Day 73: 04 Jun 2014; Knockdamph to Lairg

Day 73: 04 Jun 2014; Knockdamph to Lairg
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 73
Date Wed 04 Jun 2014 Start to end time 09h 54m
Start point Knockdamph End point Lairg
Miles today 24.92 Cu miles 1,358.96
Ft today 2,293 Cu ft 191,473
Route miles left 165.81 Route ft left 15,877
Today’s weather Overcast in morning, long sunny intervals in the afternoon, cloud later. Light North Easterly wind. About 17C
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Today’s location
(the red cross in a circle shows where I am at the moment)
GPX based track of today’s walk
(click here to access to access downloadable file)

“One of the amazing things that I’ve discovered about the UK in the course of my journey is just how much variety is crammed into such a small country. Today was a real case in point. At 7 am I was on a bleak, windswept upland moor, taking down the tent and having breakfast in a desolate bothy. Yet just a couple of hours later, I discovered at Oykel Bridge, a luxurious hotel where I was not treated like something from outer space, but welcomed with fantastic tea and bacon sandwiches. The contrast couldn’t have been starker.

I slept reasonably well last night, but was glad to be in my tent rather than the lonely bothy. I was away quickly and descended the 4×4 track to Oykel Bridge, which seems to be a well-frequented fly fishing spot. Suitably refreshed at the hotel, I set off with a real spring in my step in the direction of Lairg.

In many ways, Oykel Bridge was a turning point – literal and figurative – on the journey. Here I left the Cape Wrath Trail, which hugs the West coast, and turned firmly East, in the direction of John O’Groats. It also marked the point where I finished the remote pathless traverse of the North West, and started road walking for the final push to the end. I’m sure at some point I will get to hate it, but today it was just pure joy to be walking on firm, flat tarmac, compared to the boggy struggle which has been the hallmark of the last few days’ walking. Also for anyone looking at the map of my route on this website, please note that I have now diverged from it quite radically, so the “distances to the end” are my estimates and probably don’t bear a direct relationship to reality anymore.

Somehow the weather, and the whole landscape, changed as I left Oykel Bridge. The sun became warmer, and the landscape softer and more rolling. It was almost as if I’d got on a plane at the bothy and arrived in the Mediterranean a couple of hours later. The road was quiet, and even though I had 15 miles of it to walk, the distance sped by and I luxuriated in the easy, struggle-free walking. I’d mentioned to the man serving me in the hotel how dry it seemed to be up here, and he confirmed that in fact they only have about 30 inches of rain a year. Previous to coming here, he’d worked at Seatoller, near Scafell Pike, in the Lake District. There, he said, they had around 150 inches a year so coming “up North” was for him a bit like coming to the Sahara (and for me, too, as it rained all the way through the Lakes on my journey).

Tonight I’m in Lairg, which is a “real” town with shops, streets and pubs. It’s the first one I’ve been in since Fort William and it’s quite a novelty. It’s in the county of Sutherland, which is the largest in the UK, and which is remarkable also in that there is only one set of traffic lights in it.

Tomorrow I’m heading firmly North on a nice straight road to Altnaharra, and I’m actually looking forward to it!”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Saying goodbye to the midgy bothy this morning. I survived! Grass decorated with jewels of dew on way down to Oykel Bridge
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From the sublime to the ridiculous – or vice versa.. Hotel at Oykel Bridge where I got an excellent bacon sandwich and tea – just a few miles from the desolate bothy Rolling, soft, countryside – complete with postman Pat – a million miles from yesterdays bleak moorland
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Good job this toilet in tonight’s campsite is clearly labelled or you might have mistaken it for a drinking fountain.. Lairg. A town. With roads, shops and streetlights. The first since Fort William, 9 days ago
Overlooking the lush valley – stark contrast with yesterday
The previous day’s blog follows below the blue line
Solid line blue