Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 79: Dunbeath

Distance: 15.5 miles
Countdown: T minus 3

One of the frequently asked questions we've had on this trip is "doesn't walking every day get boring?". The answer is "no", because every day offers some new challenge, or new scenery, or interesting new people to meet, or something. That's been true for more than 11 weeks of walking. Seventy eight days, and every single one delivered something different. Until today. Today was an extension of yesterday. A day of walking north in pleasant weather along a busy highway, dodging lorries, marveling at the insanity of British drivers, oohing and aahing at cute lambs, and longing for the footpaths of the Borders, or the quiet lanes of Cornwall. It's not that I'm longing to be finished - far from it! - I just want to get off this damn highway. One more day.

On a more positive note, we are so glad to have not only Larry, but now also my Mom, Julie, and Julia, all doing something related to our walk for these last three days. To echo what Larry said, just do something vaguely related to our trip and then post a comment. Could be anything - go for a walk, or a run, have a wee dram, eat a lamb burger, drink a pint, get stuck in mud - anything! Your comments are the fuel we need to power through our last three days.

Yesterday's post mentioned the boar's head at our hotel, but I didn't have a good picture. This morning I fixed that, so you all could imagine how awesome it is to run into this guy on your way down for breakfast. You're welcome.

Once you get past the boar's head, and the dozens of deer heads, and the odd fish head, and miscellaneous other heads, you finally make it to the sweet and friendly head of Broxy.

Broxy gets a nice Scottish breakfast every morning: two slices of bacon and toast with butter, plus the odd sausage if guests don't clean their plates. He reminds me of a full size version of the fluffball puppy my sister just adopted.

We walked down and then up a couple of deep, wide valleys cut by beautiful looking streams. But mostly the road was on a plateau, a few hundred feet above the ocean. The plateau ended with a steep drop down to the water. With us on top were a few cows, lots and lots of sheep, and plenty of seagulls.

We walked by hamlets today that were so wee, you couldn't really tell where they were. Usually there was at least a house or two, but this place seemed to have nothing. I suffered nettle stings on my thighs for this picture, so I hope you like it.

Near Dunbeath we caught glimpses, through trees, of the turrets of an impressive white building at the water's edge. We knew from our map that it was Dunbeath castle. Just as we reached the best viewpoint, the bus stopped, and this man emerged carrying two shopping bags and a burlap sack.

I asked if he knew about the castle. "Oh, aye", he said, with a distinctive accent that must be the sound of the far north. We learned that the castle is a private residence, not open to the public. "Have you been in it?" I asked. "Oh, aye. My father was a handyman there for 34 years". His brother and he had worked there as well. I really enjoyed the conversation - what a terrific friendly man. After I snapped a picture of him, he pulled a camera out of his jacket, and got one of Dawn and I.

We saw the castle from across the bay tonight at dinner. Since there is only one restaurant in Dunbeath, our choice of where to eat was easy. We'd been told it was good, but were a little skeptical when we got there. Just check this out for curb appeal.

Picture the interior you'd expect when you walk through the door. I was thinking greasy spoon, probably with a view of a dumpster. Here's what we got.

A solid real ale from the local Orkney Brewery and great food. I had lamb hot pot, while watching lambs out the window! (Dawn had spaghetti.) We had an amazing view of the shoreline cliffs, castle perched on the edge, in the evening light. And the owner is personable, with a tenuous Oregon connection. In the eighties, he owned a horse that won a race (with a nineteen thousand pound payoff) at Cheltenham. The horse's name: Oregon Trail. He had a large photo of a younger version of himself, and an eighties looking lady, and a horse seventeen hands high.

Tomorrow, thankfully, is our last A-road walking: a short eight miles to Lybster. From there, we turn inland, for a two day walk through the flow country and to John O'Groats!

Location:Dunbeath,United Kingdom


  1. You are right - that boar's head IS awesome. The only thing that would be more awesome, given all the dead animal heads on the wall, is if the live dog had no head. Or if on your hikes, there were entire fields of animals with no heads.

  2. With a short walk tomorrow, you will be at Lybster before lunch. Have lunch down at the harbour!!

  3. Oh my gosh! I LOVE the boar's head on the way to breakfast! Gives a little life to that bacon and eggs! :0) I'm a little behind on blog posts so I'm going to go catch up now. Can't believe you're almost to the end of your journey! Wow. I have to say I'm both a little sad (it's been fun armchair traveling) and really excited to have you home! We miss you here.

    By the way ... I thought of you when I read about Annette tramping through Ireland (she's there right now participating in her geology field camp). She wrote, "... trekking through a bog. I truly understand the meaning of "bogged down" now. I learned pretty quickly that not every patch of ground is solid, no matter how stable it looks. One step and SCHLUUUUP, you're in up to your knees!"

    Sound familiar?

    Have a great last couple of days. You're both amazing. Can't wait to hear the tales live!

    Julie W

  4. suddenly i find myself in the mood for a wee dram. i think i'll google it so i know what it is, then have one.

    are you sure that's a boar's head? daryl & i are watching NCIS LA and they just showed a pic of a feral pig. she was inappropriately interested in deeks, if ya know who he is, and they decided she wasn't a boar but a pig. i'm just asking cuz she looks like family to the head on the wall there.

    i can't believe you're at the end of the walk too. seems like a long time and no time at all, all at once.

    on to read your blog from today.

    hugs, julie

  5. That picture of Mom and the dog might just be the most adorable thing ever. And why is mom way far in the distance in the picture of the guy? Did she not like him? Also Larry's comment is going to give me nightmares.