Today we left our base camp, the Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness. This had become a second home for many of us having spent 3 nights there. We were royally looked after by Frances and her team. We can wholeheartedly recommend that you visit Smoo Cave Hotel (and indeed the caves at Smoo Cave) when you are next in Durness.
A theme that is developing on this walk is meeting generous, wonderful and fascinating people, strangers, who are interested in our story and who want to support us. Yesterday we met two ladies on the slipway at Keodale, as we got off the Cape Wrath ferry, who made a donation (thank you!). In the car park was Susan who was cycling around Scotland, a massive Bill Bryson fan, who made a generous donation. This morning Arthur and his wife, also staying at Smoo Cave, slipped us a tenner in memory of a friend who recently died of cancer.
Today was the first of three consecutive road days. Twenty miles, tarmac and traffic! The good weather continued. For walkers this does not mean sunshine and 25 degrees. Especially not in midge country. For us this meant cloud cover, a gentle breeze (midges cannot operate in winds greater than 3mph) and a balmy 12-13 degrees.
As you can imagine, walking on a single-track road, that is also the only way into the most northerly point on the mainland, means that there is plenty of traffic. The first few hours were spent pulling over onto the verge as a stream of coaches, trucks, caravans, camper vans and cars sped past. But once the morning rush had subsided, we began to pick up the pace and found ourselves stopping for lunch at Rhiconich, a turn in the road with a stunning view of Loch Inchard and the only public toilets for about 50 miles in either direction. The loos/bathrooms were great and at risk. We were happy to sign the petition to keep them open.
Here, we met our first midges and, more importantly, Eddie the scientist. Eddie was a Scotsman on a cycling tour with friends who lives in Papworth. He had actually worked at Papworth and, as it turned out Great Ormond Street, and was now working on neurological degenerative drugs. He was thrilled to meet Eric, our heart transplant hero, and promised to make a donation.
Finally, litter, trash, rubbish. Call it what you will. This lovely, achingly beautiful country was full of it. We packed a bin bag and at the first sight of a plastic bottle half an hour into the walk we pulled it out and started picking up what we could reach (some of the stuff made it across the ditch and we really didn’t fancy getting wet to pick up a crisp packet). In three hours we filled a bin bag. Plastic bottles, cans, cigarette and crisp packets, sweet wrappers, etc, etc. The real shame here is that this is so unnecessary and creates such a blight on this wonderful landscape. Shame on the chuckers.
Ps those public toilets are under threat of closure. Go here to sign a petition to keep them open: