Sunday, May 27, 2012


I was prepared for the final part of my journey to be quite difficult. My guidebook talks about rivers that are difficult to cross and an absence of defined paths. As it turns out, I find myself in the middle of a heat wave. The streams are almost dry, there isn't a cloud in the sky and the sea is still and glittering in the sunlight.

For the last six days I have passed through a landscape that seems literally timeless. Huge mountains, crowned with shattered rock - pale and still in the sunlight. Every hollow in between holding a loch - some large, others tiny. And everywhere a warm breeze fragrant with the smells of the slowly drying vegetation. The black peat mud is cracked and baked to the consistency of chocolate brownie and takes my weight. The sphagnum moss - normally sodden with water - dried to a crackly pale grey. The stones I choose to anchor my guy ropes are heavy, coarse and crystalline, sparkling with minerals.

At night it never gets quite dark. As I lie in my tent watching the sun sliding at a shallow angle behind the mountains I momentarily forget where I am. This feels like a world that might have existed millions of years ago, when our ancestors moved across a similar landscape - maybe even marking the way with piles of stones. I make a new pile myself - careful to check it indicates the correct route. I wonder how long it will last and whether people will add further stones of their own.

Right now though I am 'back in civilisation', staying at the Kinlochbervie hotel for the sake of a shower and to wash my clothes. I'm just two short days from the end of my journey and I'm experiencing a mixture of extreme tiredness and an emotion somewhere between elation and horror at the distance I have come. I'll be home soon and that's exactly where I intend staying for quite some time. But first there's Sandwood Bay - one of my favourite places. I'll camp there tomorrow night and do the short walk to Cape Wrath the next morning.

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