles
Tod Head Lighthouse

Another cold, grey and rather windy day. I set off from Fran’s and headed to the St Cyrus beach, which was stunningly beautiful even under dark clouds.  

Looking down the road to St Cyrus Bay at the mouth of the River North Esk, the boundary between Angus and Aberdeenshire
 It has enormous cliffs behind it that were formed from the eruption of a volcano near Montrose a long time ago.  

Amazing cliffs set back behind the beach and the dunes
 The River North Esk flows out into the sea along a plain that splits the beach and you can see it has changed its course and some old fishing houses that were once by the river are now derelict buildings marooned in the dunes. I started walking on the beach but it was too windy and the sand too soft so I walked through the dunes instead and then had to scale the huge cliff via one of the few paths to the top.  

Looking North from the cliff

Looking South from the cliff
 From here things got trickier as the map said there was a path, which the council had closed for safety reasons (erosion) and the only other way was to walk along the main A92 road. I walked through a potato field looking for another route and couldn’t get out over the electrified fence so had to double back. I decided to risk the path anyway and it was alright. The main problem was that it was so overgrown I was wading through long grass and nettles so that, in the current weather conditions, I ended up soaked through from the waist down, including my socks and inside my boots. But I made it to Johnshaven, albeit over an hour later than I expected as the going was very slow. 

I had a quick stop at the pub there for a coffee and a chat to the owner who was from London. She has lived here for 18 years and loves the “rugged East Coast of Scotland”. I was warned coastal paths would be hard to come by.  

I need one of these!
 On the way out of Johnshaven I saw a lady standing in her porch looking through binoculars so I tried to see what she was looking at; a small pod of dolphins heading North near the shore. My first sighting, brilliant. The kind lady lent me her binoculars to have a better look and I saw a couple of youngsters in the pod. They were travelling so slowly that I was outpacing them as I walked along the coastal cycle path to Gourdon; the easiest walking of the day. 

Gourdon is a small fishing village and I stopped to have a quick look in the small museum there that houses the Maggie Law lifeboat – essentially a rowing boat. It was commissioned in 1890 by the fishermen of the village who all agreed to be taxed a penny to pay for it. The village already had a bigger, RNLI lifeboat but the fishermen were worried that they needed a flat-bottomed lifeboat that could rescue people from the rocky shoreline where boats were likely to get into difficulties. In the end they rescued 36 people between 1890 and 1930. What a heart warming story.  

The Maggie Law museum, Johnshaven
 It was only a mile from Gourdon to Inverbervie and once across the town’s river the path petered out. It was then a case of scrambling up the rocks, following sheep tracks, walking through barley fields and climbing several fences to make my way to Tod Head lighthouse to meet Rohan. It was worth the effort.  

Beautiful cliffs North of Inverbervie but no paths

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?
  Rohan is an incredible lady that Sam put me in touch with as she does a lot of wild camping. She has climbed all the Munros  and the Corbetts and is an expert at wild camping so I had lots of questions. She was in the process of turning the lighthouse into her home and very kindly put me up for the night. Despite the building site and no running water in the main house Rohan cooked a wonderful dinner. I ‘camped’ at the top of the light tower listening to the howling wind and woke to the screaming birds. What a fantastic experience. Thanks Rohan.