|The walking party, 23 May, at Ord House Hotel|
Tom, Susan, Elinor, John and Stuart
So we set off in fine weather, first of all to walk for a mile or more through Alness itself. The town has a grand, wide main street, and a few large 19th Century houses in the centre. But most of the fringe of the town is much newer, and we
|Alness - a handsome centre|
At last we were out of Alness itself, and on the minor road to Mossfield. This was the start of what I had planned to be one of the two off-road parts of the day’s walk (although in the event it was the only one). It started with a grassy track between two houses, a kissing gate made of plyboard with scarcely room to squeeze through, and then a few hundred metres of muddy track through woodland. It meant rougher going, which we all found a little more tiring than road walking, but it was certainly more enjoyable.
|A continuous roll of silage. How do they do this?|
The next stage was a long, steady uphill haul - just the sort of gradient that seems easy but actually takes some effort. To our left was a field of rape in full bloom, now stinking with overtones of cabbage; to our right there was what is obviously a major riding establishment, complete with a covered manège and extensive stabling. There were also several holiday cottages, which underlined the fact that this is a major operation. As Stuart and John commented, it’s probably more profitable than farming. And shortly afterwards we came across an area where flags were flying around a paddock, and a field was being marked out for parking. Presumably some major horsy event was due to take place over the bank holiday weekend, thought there was no signage explaining what it was to be.
The hope that we would meet up with Elinor and Susan by noon had obviously been wildly optimistic. It was already close to 12:00 and we still had more than two miles to go. Frequent exchanges of phone calls kept putting the time back. But at least it wasn’t only my optimistic assessment of how long it would take: Elinor and Susan had been dropped by their taxi well short of the intended meeting place, so had to walk more than a mile themselves.
Although the trees had all gone, leaving large areas of moonscape, they had left a few trees at the roadside, and the felled area had the most extensive and dense growths of bog cotton I have ever seen. I remember lots of bog cotton from the Pennine Way a couple of years ago, but this was much more remarkable.
We actually managed to walk past the point where Elinor and Susan had found a picnic table, and they had to call us back. It was now much chillier, so our lunch didn’t detain us long. Then it was the final stretch, downhill pretty well all the way to Kildary.
|The most intense gorse yet|
We called for the taxi that had taken Susan and Elinor up to meet us, and it collected us from Kildary after no more than a few minutes wait. So we arrived at our next hotel, the Carnegie Lodge in Tain, by early afternoon.
Bright, but with a fair amount of cloud, and occasionally chilly in the wind. Better later in the day. 14 to 18C. 18.55 km, 260 m of ascents and 232 m of descents. Minor roads for most of the journey, apart from one two-mile section through woodland and fields.