Sunday, 31 May 2015

Navidale to Berriedale

Rain had been promised; rain duly arrived. Steady, persistent rain, with the cloud base at no more than 200m. So John, Wendy and I were well wrapped up for the ordeal.

Tunnel under the A9 leading to ...
I had studied the map thoroughly before setting off. It appeared that there was a track that went down from a car park a mile and a half along the A9, crossed the burn that cuts a deep cleft in the coast, and then climbed up the other side to finish about 300m from the A9 some way to the east. I had studied the satellite pictures on Google Earth, and thought we could then walk on to a small wood, and on to a further track beyond.

... a promising path, but it petered out after the lookout
It was not to be. We walked down to where we expected to find the footbridge, only to find a small building that looked like some kind of wartime lookout over the sea beneath. Beyond it there was a perilous-looking path with steep slopes down to the sea, and plenty of awkward vegetation to trip the unwary. It was certainly quite inadequate to justify the track symbols that appear both on the 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 OS maps. This wasn’t the only OS map error: several of the spot heights shown on the A9 had not been converted from feet to metres.

However, whatever the map said, for us there was no alternative but to retrace our steps back up to the car park. And with there being no alternative to a wet walk along the A9 John and Wendy not surprisingly decided enough was enough. I can’t say I blamed them. Lunch and the afternoon at Dunrobin Castle would be a much better alternative.

Into the final county - in cloud
For me it was then just a long slog on to Berriedale. There were one or two opportunities for a few minutes’ respite by following the old path of the road before it had been improved, but even then some of those shown on the map proved not to be practicable. So it was two hours of unremitting A9. Anything above 170m or so was shrouded in mist – or more accurately, cloud. And it never stopped raining.

The Berriedale river in full spate
I arrived at Berriedale well before 2:00. Susan had offered to collect me, but I remembered that there was a bus some time after the hour, and besides, there was no phone service. So I couldn’t check the time of the bus. It was just a question of waiting. But at least the rain had stopped.

The bus eventually arrived just after 2:30. I have never been more pleased to see one!

Rain throughout – but clearing after I had finished the day’s walk. 10 to 12C. 14.95 km, 315m of ascents and 340m of descents, including unsuccessful diversion down track. Almost all on A9 apart from fruitless diversion and a few short stretches on the former route of the main road.

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