So, our final day arrived. Like all days of long walks the final one is a mixture of emotions, relief that you are getting the job done, sadness that that two weeks of walking in the most remote part of Britain is coming to an end and satisfaction of a well spent ‘holiday’.
We had the luxury of a Spa (shop not posh health club) this morning to buy food items such as pears, apples, tomatoes and an avocado – fresh food trail magic. We then had an easy four mile road walk to the car park at Blairmore where the John Muir trust who care for Sandwood Bay and surrounding area have provided some toilets and nice places to rest – so out came the kettle for some tea. There was plenty of people about looking to camp on the beach over the Bank Holiday weekend and we enjoyed the next four mile section down to Sandwood Bay.
The area is really beautiful and seeing the beach and the sea after such a long journey was fantastic. We had lunch in a sheep fold sheltering from the wind and then made our way down to the beach and dipped our toes into the Atlantic…. cold, so very cold.
The final 8 miles of the walk were over pathless peat moors but the sun was shining yet again and the bogs were mostly dry. We stopped off at our last Bothy at Strathchailleach where I had stayed with Ginger a few years ago when it snowed. I even found our entry in the Bothy book from back then.
Sandy (not my Brother, Ginger)
This was home to James McRory- Smith, better known as Sandy who lived here for 40 years as a hermit with no gas, electricity or telephone. It has a great supply of peat to burn and another lovely place to stay. (if you like your accommodation to be basic)
We had The Cape in our sites though so off we slogged for another two hours of bog hopping, climbing the MOD fence and over the last couple of passes before the descent to the pot holed road where you walk for the final 2km to the lighthouse.
It was hard work but as the guidebook says, the remoteness is intoxicating and it was a day we will remember as we rounded the final corner and there it was! Our destination.
There isn’t much at The Cape apart from The Lighthouse, just some abandoned buildings and the fantastic Ozone Cafe run by John Ure and his daughter which is open all year round.
The Cape Wrath Ultra was finishing the next day and we had a lovely evening in the company of Stuart Smith and some of the other staff working on the event – the bunk room was full (this was a great space by the way, basic but really warm and cosy) but we were allowed to sleep on the floor of the cafe which was really generous of the owners as the wind was pretty strong up there.
We also chatted to Adam who was walking with Martin the donkey from Cape Wrath to Portland Bill in Dorest – I love the eccentricity of the human race, good luck to them both who are raising money for the young peoples homeless Charity, Centrepoint. You can follow there intrepid journey at http://www.adamwalks.com or Twitter @adamwalks. Martin isn’t too keen on bogs so the first 250 miles will be tough.
We slept well and packed up our beds before the first runners came in at about 10.30 and the team at Ourea events kindly ensured we got on the first minibus to the ferry over the Kyle of Durness. We also saw Dan, The Scottish-American on his approach to the end, we salute him and all the other people we met walking the trail.
Thanks to Fred for some beautiful pictures (the one above was the last and the best) and for being such a brilliant walking companion again. We have learnt over the years the joys of walking and team work and good company along with humour is much needed on long hard treks like this. It might not be everyone’s idea of a holiday but for us it is a slice of heaven, carrying all your gear and food on your back day after day and enjoying the simplicity of moving from one place to another.
The guidebook says, “It’s easy to get sucked back into the hectic pell-mell of everyday life, leaving trail memories distant, detached and unreal. But try to hold on to some of the sedate pace of wilderness, remembering the simple pleasures of getting from one place to another, surviving and traversing a landscape that has existed since time immemorial”
The Cape will be standing, solid and immovable a giant buttress to the wild Atlantic, long after our time has come and gone and we were there, in that place in that moment.
Finally, our bodies and our kit just about held up, gashed arms, (Fred’s arm is healing nicely) dug in ticks, broken cutlery, lost sunglasses, malfunctioning zips and one sorry state of a backpack. It got me to the end after I had the idea of removing the back support and placing it over the gaping hole just before my kit fell out into another bog. I have promised the spare parts to Stuart Smith from Nav4. The sleeper train beckons from Inverness after a vegan pizza tomorrow.