Day 19 – Cape Wrath

The view may have been spectacular, but the sleep wasn’t. I’d not bothered with the thermarest or tarp due to the midges and had left myself with an uncomfortable sleep. It must have been late when I finally got cool and comfortable enough to sleep. It was too hot inside my sleeping bag but too damp and sticky outside it. To make matters worse some of these midges had worked themselves into my bivvy, so I was being bitten as I attempted to sleep.

If it was late when I fell asleep, it was stupid early when I arose. It was raining. Actually, it was belting it down. It was before sunrise and the rain was making its way through my bivvy. It was only a matter of time until inevitably it made its way through my sleeping bag. I was lying in a pool of cold and damp, but at least that meant I’d be midge free, right? I unzipped my bivvy and got a face of midge. Inhaling midge is not particularly pleasant. I imagine you could achieve a similar sensation by attempting to snort cornflake dust.

Some time and just a hint of self-pity later, I packed and was off. While I had been lying there in a pool of water I felt that maybe I was just about done after all.

I couldn’t face the midges enough to warrant a trip back down into the bay. Besides it was dawn, so about 05.00, and it was raining, so maybe not the best time to be sat on a beach.

Instead I stood on top of the small hill to the north of the bay and admired the view. The rain stopped and the sky started to clear. I still wasn’t going back. I’m more of a hills person anyway, even if these weren’t my hills. They certainly weren’t my hills, they were just lumpy bog.

As I made my way down to Strathchailleach Bothy, I found myself knee deep in bog. I had been promised such experiences so this was not too surprising. I then found myself in thigh deep bog, this was a little more awkward.

The bothy itself was a bit odd. It had been inhabited by a strange old man until the mid-nineties. He had painted on the walls, they weren’t very good paintings, but seemed to be the main attraction of the bothy.

Leaving the bothy, I turned north and made my way towards the lighthouse at Cape Wrath. Whatever fair wind had carried me so quickly forward from Ullapool was now gone. I trudged through the insect-dense bog to the lighthouse. If anything had dented my enjoyment at times it has been the insects. I’ve tried using deet but it feels icky, the midges treat it like hot sauce and the clegs attack anywhere not covered in deet, such as my eyeball, ears, mouth and deetless patches of my thin t-shirt, e.g. the nipple area. Oh well, it’s a small price to pay for the fun I’ve had, and you’ve gotta laugh.

I was walking through the military zone when I heard an intermittent beeping somewhere to my right. I was tempted to go and investigate it but chose not to, more because I was tired and it would take a long time than the fact that finding unexploded explosives is the sort of hobby that you probably don’t do for very long, well not if you are good at it anyway. Heading towards the lighthouse seemed the more sensible option.

The sun shone down on the lighthouse I had seen blinking in the darkness from Sandwood Bay. There’s a cafe of sorts there which was empty. I had arrived well before the tourist bus would. The shop served a selection of tea, coffee and cold snacks; a cup of tea was needed.

I don’t know whether it was the tired was or the fact since yesterday being here had seemed inevitable, but I didn’t have the same elation that I had experienced while walking on down the road yesterday evening. I was happy enough, I just wasn’t sure what to do next.

I sat and drank tea, chatting to the owner. I had not seen another trail turtle at all during my journey up from Fort William, so I asked whether many people turned up here having done the Cape Wrath Trail. He told me that a fair few people did, that fair few was about a hundred people a year. Of course, he added, not all of them did the whole trail in one go and most who do take three weeks complete it. He went on to add that the record time was something like 100 hours, now there’s a challenge, although travelling through such scenery in the dark seems to miss the point of the journey.

It would be landrover track for the last fourteen miles, so I switched back into my new trail runners. New shoes and dry socks provides the same boost the cup of tea had. I sat and thunk and drunk tea until the tourists arrived by minibus from Durness. The driver asked whether I wanted a lift back, I declined, I still had fourteen short miles left to hit my magic total. He warned me that if I didn’t make it back in time then I’d be stranded on this side of the Kyle of Durness. I had no intention of missing the ferry.

I got caught by three tourists as I departed. They asked what I was doing, and donated a couple of quid when I told them, wishing me luck before off I marched. A little while later they waved as the minibus took them back to Durness. A little while later it would pass again, taking another load of tourists to the lighthouse.

I reached the ferry point and waited around. Eventually the man from the cafe drove up, he seemed pleased that I had made it, next the minibus arrived and finally he ferry did. I say ferry, because that was the purpose it served, I really mean small boat capable only of holding about eight people at a time. Two of them had seen me walking towards Sandwood yesterday, they asked about my journey and seemed amazed when I told them.

As I sat in the ferry, I felt that same kind of happiness that I had the precious evening. The sun shined down on my face, the breeze blew through my hair (ok, well, stubble) and the boat made its way through the water. This feeling continued as I made my way to Durness. The man from the lighthouse stopped to offer me a lift but I politely declined, these were my last few miles. I couldn’t go any further even if I had wanted to; I had run out of map and out of food.

Durness seemed soft and tranquil compared to the rugged, weather-beaten Cape. It was already shut for the day wham I arrived. My bus back would leave at 08.00, so for me it would remain shut.

I stopped for dinner at a nearby pub and got talking to the family on the table next to me. They had done the West Highland Way previously and congratulated me on my achievement. I don’t know how much of an achievement this has really been. Nothing too hard was thrown at me, but I look back at photos I only took a couple of weeks ago and they seem like they were a lifetime ago. I’ve been away for a long time but other than that I’m too tired to reflect on what I have been through. I’m sure my feet will remind me in the morning.

I really don’t know what else to say. Tomorrow I make the long journey home, spending the afternoon in Inverness before taking the sleeper home. I’ll then continue to sleep all weekend.

What an adventure I’ve had, I’ve been happy out here and as they say – be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead.