Day 18 – Sunset over Sandwood Bay

Today was the day that I would find out whether my route to Cape Wrath was blocked. It was a bright and breezy day; the only things I had to contend with were the clegs.

By late morning I was at Ben Dreavie, the last hilltop of my journey. I admired the views of what would be my final days of this adventure. I made my way along and, having not even seen another person since a brief encounter with a couple of workers near Inchnadamph, decided to stop off at Rhiconich Hotel for a tea and irn-bru. It was quiet here too. The lady working on the reception desk served me before hurrying back to her desk. I checked the time; it was 17.00 and I was nineteen miles into my day.

With my heart in my mouth I called the Cape Wrath military number. It was all clear, it would be for the whole of July and August. I was very happy about that, particularly as I had spent a good portion of the afternoon working out alternatives if I couldn’t get there. I was now only twenty miles from Cape Wrath, where I’d get to celebrate the end of my journey before having to walk another thirteen and a half miles to catch a bus home.

I couldn’t wait to reach the end, but at the same time I wished that I could spend longer out here. My feet were sore but I was used to that. I probably looked a mess, but then again I usually do anyway. I can safely assume that I also smell, but I’m so used to it now that I don’t notice it.

I sat and let some time tick by in the hotel before heading out towards Kinlochbervie. It was twelve miles to Sandwood Bay. I half-hoped to get there before nightfall, not only to watch the sun set over the sea but also to be away from the houses that were spread along the coastal road.

It’s hard to describe just how happy I felt while walking down the road. There was a sense that I had already made it, now all I had to do was coast along until my destination. I was ridiculously happy; I’d been waiting for this feeling for two years, since the glorious failure of 2011. The miles on this adventure had been less dramatic than those; I had better known what to expect this time. It had been a hard journey at times, even if I had expected worse. There had been no moments to make a grown man cry. My only doubts had been towards Barisdale, where I doubted that I would be able to cover the miles in time, and Ullapool, where I had been concerned about my feet. Yet here I was, bouncing along on the final stretch.

I stopped off at a place called London Stores in the wonderfully named Badcall. It was overflowing with foodstuffs. I didn’t think you would be able to pack any more food in there even if you added another dimension. The owner of the shop was quite odd. At least I think he was odd, it’s hard for me to tell now, maybe I’m the odd one. He asked if there was anything I wanted out of the freezer that he was cutting out newspaper coupons over. I replied no, I had no way to cook those foodstuffs, but the cheesecake looked good. He then pointed me to the refrigerated pies and sandwiches that he had. He seemed very insistent that I buy one. As he grumpily took my money for Fanta and a flapjack he continued to ask if I was sure that I didn’t want a pie; he could probably have sold me that cheesecake if he’d tried.

I came across some toilets managed by The John Muir Trust before I turned off towards Sandwood Bay. They had a leaflet which outlined the quality of wild land. From red through to dark green for not wild through to very wild, with blue reserved for the “top 10% wildest land”. Most of what I had walked through over the past weeks had been blue. What hasn’t been blue had been dark green.

I was still on a high when I approached Sandwood Bay. I’m not a beach person, but as an acknowledged non-expert of beaches, this was the best beach I had seen. The sand looked clean without a hint of rubbish, the sea was the bluest I’ve seen in Britain. The only downside was that the midges were terrible. As I made my way down to the beach they somewhat spoilt the experience. Once on the beach, with a good sea breeze, it all felt worthwhile. Had it not been so late I would have paddled in the sea. I put that on my list of jobs to do tomorrow.

I sat on the beach as the sun disappeared behind cloud. I made my way up to a grassy patch that seemed breezy and started to unpack for the night. The breeze stop and the midges appeared en masse. It got so bad so quickly that I quickly have up on the tarp despite the grey sky. Instead I threw myself and my sleeping bag into the bivvy and curled up for a night overlooking another beautiful part of Scotland.