Day 76: 07 Jun 2014; Garvault to Altnabreac

Day 76: 07 Jun 2014; Garvault to Altnabreac
Walk descriptor LEJOG2014 Day 76
Date Sat 07 Jun 2014 Start to end time 11h 26m
Start point Garvault End point Altnabreac
Miles today 31.07 Cu miles 1,432.66
Ft today 1,965 Cu ft 196,152
Route miles left 62.18 Route ft left 2,826
Today’s weather Brilliant sunshine all day until late evening, then cloudy. Calm at first, strong Easterly wind later. About 19C
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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)

“Today was a friendly sort of a day, which was just as well, because at 31 miles and eleven and a half hours of walking, it was also by far the longest day of the trek so far.

I’d spent the evening in the hotel bar last night, before retiring to my tent, and enjoyed chatting to the fishermen who were staying in the hotel – they’d not had much luck in catching anything so far. Then this morning, I made an early start in view of the long day, and hot-footed it the 9 miles down the road to Kinbrace, the nearest settlement (which, bizarrely enough, also boasts a railway station). I’d arranged with contacts who lived on the nearby coast at Helmsdale to meet here and take receipt of a parcel of provisions to get me through the next night’s wild camp. Whilst I was waiting, I also bumped into the hotel fishermen again – off to try their luck on a different loch – and picked up all the local news from the postman, who was just setting off in his van that morning. I also spoke to one of the locals who was out collecting his mail, and he explained that he – like the campsite managers near Altnaharra – split his time between summers in the Highlands and winters in Spain.

My food parcel delivery was duly received and it was real delight to take delivery of strawberry milkshakes, flapjacks and cans of stew, for dinner tonight. Essential, too, as there were no shops today and indeed haven’t been since Lairg.

Then once I set off again from Kinbrace, another friend phoned to see how I was getting on, and mentioned that he’d actually been on the forestry track to Altnabreac that I was proposing to hike this afternoon, and confirmed that it was in good repair and easy to follow. This was a relief as I’m still a bit hesitant to take Ordnance Survey cartography too literally. And especially so since the cheery postman had also mentioned that people tended to “go missing” on this section of the hike, and “disappear into the bog….” Which all sounded rather ominous.

And then when I got to the wild camp at Altnabreac itself, I was joined by two friends who were out on a cycling trip, They brought more food with them, so along with the cans of stew and rice pudding, we were able to have a fantastic picnic in quite possibly the remotest spot in Britain this evening. Totally surreal!

And even the weather was friendly today. Another of Scotland’s finest days. Bright sunshine and clear blue cloudless skies, with a breeze to keep the midges away, made the 31 mile hike as easy as it could be. Every step seemed to take me further into the wilderness – vast tracts of nothing, punctured by impressive mountains, some of which were almost volcanic in shape. The air was so clear I could see to Ben Hope, one of the most Northerly Munros, right out on the West coast, and almost as far as the North coast, with Dunnet Head now getting tantalisingly close.

Tonight I’m wild camping on the forest edge about a mile from Altnabreac railway station. “Station” is a bit of a misnomer – if you want the train to stop here you have to stand at the trackside and wave vigorously to attract the driver’s attention. It’s the eighth-least used railway station in the UK and in fact nobody seems sure why there is a station here at all, since there is no habitation and no roads for miles around.

A slightly shorter day tomorrow, to Watten loch where I’m camping – though I realise that I will have to make a bit of a detour to get to Halkirk for more supplies for Monday’s trek. But the end is in sight now, so I’m happy to just grit my teeth and do the extra miles!”

Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
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Lonely burial ground, near Kinbrace Taking delivery of new provisions for next stage of the journey, at Kinbracee
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Looking North from the road to Forsinard, with Lochan Ruathair and Ben Grian Beg Forsinard seemed to be an unhappy place today. The hotel had shut down, and plans by the RSPB to develop a big new visitor centre had upset the locals
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On the forestry road to Altnabreac. It just gets remoter and remoter Wild camp at Altnabreac tonight
Panorama looking South West over the Flow country from the road between Garvault and Kinbrace
The previous day’s blog follows below the blue line
Solid line blue