Monday, 8 October 2012

Dornoch and Harry Gow's angels.

Dornoch and Harry Gow's angels.

I managed to pack away the tent and all my gear quite early and set off along the long beach to Dornoch. I hoped that it was a busy town with cafes and such so I could get a bite to eat and a pot of tea to set me up for the day. The beach was harder to walk than I had imagined the rocks and pebbles move underfoot and it feels like two steps forward and three back. I had to cross a river that met the sea here, which was precarious and and adventure to get across. Still as I did so the rain began to fall and the day seemed a little cooler. I needed a pick me up both of the liquid variety and the people variety. I asked the first man I saw coming into the town, and he happily reported that there were several cafes on the main square just a few yards away. Intuitively I chose the one on the right which was Harry Gow's bakery cafe. I have been in this chain many times and the staff are always very accommodating. The shop here was no different and the ladies behind the counter made me most welcome and rushed about to get me tea and a sandwich. I asked if it would be possible if I took the corner, to type, and they said it wasn't a problem.
Rhonda the manageress was very kind and fussed over me as I began my marathon session on the blog writing, bringing me refreshments every now and then. Later I had a toasted sandwich and more tea. I passed a few hours in the cafe and was sad to leave actually. I asked if I could have a picture of the girls and they happily agreed to be on my blog. Fiona, Sabrina, Rhonda and Susan were all so very kind as they paid for my food and drink from the tips that received, as a way to support me on the walk. Rhonda also gave me a few things to take away which was such a wonderful extra gift, and I was close to tears at their combined kindnesses. I said that I would mention their act here. They are really all so very kind, and the random nature of what they showed me was gratefully received. Thanks too Harry for their continued services and a homely feel to their cafes.

Soon I was on my way out for a look around the rest of the touristy town. A Jail converted into a gift shop, a castle converted into a hotel, and many other fascinating things including a Cathedral.

The day was looking a bit uncertain as to the hope of clear skies so I kept my water proofs on in case. A good decision as the storm began a few miles later. I was heading north off the main road and towards the end of the estuary, though I knew that the ferry no longer ran to the opposite shore, which was a shame, as it would cut shorter the route by at least 4 miles.

I had to turn west and set off towards the old abandoned castle. I bumped into another walker, who was just about to set off and I couldn't determine in which direction he would be going.

We struck up a conversation easily. Philip Williams, was walking around the coasts of the U.K. in stages. He lived and worked in London and was also making a radio documentary to be broadcast in a few years time. He told me that he had been walking over a few years so far and had possibly done something in the region of 4500 miles so far. I liked Phillip and said that if he needed any help with that then to call me, as I too was attempting to take some footages for a documentary, though I had lost a lot of footages when the hard drive crashed last month. He was doing the walk between B&B's so didn't need to carry a heavy bag with tent and the like, and I envied that for a moment, my load was still cumbersome. Philip is raising money for the Alzheimers Society. After a while we said our respective farewells and set out again to get some more miles under my belt.

I passed the waterfront of the firth and saw away in the distance the bridge that I would need to reach to cross the river. I also noticed here that there were a few empty cottages with no-one living in them, and thought what a shame it was as the views were lovely. After another hour or so it was beginning to get dark, though it was still not late. I arrived into Golspie at about 7.30pm and made my way to a place to get a drink. The first pub that I found was either not accepting guest was closed or the doors were at the rear of the building despite it having doors on the street side. I carried on along the street, realising my way blocked for a reason and came to the Caberfeidh Hotel.

It was open and very warm and welcoming and the barmaid didn't mind making me coffee. Ruth and I began chatting immediately and she tried to help me find points of interest on the Orkney Islands as she was a huge fan of the place and had travelled there many times over the past few years. She asked me where I was staying and I said maybe the park. She went away to ask the land lady about a room or the like and unfortunately the rooms were not available, but Sheila had said I could put my tent in the rear garden. Later she explained that the sea was rough and sometimes it could breach the sea wall and come into her garden, so she offered me the floor in the back room of her Pub, which I happily accepted.
Ruth introduced me to Steve her Husband when he arrived to collect her. We had gotten on very well and they offered to pay for my drinks as a token of their support, which was so kind and I felt so much love and support coming from Ruth who was a carer in her other role.
I set myself up on the floor in the back room and said farewells to Ruth and Steve as they locked the pub. The quiet was only interrupted by the hum of freezers in the bar area. I wondered if there were ghosts here too, it was an old place.
The morning came around all too quickly and I rose to the sound of music in the bar area. Willie, Sheila's husband was up and about and offered me tea. When Sheila came in she made me toast and a bacon sandwich and I felt a bit like I was on the very good end of so much kindness. Sheila organised that I could use one of the bedrooms and use the shower there, which was divine. When I was ready to go they wouldn't accept anything for their help, but suggested I contribute something to the charities they support by the collection pots on the bar. I thought that this was a very large kindness and I accepted the chance to contribute in some small way.

The day was dodgy and the waterproofs were still on as I set out to see the Dunrobin Castle a mile away to the north. I walked through the woods on the coastal path, and was soon staring up at the ramparts of the ancient home of the Sutherland Lairds.

I had to wait until 10.30 for the opening, but that was not a problem. John the doorman receptionist said that he would gladly look after my bag and I put it behind the screens out of the way. He was a nice man and asked me much about my walk and aims and I asked much about the castle and the history of the place. He helped me somewhat with the entrance fee, another kindness and I set off to see the castle I had never seen before but heralded the Robin, my emblem. The staff were all very nice and I spent ages getting my monies worth of their helpful information about the home of several generations of Earls and Dukes and Lairds of the Dunrobin estates. To be fair it was a lovely house and had once also been a boarding school for boys. It was enormous and expansive and full of old furniture and decorations and trinkets and so much character. Successive dukes had added their marks to the size of the castle and the features but it was still incredible for the views it commanded from this seafront position.

I saw the gardens too stretched out in front towards the huge wall that surrounded the place.

A falconry display was also part of the tour and so at 11.30 I set out into the gardens to see the mastery of the Falconer, Andy Hughes who lived and worked here permanently. He trained so many birds and had about 30 in total, including a Tawny Owl and a Peregrine Falcon, and many other birds of prey, even one geriatric eagle. The children all squealed with delight at the way he got the birds to swoop over head so low that you could feel the wind as they closed in across your heads. 

I had a look at the gardens just as the rain began and then the museum of artefacts form both the area and the world. Picts (the ancient Scotts) had lived here over the past and left significant evidences of their being here.
I was a bit peckish so found the cafe and had some lunch. It felt like I was in the old scullery as the wall was covered in bells and shelves and pans and the like, and a roaring log fire heated the room. I was attended to by Jennifer who made me feel very at home. It was almost like all the staff were a family they got on so well. Then again I suppose that this was one of the better jobs in the area and afforded people a chance to be employed in a fantastic environment. Apparently they always have their Christmas dinner in the main dining room upstairs. I imaging that would be a grand occasion, even if they were the staff. The lady owner lives in London apparently and is in her 90's so never comes to Dunrobin. Lady Sutherland is titled owner but not involved directly with the running of the place here any more.
Back in the house I continued the tour of huge and cluttered rooms. I spoke with a man called Dick, who was researching some facts about the earldom of the Sutherlands and we set the world to rights. Later in the gift shop I got into an equally good conversation with Vida and it turns out that Dick is her husband. She was telling me how much she has travelled recently and the places were far and wide, now she has retired.

I set out later in the afternoon from Dunrobin than I would have liked to get any serious walking done, but well I had missed a lot of downpours through the day walking the corridors of majesty and history. Along the coastal path I passed a few gates to arrive at a stone age settlement called a Broch. It is basically a round house with several rooms and a central room with a few tiers. I guess that it would have been very solid as the walls were about 10 foot thick in places. It possibly stood about 10 or 12 metres high at most in its original state when built. It was clearly the property of someone with money in those days. No windows to speak of though.

I made my way along to Brora and stopped at the Sutherland Inn on the main road for a drink of coffee to warm me up. I swear I have never seen so many bottles of malt whiskey in my life in one place. I complimented the bar lady on this, saying that they have got to get the first prize for the most of whiskey on a shelf ever....!!!
She said that they had over 600 bottles on offer and I nearly fell off the stool. Clearly they had a wonderful place here with so many choices. They have a taste board for the whiskeys with varying values for the sampling, and types. It turns out they have an online whiskeybusiness too, so get logged in here everyone @ Shop4whiskey  
I left feeling very dejected because I couldn't afford any and it would have a damaging effect on my progress tomorrow anyway.....!!!
I was on my way out of the Village when I found a side road which eventually led me to a camp site. I didn't see a sign or anything but felt drawn down the lane. I spoke to a lady who was just locking the offices and she sent her husband John out to speak to me. The Caravan and Camping Club I have found, don't normally let strangers onto their sites, but John welcomed me on and gave a me a very sheltered pitch away from the winds. He said I could use the showers etc and also I got to use the Washing machine and dryer which helped me to have clean socks and even clean boots, which had been smelling somewhat.
The wind was quite strong through the night and it rained almost constantly, but I was just below the air current and missed most of the rain and the winds and consequently slept for Britain.

1 comment:

  1. Wow what a castle!! be good for a film set?? Nice well kept gardens too. Whiskey....yuk! you cud av had mine!.. :)