Day 74: 05 Jun 2014; Lairg to Altnaharra

Day 74: 05 Jun 2014; Lairg to Altnaharra
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 74
Date Thu 05 Jun 2014 Start to end time 08h 23m
Start point Lairg End point Altnaharra
Miles today 21.97 Cu miles 1,380.93
Ft today 1,252 Cu ft 192,725
Route miles left 104.11 Route ft left 5,470
Today’s weather Dull and overcast all day. Heavy rain in morning, lighter rain for rest of day. Moderate North Easterly wind. About 10C. No sun
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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)

“I liked today’s walk for three main reasons. The first was Empire biscuits. These are a peculiarly Northern Scottish delicacy and are basically two pieces of shortbread sandwiched together with jam and then decorated with a thick layer of icing and a fruit jelly. I had bought some as emergency rations as I left Lairg but after 5 miles I felt hungry and deemed that to be a sufficient emergency to warrant eating them. So I had all three and they were brilliant. Powered me all the way through to lunchtime, in fact.

The second reason for liking today was the Crask Inn. This pub at the roadside a little over half way to Altnaharra is so remote it makes the Tan Hill Inn on the Pennine Way seem positively cosmopolitan. I dropped in and there was a roaring fire in the stove in the front parlour, and a couple of other travellers there enjoying refreshment. I was chatting to a German visitor, who had cycled there from home in Germany, via the Shetland and Orkney islands. He was now cycling home and had already covered 3,000 km. Rather put my exploits to shame! Anyway I didn’t have a bacon sandwich(!) but rather to my surprise had a pot of tea and a goat’s cheese and nut flan. Excellent, in an excellent inn which I can’t recommend highly enough.

The third and possibly most significant reason was that today’s walk headed due North – no messing around with twists and turns, and I think in terms of degrees North travelled, today probably holds the record. So it was very satisfying, and my route has, briefly at Altnaharra, come back onto course with my original plan, so I now have only just over 100 miles left to go. Feels good!

The walk itself followed the single-track A836 all the way from Lairg, and alongside Loch Shin (another hydroelectric dam) for the first couple of miles. Despite being a “red” road, and therefore one that by my own rules I should avoid, it was quiet and the traffic relatively slow moving. Most of it was overseas holidaymakers with caravans – it’s clearly a Mecca particularly for Germans, as some of the road signs were even in German!

So hiking it wasn’t a problem at all – except that my feet took a bit of a pounding. The rain meant that everywhere was shrouded in mist, making the mountains and moorlands look gloomy and uninviting. The rivers were in spate and in complete contrast to the semi dried-up riverbeds I’d seen yesterday. I was extremely grateful that I’d completed the Kinlochewe to Oykel Bridge section when I did – a couple of days later and I think the several river crossings I’d had to make on the way would have been simply impassable.

Tonight I’m staying in a bunkhouse attached to the rather nice Altnaharra hotel. I’ve got the whole bunkhouse to myself, which makes it feel like rather like I’ve got an entire hotel suite. It’s fantastic, and I’m making the most of it as I’m wild camping the next two nights.

Tomorrow I’m camping near the Garvault Hotel, which is the remotest in Britain, and it’s highly unlikely that I will have internet access. The night after I am wild camping near Altnabreac where there definitely won’t be any access. So the daily blogs for tomorrow (Friday) and the day after (Saturday) probably won’t appear until sometime on Sunday.

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Leaving Lairg this morning and checking out the last shop for 4 days. Also noticing that too many sticky toffee puddings may be giving me a double chin… Pine trees in full “bloom” – these are the male flowers which produce clouds of pollen on dry days. Today all the puddles had yellow beaches of pollen.
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The Crask Inn. Nothing synthetic about this authenticity. It was brilliant Not sure exactly which Mackays they are, but I am now in their country
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The overnight rain had turned the rivers into brown torrents. So glad this hadn’t happened when I was in the mountains The Altnaharra Hotel. I’m staying in the bunkhouse behind the hotel – excellent as there are no other residents in it tonight!
Panorama looking towards Ben Klibreck. My original route anticipated walking more or less straight across this wild bogland directly to John O’Groats. I must have been insane.
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