276. Bettyhill to Strathy Inn

The forecast for the North West Highlands was a staggering 29 deg C! I had hoped that this forecast did not include the northern coast of Sutherland…..but I was wrong! By the time I had driven along the A836 from Thurso, the early morning fog had been burnt-off, leaving bright blue skies. By the time I reached my parking spot near The Strathy Inn it was very hot. With no cloud in the sky I was rather apprehensive about the days walk, as I never really like walking in the searing heat.

I caught the #800 bus, which although primarily a school bus service, is also available to the general public. The bus was heading for Bettyhill where I would start my walk. Before leaving Bettyhill I popped into the Post Office stores to get another 1ltr of water to supplement the 2.5lt I was already carrying. I walked a short distance along the A836 until I set off down a signed path to the empty beach. I walked to the end of the beach and picked up a grass track leading to Clerkhill. At Clerkhill I took a wrong turn and it was about 600m up a steep hill before I realised I had gone the wrong way. With the heat already having an effect on me I decided to stay on the road until it met the A836, something I had not planned to do. The heat, even though I had only been walking for an hour had become very fierce.
I decided I would try and get back on course by continuing along the A836 for another 2km and then turn off up to a radio mast on Cnoc Mor. This would put me closer to my intended course and more importantly maybe offer some shade! As I neared the summit the heat was intense and I was relieved to find buildings to give me shade. It was 11:15 and I decided I would stay put for at least 2 hours and recover in the shade of the main building. I made myself at home, making myself a seat and removing my boots and my sweat-soaked top, which I put out in the sun to dry! A gentle breeze finally got up and helped me to cool down. My water situation was very good and by 13:20 I was ready to go again.

Heading towards the beach at Bettyhill
The beach at Bettyhill
Heading up towards the transmitter tower on Cnoc Mor
The view westwards with Arkle and Foinavon in the far distance
Looking eastwards towards Hoy and Mainland on the Orkneys


I decided to set a bearing of due east on my compass to take me directly to Armadale over trackless terrain. After about 30 minutes I was overlooking Armadale Bay and could easily see my route ahead. I picked up a signed footpath down to an empty Armadale beach. Although two footbridges appeared on the map, they were not needed, as I walked over the two river outflows on the beach without getting my feet wet.


Looking towards The Strathy Peninsula from above Armadale, the Orkneys can be seen in the far distance
Armadale Beach
Crossing over Armadale Beach

I was now walking on the western side of the Strathy peninsula. Although trackless I was able to keep to the shoreline on the cliff-tops by simply walking through machair grass covered fields. I eventually arrived at the hamlet of Brawl, which I bypassed, and headed up the small rise of Cnoc Dubh (114m). I could now see my route ahead out towards Strathy Point. The ground I was on was still recovering from wild fires some years back. Although some vegetation had grown back I was mainly walking on blackened earth. Only a few weeks before, 5 miles away, wild fires had flared up and closed the A836.

I passed close to the hamlet of Aultivullin and then headed NE across boggy terrain to Totagen, near Strathy Point. I did not have the energy to do an out and back to the lighthouse, and so decided to head south 3km along the road back to the car.

A very tough day and glad the heat will not be as great tomorrow.

Heading up the western side of the Strathy Peninsula
Collapsed blow-hole Geo with natural arch near Aultiphurst
Looking back from above Brawl on Cnoc Dubh
Heading towards Aultivullin
Looking east towards Dounreay from near Strathy Point
Strathy Point
Cut peat drying

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:



Distance today = 16 miles

Total distance = 4,997 miles




3 thoughts on “276. Bettyhill to Strathy Inn”

  1. A shame it was so warm, but at least the sunshine made for some nice photos. I was also staying in Thurso for this walk and drove to Bettyhill. Then I walked to Clachan and around Farr bay (lovely beach) and managed to find a way right along the cliffs top for most of the way (following sheep paths I think). I headed down to Armadale beach and crossed the streams on the beach as you did and then made my way up to the road east of Armadale bay at Lednagullin and caught a bus from the junction of the road from there to the A836 and took the once-daily Stagecoach bus back to Bettyhill. Catching the school bus in the morning as you did would have meant missing breakfast at the hotel!

    The Stagecoach bus (you have probably seen it) runs once per day each way between Bettyhill and Douneray/Thurso I think primarily for workers there.


  2. Hi Jon, i cannot remember the last time i had breakfast at a B&B, i’m always away at the crack of dawn to catch the first bus. I spoke to a bus driver and he said there was still about 3000 workers at Dounreay!! What do they do?
    When are you up next? I presume Skye is still on the itinerary?


    1. My next trip is in a couple of weeks. After that I’m not sure. Hoping to do another trip after that too but it depends whether I make it through the latest round of redundancies at work 😦

      I don’t think I’m going to make it to Skye (or the Kyle of Lochalsh) this year. I think I’m planning to concentrate on finishing the mainland first and come back and do the islands later (of which Skye is top of the list). But I might change my mind when I get that far!


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