Neolithic Cairns: 2
Bleak. That's the adjective we heard, more than once, when we described our route from Lybster north. The normal route to John O'Groats goes up through Wick along the A99, a busy highway. There's also an alternative route, which follows an unnamed road north away from the coast, passing by Loch Watten. In the past three days we've had our fill of walking on A-roads, so we opted for the bleak route through the moor.
The road goes through the flow country, the largest expanse of blanket bog in Europe. We expected that there would be nothing but grasses growing on wet peat, but we were wrong. There were sheep pretty much scattered everywhere. There were wind turbines, and lots of construction of new turbines. There were thankfully almost no cars. There were even a few farms, though some, it seems, have seen better days.
The scenery alternated between open moor and forest. Seems that some of the flow country has been planted with trees, at the expense of the environment, for the tax benefit of wealthy Britons. At least, that's what Wikipedia says. They named Phil Collins as one of the bog destroyers! C'mon Phil, wasn't it bad enough what you did to Genesis? Do you have to wipe out the flow country too?
About half way along, we came to one of the most important neolithic archeological sites in Britain: the Camster Cairns. These stone structures have been here for five thousand years, back before the bogs formed, when this area was scrubland. The cairns are big igloo sort of structures made out of rock. You can crawl into the middle of them through a super tiny tunnel on your hands and knees. We both wimped out and just stayed on the outside. In the picture, the cairn is the big pile of rocks. The other thing is just a sheepfold, probably only a hundred years old, but I think it looks cool, so I didn't crop it out.
When the cairns were first excavated they found human bones and other artifacts in there. So archeologists think they were burial sites. Unfortunately, the cairns were first excavated a couple of hundred years ago before they had iPad apps to keep track of stuff, and so all the things collected back then has since been lost. We were happy about the nifty boardwalks leading to the cairns, so we could get to them without putting our boots on.
For lunch we found a nice rock outcropping and had the oat cakes, babybel cheeses, and apples that we'd picked up yesterday. Dawn got to eat a bag of hula hoops, too. I got a little peckish last night and ate my whole bag of pita chips before bed, even though I didn't mean to. I made my sad face at lunch today and Dawn split her hula hoops with me. Yay!
See how this is just a regular post so far, as if we're just going to keep doing this, day after day? That's because it has not yet sunk in that tomorrow is really our last day. If we had the kind of terrible, stormy weather that Ken had up here last year, then maybe the end would be easier to anticipate. But spring has arrived, and we've got a real nice rhythm down each day, so it's hard to imagine how soon it will be over.
But all good things must come to and end. We especially appreciate the kind words from commenters that they'd like us to keep going - but we miss our kids and friends and family. So after walking to John O'Groats tomorrow, we really will catch that bus down to Wick, then the train to Inverness, and then the airplane home.
It's a long walk tomorrow, something between sixteen and twenty miles, depending on who you believe. We're planning an early start; breakfast is scheduled for seven, and we hope to be on the road well before eight and get to that sign at the end of road in the mid afternoon.