Alness to Dornoch – 21.8 miles (994.7 total)
Our route out of Alness, like the previous 2 days, was the relatively easy-to-follow NCR1. We set off at 9am to Alness town centre then headed due north to leave the houses behind. Quite quickly we turned sharp right on a country road to walk in an easterly direction for the rest of the morning. Our way was level and straight for the most part. The giant oil rigs moored at Invergordon were off to our right as we made our way along.
Sizeable forested areas on both sides of the road sheltered us from the cooling breeze. We passed Newmore Wood, Badachonacher Moss, Tullich Wood, Scotsburn Wood, The Wilderness, Marybank Wood… the list goes on. The occasional car and van and the occasional cyclist kept us on our toes.
13.5 miles later, after passing through Glen Aldie, we arrived in the town of Tain. The constant pounding of feet on road was tiring for Pete so he opted to finish for the day at Tain and catch the bus to our destination at Dornoch. Need I mention that the weather was sunny and hot – cooler at times, when we caught the easterly breeze?
Tain was bigger than we both expected but had a charming village feel to it. I joined Pete for a seat and a pint before setting off on my own for the rest of the walk. Leaving Tain, I now joined the main road north, the A9. For the first time there were no separate cycle path/walkways shadowing the road. My path was along the grass verge or narrow gravelled area next to the road itself. This was not fun… but I suppose I am just going to have to get used to it. I walked through Glen Morangie and, of course, the entrance to the eponymous whisky distillery.
My route ahead, the Dornoch Firth Bridge, was visible from a long way off. The first road sign with John o’Groats on it lifted my spirits a little. When I eventually started to cross the bridge the breeze turned into a strong wind trying to push me off the tiny pavement on to the road. On reaching the other side of the firth I discovered I had left Ross and Cromarty and was now in the County of Sutherland. I spotted a path shortcut through a field and a couple of gates that allowed me to leave the A9 and join a long, straight country road which took me all the way to Dornoch.
By the time I had walked past the cathedral and town centre to reach my B&B, I had walked over 21 miles. It was also 5pm which is one of my later finishes. After a cup of tea and a shower I met Pete, who was staying at a different hotel, for a pint and something to eat. I do feel tired tonight.