287. Helmsdale to Latheron

Very little to say about this section, mainly because I had decided to walk down the A9 from Helmsdale back to Latheron. It started to rain on leaving Helmsdale and did not stop until I reached Latheron. I only managed to take 6 photos because of the rain and with the clag had descending for most of the walk  there were none of the views I had enjoyed on my first two days walking. By the time I reached Latheron I was soaking wet from head to foot. It was a concern that water had penetrated my Rab walking jacket, causing my phone, camera, car key and wallet in the inner pockets to become wet. Bizarrely water had also got into my plastic map carrier and soaked my maps!

Anyway, I had parked at Latheron Community Hall and caught the early morning X99 bus service towards Inverness getting off at Helmsdale. It had stopped raining as I climbed the hill out of Helmsdale, but promptly started again when I reached the top. The highlight of this walk was meeting a fellow long distance walker and discovering that he was just three days away from completing an epic Lands’ End to John o’Groats walk. This was Richard, a 70+ year old who had reached this point by mostly using National Trails, but today was staying on the road. Richard, in his youth had climbed many of the Scottish Hills, but now concentrated on low level walking.  After 3 or 4 miles of sharing stories I bid Richard goodbye.

I was a bit worried with the roadworks around Berriedale. Berriedale is a small hamlet on the A9 where the Berriedale and Langwell Waters cut a deep channel through the surrounding hills causing a steep descent and ascent for the A9. Currently work is underway to improve the bends of the road. I was unsure what provision was made for pedestrians, in the end I just walked through the roadworks.

I continued onto Latheron, where, as I approached the hamlet the clouds disappeared and the rain stopped and I was in bright hot sunshine. Glad this section was done.

Looking back at Helmsdale
Descending into Berriedale
Walking out of Berriedale
Crossing Dunbeath Water at Dunbeath
Looking back with the sun out and arriving at Latheron

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 = 19 miles
Total distance = 5,221 miles




286. Latheron to Wick


After yesterday’s tough day I was hoping for a slightly easier day. I decided to leave my car in Wick and reverse my walking direction to save fuel. I caught the early morning X99 bus service towards Inverness and got off at the small hamlet of Latheron, where the A9 joins the A99.

I decided to get some miles under my belt by walking back along the A99 to Lybster. The road was quite quiet at this early time of the morning. I was really not looking forward to beating my way around the coastline between the cliff-top and the farmer’s fences. After walking through Lybster and buying some biscuits I decided to get back on to the cliff-top at Occumster. Unfortunately because of a residential properties I could not get onto the cliff-tops. I retraced my steps back to the main road and walked a short distance before trying another access road. At the end of this road was a farm that was used as a scrapyard as well as a huge silage store area. I got onto the cliff line and changed into my walking boots and then set off along the JOGT. It was not long before I arrived at a section where the crofter/farmer had just dumped rubbish over the fence. I managed to get around this, then arrived at a section where the ground had fallen into a  large Geo and it was not possible to get by. I retraced my steps and started climbing barbed-wire fences. After an hour of walking along the cliff top I had covered something like 1.5 miles. I was getting annoyed with this and decided to re-join the main road, which was some 200m away. I changed back into my trail shoes.

Looking south from Latheron
White Head near Occumster
Waterfall near Occumster
Ruins at Clyth Harbour

As I continued down the main road it started to rain, but it did not last long. I soon reached Whaligoe and in particular The Whaligoe Steps. The Steps are not marked with any road sign and obviously cannot be seen from the road. I followed a row of fisherman’s cottages and descended next to an old farmstead now used as a cafe and gift shop. The 330 flagstone steps take you down to a small harbour situated in a small Geo or Goe inlet. The harbour has a small quay called The Bink where herring was offloaded. The harbour was used up until the early 1960’s. The ruins of the salt store and an old winch are the only reminders of a place that was very busy during most of the 19th Century. Maintenance work on the steps was currently being carried out by a stonemason I noticed as I laboured back up the steps to carry on with my walk.

The JOGT passed close to the top of the steps so I took the opportunity at getting back on the cliff-top. I got about 100m before turning back. I decided to continue up the road for about half a mile and cross some rough ground to pick up a farm track. The track had long since disappeared but after walking over the brow I could look down at the deserted farmhouse and buildings of Mains of Ulbster. A short distance from the farmhouse was a mausoleum, built on the site of the old St Martins Chapel. I continued around Loch Sarclet along a series of minor roads and headed towards a track over the Moss of Iresgoe. That track had also long disappeared, but my route soon had me arriving back on the cliff-top at Ires Geo.

Heading down The Whaligoe Steps
Looking back up The Whaligoe Steps
By the salt store at Whaligoe looking north along the cliffs
Heading back up the recently renovated steps

I was now walking over open moorland for the next few miles which was a welcome relief. As the moorland disappeared, more cultivated land appeared leading to the re-appearance of triple strand barbed-wire. However, the underfoot conditions of the path improved as more foot fall had created a more definitive route. I passed around an increasing number of Geos with some impressive sea stacks that I paid little attention to as fatigue was now setting in.  However, I did see the famous Brig o’Stack, a sea stack that is still connected to the mainland by a land bridge (sorry no photo). I was glad to reach the old firing range and Old Castle of Wick  – one of the oldest castles in Scotland. I walked through Old Wick and down to the quayside, where a small flotilla of fishing boats had been returning from a day’s fishing. I had been walking for over 9.5 hours, it had been another long hard day.


The Mausoleum at Mains of Ulbster
Heading across the Moss of Iresgoe
The Stack o’Brough
The Old Castle of Wick
Heading down into Wick

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 = 24 miles

Total distance = 5,202 miles


285. John o’Groats to Wick

It was time for another three day trip to the North of Scotland. I drove up the day before but was a bit concerned when all three lanes of traffic ground to a halt on the M6 close to the Shap summit. An Air Ambulance landed just a few hundred yards away, four fire engines  roared up the hard shoulder together with two ambulances and countless Police cars. I thought I would be stuck for a while, but the wait was only about 40 minutes. When I passed the scene of the accident it appeared to be a two car collision, but fortunately without massive damage to the cars . On my return home 3 days later I came upon two accidents, this time on the A9 and both at road junctions within a mile of each other at Tain.

I slept in the back of my car that night and drove onto Wick the following day. I caught the #77 bus service to John o’Groats. By 8 o’clock I was setting out from John o’Groats along the coast towards Duncansby Head. Today’s walk would be predominantly along footpaths, tracks and away from roads. I soon picked up trail markers for The John o’Groats Trail (JOGT), a trail I had never heard of before. This trail, as with The Cape Wrath Trail, is basically an advisory route, that is relatively new and a work in progress. The JOGT which runs from Inverness to John o’Groats predominantly hugs the coast, in particular, the narrow strip of land between the sea and farmers fences. Most of the trail has some signage and there are occasional pieces of infrastructure like a stile or small wooden bridge, underfoot there is little evidence that anyone has ever walked there before. Irritatingly, the indicated trail follows the field periphery. You could revert to the walking through the fields which is much much easier, however, you will be crossing multiple barbed wire fences – lots of them. In Caithness they seem to specialise in triple strand barbed-wires fences, most fences usually have a single or double strand of barbed wire, but three strands make it more difficult to climb over, time consuming and ultimately tiring. Where the land on the fence periphery has disappeared due to erosion, I had to make a number of excursions into fields.

Heading towards Duncansby Head

I set off from the lighthouse at Duncansby Head. Even though it was still quite early, there were many people already at the lighthouse, most them having camped there. I was now heading south, for the first time in many years! Ahead I could make out the Duncansby Stacks and I followed a wide and well-trodden path over short cropped grass out towards them. The coastline along this section is amazing and the early morning sun showed it as its best. I passed a number of other stacks and Geo’s, one in particular, Wife Geo, was an amazing feature, with a huge sea stack set within the large Geo itself.

Duncansby Stacks
Duncansby Stacks
Looking back to Duncansby Head with the stacks in the foreground and The Orkneys in the far distance


Wife Geo with its sea stack set within the Geo itself

I followed the JOG trail around into Freswick Bay and passed by Freswick Castle, which now seemed to be occupied. By the time I reached the ruins of Bucholie Castle I had had enough of the thigh high vegetation and it had taken an age to get this far, also the constant climbing over fences had begun to wear me down. With the road only 200 – 300 metres away I decided to make up some time and continue down the A99. I arrived at the village of Keiss and walked down to the harbour and then along the shore. Before me stretched out the sweeping 3 – 4 mile beach of Sinclair Bay. The sand underfoot was firm and I made good time. I was a bit concerned about the dark clouds forming overhead, fortunately, they did not yield any rain and after a while it turned brighter again.

Heading along Freswick Bay
The ruins of Bucholie Castle
Old and new Keiss Castle
Heading around Sinclair Bay

I crossed over the River Westerly while still on the beach without getting my feet wet. I was now heading out towards Noss Head Lighthouse. With the beach running out I transferred back onto the land and passed the restored Ackergill Tower and then onto the small village of Ackersgillshore. The JOG followed a reasonable path towards the ruins of Sinclair Castle Girnigoe. Work had been done on stabilising the ruins so I could explore the interior of the castle. From the info boards you could see that that the castle was originally a very impressive building at the beginning of the 17th Century.
I passed by the lighthouse at Noss Head and headed along a cliff footpath towards the village of Staxigoe. The rest of the walk was basically walking through the built up areas of Staxigoe, Papigoe and into Wick itself.

Ackergill Tower
Sinclair Castle Girnigoe
Sinclair Castle Girnigoe
Heading towards Staxigoe
Low tide at The Wick River, Wick

This had been a great walk along a fantastic coastline. It had taken almost 10 hours, mainly due to following the JOGT and walking around boundary fences through long grass. I will persevere with the walk tomorrow along the JOGT, but perhaps be a bit more selective. I made my way to my Airbnb room close to the harbour and with a superb view out to the open sea. I was virtually next door to the most northerly Weatherspoon’s pub, The Alexander Bain. Unfortunately the pub was put up for sale in March 2019, but as yet, not found a buyer.

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 = 25 miles

Total distance = 5,178 miles



284. Freston to Manningtree

It had been a few weeks since I had last been for a walk. This was due to the deteriorating health of one of our three dogs. Roxanne Tinkerbell Chutney was a rescue dog that had been with us for 13 of her 14 years. She was part of our family and she gave us so much in her life. Three days ago we had to make an extremely difficult decision, her condition had become bad and it was time to let her go. She will forever be in our hearts. Rest in peace my beautiful girl.

Roxanne Tinkerbell Chutney 2005 – 2019

I decided to do quite a long day on this visit to Suffolk, so I set off very early from Shropshire. As usual I had serious misgivings about catching a specific train from Manningtree, where I intended to park. The problem was the massive road works around Huntingdon and Cambridge, nearly every night the A14 is closed and diversions are put in place. The first diversion was at Huntingdon where yet again poor diversion signage meant that traffic was re-directed back down the A14 westwards, it was chaos with large articulated lorries reversing down the carriageway and cars trying to cross the carriageway. I managed to get past this diversion, but was later confronted with “A14 East Closed”, I along with many large lorries followed the diversion signs into Cambridge, which then disappeared and A14 west signs appeared! I saw a diverted traffic sign and headed towards Ely,  trying to keep to the north while heading east. I finally re-joined the A14 near Newmarket. I had lost about 45 minutes. I must seriously look at an alternative route when I next drive to Essex.

I parked up in Manningtree in Essex and set off to walk to the Railway station where I caught the train to Ipswich. I had a tight bus connection in Ipswich and a 15 minute train delay meant I had just 3 minutes to catch my bus. I managed it …….just and was really relieved to get off the bus at Freston and begin my walk.

I would be following the Stour and Orwell Walk, however, like The Suffolk Coast path, it spends a good deal of time away from the river even when there are existing paths running alongside both rivers. The path follows an old farm track which leads through the grounds of Woolverstone School, now a fee paying school and from 1992 is now  known as Ipswich High School. The path drops down to the Orwell River at Pin Mill. It’s still quite early and the local pub is just opening to serve coffee.  I continue on through Chelmondiston Woods and out along a sea wall or bank that protects some of the lower lying lands. I can pick out a number of sites on the far bank of The Orwell that I had passed through a few weeks back.

A field of Sunflowers near Freston
At Pinmill on The River Orwell
Looking back down The River Orwell from the sea bank near Shotley Gate
Looking across Harwich Harbour to the docks at Felixstowe
The Stena Hollandica bound for the Hook of Holland

The river swings around to the right and I am rewarded with the imposing sight of the huge cranes of Felixstowe. As I approach the marina at Shotley Gate, a huge Stena ferry is departing from Parkeston Quay, it’s the Stena Hollandica bound for the Hook of Holland. As I pass around Shotley Point I say goodbye to the River Orwell and hello to the River Stour. I don’t see a great deal of Shotley Gate as I remain close to the river. The Stour and Orwell Path has disappeared inland for some miles. I continued around Erwarton Bay passing Erwarton Ness and around to Holbrook Bay. I was getting tantalising glimpses of the Royal Hospital School and could not wait to get a better view. I don’t think I have ever seen a school like this before, with its huge clock tower dwarfing the two storey wings extending either side of it. The huge open grassed playing fields extended virtually right down to the river. A very impressive building and setting.

I eventually joined back up with the Stour and Orwell walk and continued along the river past Stutton Mill. I could now see Manningtree across the river, but first had to cross the railway line. Nearby to Marsh Farm I crossed the busy rail line via a bridge and headed down a concrete road past a sewage works. Further on I could see some construction work going on and close to the footpath I was on. Fortunately, a pedestrian walkway around the site was marked, but unfortunately, like this morning’s shenanigans around Cambridge onward signage was nowhere to be seen and a worker had to let me through the Arras fencing and into Cattawade. I joined the very busy A137 on a wide footpath and crossed over The River Stour via The White Bridge passing  out of Suffolk into Essex. A simple walk along the sea bank into Manningtree was all that needed to get me back to my car.

Looking down the River Stour from Shotley Gate
The curiously named “Johnny All Alone Creek”
The impressive Royal Hospital School
A worker operating a drone grass cutter at Seafield Bay
Hello Essex and goodbye Suffolk

Distance today = 22 miles

Total distance = 5,153 miles



283. Felixstowe to Freston

I left the Airbnb early and popped into a nearby MacDonald’s for a breakfast roll and coffee, not my usual fare but it filled a gap. I had the short drive then to a layby near to the village of Freston, close to the Boot Inn. I caught the 07:41 #92 bus to Ipswich railway station and then got the Felixstowe train.

By 9’oclock I was walking down Felixstowe high street with the sun out and blue skies all around. It was already quite hot. I linked up with the route from yesterday and headed through the suburbia of Felixstowe. I was heading towards the docks using back lanes and paths. I emerged close to a roundabout that marked the start of the A14, which I would not be walking along, but instead chose the A154. This led me to another road, solely for Industrial use. There were warning signs about trespass, but my maps indicated that the Stour and Orwell Walk, that I would be on for most of the day, used this road. My next objective was to cross a set of railway tracks at junction that served the adjacent container port. The gate across the tracks was locked. However, I did see a yellow phone box with a number to call. I picked up the handset and immediately a voice said “hello”. I said I needed to cross the tracks and the chap just said “right the gates are now unlocked”. I had to cross about 6 sets of tracks separated by a further 3 gates. I was dreading that the other gates would not open because there was no phone at the middle gate. I was soon across the tracks, which probably saved about a mile of having to walk inland.

I set off down a road which skirted the container port, hidden by a raised wooded bank. At Fagbury Point I emerged onto the sea bank of The River Orwell and continued along the edge of Trimley Marshes. I had brought my sunscreen umbrella along with its silver top to direct UV rays and black underside to absorb the indirect ones. However, the stiff and erratic breeze on top of the sea bank caused the brolly turn inside out on a couple of occasions – but I still got the benefits of the shade.

I passed the freshwater Loompit Lake, separated from the river, just by the sea bank and then onto the marina at Stratton. The footpath went right through boatyard, but I got my navigation spot on in picking up the footpath signs at its far side. At Nacton, the Stour and Orwell walk set off inland along a road. Here I made an error in not re-reading fellow coastal walker Jon Combe’s account who 11 years previously had successfully and ‘legally’ walked along the shoreline at low tide all the way from The Orwell Bridge.


Port entrace near to the start of A14
Railway crossing point
At Fagbury Point
Heading up the River Orwell
Looking towards Stratton Marina
Stratton Marina
Volunteers from Suffolk Wildlife Trust cutting back vegetation at Levington Creek
Impressive wrought iron gates Orwell Park School

I continued along the Ipswich Road, which was not as bad as I thought, emerging at an underpass of the very busy and noisy A14. I continued over a roundabout and along a short distance before turning off down a road signposted for the Orwell Country Park.

I had been rather apprehensive about crossing the Orwell Bridge on foot, even though you can walk across it on either side, I had read reports that  drivers sometimes report sightings of walkers on the bridge, thinking they are doing a good thing in preveting a potential suicide. However, the good thing about walking across the bridge is that you can actually see something, because when you drive over the bridge in a car all you can see is bridge barrier wall, which I suspect is intentional. The bridge was very noisy and very busy and  I was glad to be off it.

I followed the Stour and Orwell path off the bridge and across some fields that had recently been harvested. I walked the short distance along the B1080 towards Freston and to the layby where I had parked earlier that morning.

The Orwell Bridge
Looking back down river towards Felixstowe from the Orwell Bridge
The Orwell Bridge
Heading towards Freston

Distance today = 16 miles

Total distance = 5,131 miles




282. Woodbridge to Felixstowe

It was time for another trip to Suffolk and this time I decided to make it a two day trip with an overnight stay. I drove to and parked in Felixstowe, a town I had heard about but never visited. I was pleased to see that I had numerous options with the public transport on offer. Not so enjoyable was the early-morning drive over from Shropshire with a section of the M6 closed for overnight repairs and two sections of the A14 due to the major roadworks around Cambridge.

I used a direct bus service from Felixstowe to Woodbridge, the #173, alighting at the railway station and climbing the footbridge over the tracks. I continued along the banks of the River Deben on a beautiful sunny morning, with the occasional cloud giving shade from the already hot sun. With a refreshing breeze at my back I followed the well-defined riverside track around Martlesham Creek to Martlesham Hall where I had to divert inland. This would be the first of two occasions today when I would need to go inland, due to breaches in the riverside sea bank, purposefully done to create salt marshes.

After leaving Martlesham I made a slight navigation error, by heading towards Waldringfield Heath instead of Waldringfield. However, I carried on and it was not long before I entered the small charming village of Waldringfield with its unique houses built of brick on the ground floor and its timber-clad upper floors. I was tempted to sample a pint in the village pub, The Maybush, but I still had a long way to go. I walked along the shoreline of the Deben for a short distance before I had to start heading inland again to get around the second breach in the sea bank at Early Creek. I passed by White Hall and Hemley Hall before heading back to the River Deben. I was able to recognise many of the features on the opposite bank of the Deben that I passed through some weeks before.

Looking back up The River Deben towards Woodbridge
The Maybush at Waldringfield
Looking across the Deben to The Ramsholt Arms pub
A Black-Tailed Godwit

I was now on the excellent path atop the sea bank which would take me all the way to the mouth of the River Deben. Felixstowe Ferry sits at the mouth of the river and provides a foot passenger ferry service across the river to Bawdsey on the opposite bank. Felixstowe Ferry itself is an odd mishmash collection of house boats, wooden boatyard buildings, a pub and cafe’s. the place was very busy. I was amazed that some older children where swimming in the river, near the rocks and with the tide in full flow pouring in from the sea. A Coastguard vehicle was close-by, I suspected, aving given the youths some advice. On the same day, further down the coast at Clacton, three children had been recused from the sea while swimming below the pier; sadly a young girl of 15 had drowned.

I joined the sea wall proper and passed a converted Martello Tower, here I said goodbye to the River Deben and hello again to the North Sea. The sea wall was very busy with holidaymakers making great use of the hundreds of multi-coloured beach huts of all shapes and sizes. I was now back on the Suffolk Coastal Path, a path I have probably spent more times off than on, as it quite mercurial tending to drift quite some distance away from the coast.

The sea wall ended at Undercliff and I now had the option of climbing over high groynes and rocks or climbing the cliff and walking along the suburban road a short distance. I opted for the inland route passing large and impressive established residences. At Cobbolds Point I dropped down to the sea wall again and continued along the promenade, passing the many holiday makers, more beach huts, the pier and onto a spit of land that jutted out into Harwich Harbour. This was Landguard, containing a military fort, gun emplacements, a Nature Reserve and a brilliant viewing area for the massive adjacent Felixstowe ferry port, with its huge collection of cranes for container handling. Here the walk ended and I caught the bus back into the town and headed off to my Airbnb in Ipswich.

Looking across to Bawdsey at Felixstowe Ferry
The mouth of The River Deben with the tide now racing in
Heading towards Felixstowe, with the Martello Tower a permanent feature on the Golf Course
Old Victorian gun placements at Landguard
Huge container ship being unloaded at Felixstowe Ferryport

Distance today = 20 miles

Total distance = 5,115 miles