My beachside walk ended as I had to return to the dreaded A9. Not really a bad road in places. Absolutely dire for a walker in other places. Just as I joined the road the heavens opened. Once again I was soaked to the skin. This time I had gale force winds blowing from the NW. This meant driving rain in the side of my face. Time to go into 'head-down-and-plod' mode. Pleasant it was not, especially with lorries rushing by just inches away. Just as the conditions were starting to get the better of me I stopped and looked out to sea, thinking how nice it would be to walk along the coast again. I then noticed a seal looking at me. That made me smile. He was probably thinking "strange these land creatures, if they like getting wet why don't they come in here?" The seal entertained me for a short while, following me as I made my way along the carriageway. It then decided I was boring and swam off.
I took a breather in a lay-by and noticed a memorial stone. The stone stated "To mark the place near which the last wolf in Sutherland was killed in 1700". It got me thinking how wild Scotland must have been back then and how hard you would have to be to live here without the infrastructure that's in place now. I mean we get in cars that take us (hopefully) to our destination, get out of our chosen automobile and leave it standing patiently until we need to use it again. Back then I'm guessing a horse would have been your mode of transport. You can't just leave that standing in the driveway day after day without any attention, then expect to jump on it and do 60 down the bridleway. It's going to need input from you, feeding, stabling, etc. Living back then must have been so hard. On top of all the extra work they had wolves to contend with! I guess something had to give and the wolves lost out.
I counted my lucky stars and moved on. I decided to start taking as many minor roads as possible. First one was hilly, tranquil, just right. Second, too short to bother with. Third... ouch! It started fine with a nice Tarmac surface, it then got narrow, then turned to gravel, then to grass, then into a garden. I went for it and walked across the garden. The owner was out in a flash! "Can I help?" she said. I really didn't want to retrace my steps just to get back on the A9. I played a bit dumb and explained I was following a track on my map.
"oh yes, well, you can try going down there" she pointed the way I was heading, then eyed my trousers. "They look quite hard wearing, you should be okay. Just keep going passed the cottage then you'll be back on the road". Sounded reasonable. I got 100yards in and found out why she had been inquisitive about my trousers ability to wear hard. Gorse. Gorse bushes everywhere. A tiny path could just be made out. I followed it all the way passed the cottage and to the road. My legs are cut to ribbons! I ventured back to the A9 and decided I'd take my chances with the lorries.
It was only a few miles later that I arrived in Helmsdale. Time now for me to tend my cuts then get sustenance. Being a harbour town surely it has to be fish and chips tonight!