277. Strathy Inn to Dounreay

I was very relieved to see that the forecasted temperatures for today were considerably cooler than yesterday. In fact, it was overcast when I set off from Thurso on the drive to Strathy Inn where I parked.

I set off down the main road for a short distance until I reached Strathy Bridge where I took a signed footpath towards the beach, here I continued through very steep-sided sand dunes, climbing some difficult barbed-wire topped fences. I eventually reached the cliff-tops and walked through fields of machair, climbing more fences as I went along. The cliffs were very impressive, but difficult and dangerous to get a closer look at. I did drop down to the beach near to Baligill, close to the ruined Dun Mhairtein, where eroded sandstone had formed a thin arête-like sea stack – that just begged to be walked along! It was a great opportunity to test my nerve and I managed the highest and largest of the pinnacles before I turned around, not wishing to chance my luck any further. I continued along the cliff top walking out towards Rubha Beag. At Rubha Beag I headed south over boggy terrain towards Portskerra, but two steep ravines or geo’s pushed me further and further inland. In fact I was almost back on the A836 when I got to the second ravine, either caused by the stream cutting steeply through the sandstone layers or as a result by ancient action of the sea. After getting past this ravine I headed for the main road into Melvich.

At Strathy Inn looking eastwards
The arete stack near Dun Mhairtein
On the top of the arete
The arete stack near Dun Mhairtein
Complex coastline near Rubha Beag
Steep ravine near Portskerra

I was not on the main road for long as I turned off down a signed footpath that took me to Melvich Bay and Bighouse, the Estate Lodge. I crossed over The River Halladale via a footbridge, which the Highland Council advised me against. The bridge looked perfectly fine, except they perhaps should have warned against a group of Artic Terns, who continually dive-bombed me until I reached Bighouse. They did not make contact, but came very close! I spoke to one of the Estate workers who was repairing a gate and we chatted a while.

I climbed over a few fences and continued around Rubha an Tuir. There was a footpath that came and went, running across the cliff-tops. I came to more Geo’s, the larger of which was Geodh Eisgiadh which required a 600m detour to get around. I could now make out the Dounreay Nuclear Station or to give it is new name The Dounreay Nuclear Power development Establishment. I passed around more geo’s and arrived at the small harbour of Fresgoe. I joined a narrow road and continued into New Reay and onto the A836. Because, walking is not permitted around the decommissioned nuclear plant I would be on the main road for the next 3 or 4 miles. I reached the main gate of Dounreay and returned back to Reay where I was able to catch an afternoon bus back to Strathy Inn.

Bridge over the River Halladale near Bighouse
Dive-bombing Artic Terns on the River Halladale
Looking back at Bighouse and Melvich
The route ahead eastwards
Kittiwakes and Guillemots at Geodh Ruadh
Nesting birds at Geodh Ruadh
Interesting sea stacks at Geodh Eisgiadh
Walking around Geodh Eisgiadh
Looking towards Dounreay and Sandside bay
Looking towards Dounreay at Fresgoe

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 = 17 miles

Total distance = 5,014 miles



One thought on “277. Strathy Inn to Dounreay”

  1. It’s a stunning section this. I made it mostly around on the coast like you but it was hard work with no paths. I did Strathy to Read then used the once a day Thurso to Bettyhill bus to get back


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