288. Helmsdale to Golspie

With autumn moving on I needed to continue with my walk around the Scottish coast and so headed north for a three day trip to Sutherland. Although I drove up the day before, on this occasion, I did not sleep in the back of the car, instead preferring to stay a night in my chosen Airbnb at North Cadboll.

The following day I set off from Cadboll, about 6 miles from Tain, and drove to Golspie station where I parked. I waited for the 9:18 train to Helmsdale, which although signed as on time turned up 15 minutes late.

The weather forecast was not looking good, as it was down for light rain until midday, in fact, it drizzled on and off for most of the day. I got off the train at Helmsdale with the low lying cloud and mist covering the surrounding hills. I was amazed to still see a number of Swallows flying about, as I think they had disappeared from where I live a few weeks back. I walked towards the A9 and picked up from where I last walked a few weeks ago. Fortunately, I would only be on the A9 for half-mile a mile, before I crossed the railway line and joined the rocky shoreline. I actually spent the rest of the walk on the foreshore and did not emerge back onto the A9 until I reached Golspie, which was very pleasant and not a single barbed-wire fence to cross!

I soon found a line of good firm sand to walk on, punctuated by occasional rocky sections. Other times I transferred onto a feint grassy foreshore track which was soaking wet and ultimately seeped through my boots after about 10 miles. The low cloud ensured I had few views which meant few photos especially as it meant tediously taking my camera out of its plastic bag and case because of the rain.

I was accompanied for most of my route by the single track railway line, which saw little traffic – only a couple trains passed me all day. The A9 had disappeared about a mile inland and occasionally re-joined the shoreline. I had a few burns to cross, which presented no problem, however, near to Lothberg I had to cross outfall from The River Loth. I tried a number of ways to try and cross the outfall, including dumping a number of rocks into the river to make some stepping stones, this idea failed miserably. I could have walked inland a short distance to pick up the railway line and then cross over via the railway bridge, but decided as my feet were already wet to just go for it! Surprisingly my feet did not get too wet doing this.

At Clynemilton, both the A9 and the railway came right up alongside the shoreline, but with high tide still an hour away I was able to squeeze past on the rocky foreshore. I reached the outskirts of Brora and continued along the golf course boundary. I walked to the mouth of the River Brora and turned inland a short distance into the town. I crossed the river via the old bridge, which was adjacent to the A9 and set off again for the shoreline.

At Helmsdale station with my train departing for Wick
Crossing the tracks onto the shoreline (NB the darkened surround effect was an unintended camera setting)
The route ahead
Looking back at the River Loth, which was harder to cross than it actually looked
Jurassic Sandstone-Breccia was quite common along the shoreline


Arriving at the River Brora

Back on the shoreline I surprised myself by coming upon a small group of Harbour Seals. I managed to divert around them, not wishing to disturb them. After a short distance I met another walker who was heading north along The John o’Groats Trail. He was carrying a full pack and wild camping along the way. I advised him of some of the difficult sections further north.
I could now make out Dunrobin Castle in the distance, which coincided with a flat section of land which had a set of farm tracks that made walking very easy. I visited the substantial Broch at Carn Liath, sitting alongside the busy A9. The broch was very impressive and I could get a good idea of its height and scale. I continued into the grounds of the dramatic Dunrobin Castle, the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland. After being used as a boarding school for seven years, it is now open to the public. The path to Golspie skirted the Castle grounds and I continued through a field of unharvested oats into Golspie.

It had been a tough day days walk with an even tougher day planned for tomorrow.

Harbour seals near Brora
Carn Liath Broch
Looking back north over Carn Liath Broch
Dunrobin Castle
Crossing the Golspie Burn

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 = 21 miles
Total distance = 5,242 miles



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