Monday 22 June 2015
St Cyrus to Tod Head, Catalline
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.
It has enormous cliffs behind it that were formed from the eruption of a volcano near Montrose a long time ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.