July 24

The eve of departure.

Tomorrow, being a Wednesday, we are setting off towards John o’Groats. Our neighbour, Billy, has suggested that we should carry on along the top as it is very nice up there at this time of the year. Is this a reflection on our acceptability as neighbours?
Scotland, as you will know, has very few marked footpaths as there is a right to roam everywhere. This wonderful law generates a few problems when strolling these being:

1. No footpaths shown on OS maps
2. No stiles.
3 Barbed wire fences.

In order to mitigate against 1 we intend to follow the coast for this stroll. Navigation should be fairly straightforward as long as we keep the sea on the right going north.

However, in order to mitigate against 2 and 3 I have been obliged to plumb my inventiveness today. I visited the local hardware emporium and purchased one meter of very stout plastic pipe. I have cut a slot along the length of the pipe and have taped it to a broom handle in order for Janet to test its effectiveness as a skirt saver when crossing barbed wire fences.

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The invention

On encountering a barbed wire fence I will whip out my patent skirt saver, in the manner of Walter Raleigh or a magician producing a pigeon from his hat, and encourage Janet to climb over said skirt saver and thus the fence. A visitor to these parts, from Israel, observed me in my labours and suggested that the skirt saver could be the next google.

The tide tables tell us that high tide tomorrow is at about 10 minutes after midday. If we can manage to overcome our morning lassitude and leave before 9:00 tomorrow morning then wading across the mighty Philorth will be a breeze.

Janet is inventing, and building, pockets and pouches in order for us to attach our various gadgets to our various ample figures so the place is a hive of activity. Most people would do all of this weeks before departure but that would certainly spoil most of the fun.

As the excitement builds I might refresh myself with a small G&T in order to calm my fevered brow.

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July 25

Day 1 Inverallochy to Rosehearty

Off at last! A wonderful sunny day again today. Up here the temperature is pleasant and the wind is moderate.

Last night we reviewed our plans for this week’s stint and toddled off to bed. In bed we enjoyed a few minutes scanning bus timetables as we sipped our goodnight dram. We intended to walk, without packs, using public transport to return us to Inverallochy and a comfy bed at the end of each day for the next four days. The idea being to ease our ancient persons into the hardships of the trail before having to make our way burdened by mighty rucksacks. Imagine our despair when it became apparent that our leisurely plans were in tatters. In its great wisdom Stagecoach Scotland has no buses between the villages of North East Scotland. Residents and strollers alike are reduced to Shanks’s Pony. A frantic search for accommodation ensued.

However, we set off this morning with hope in our hearts for Rosehearty.
LeavingLeaving home.

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We returned almost straightaway. The observant will notice a change in Janet’s appearance.

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The monument is a tribute to all those who have lost their lives at sea and to those who are left behind.
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Cairnbulg
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The path towards Fraserburgh is quite inviting but does peter out at the Waters of Philorth. At high tide this is a mighty river but easily waded at low tide.
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Janet is demonstrating the ease of transit.
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Fraserburgh harbour
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Fraserburgh Saltoun Square where we slaked our thirsts before carrying onwards.
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There is a very nice asphalt path leading from Broadsea towards Sandhaven.which is just about visible to the left of this photo, the path not Sandhaven which is invisible in this photo being some distance away.
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At the back of the fish factories and recycling centre the lovely asphalt path turns sharply left and joins the road. We didn’t fancy that very much and spotted a possible, less travelled, path behind a fence. The notice by the fence implied that the “cliff edge” was unstable but had no effect on our intrepid souls.
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Sadly, although the less travelled path was stable and a good idea, we had to join the main road to Sandhaven eventually. There is a very nice footway however. It is long and straight so is a bit tedious. At least having the sea on the right prevented any navigational problems.
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Arriving at Rosehearty we found a shop selling IrnBru for me and a cornetto for Janet. A good day all in all.
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The patent skirt saver was not needed today. A good job really as I didn’t take it with us.

Here it is, day 1 in a nutshell.

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July 26

Day 2 Rosehearty to Pennan

Another glorious sunny day in glorious sunny Scotland.

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We were a bit late setting off this morning so ate a late breakfast at Rosehearty Harbour of, for me, some corned beef slices, for Janet some Aberdeen butteries or morning rolls as they are called here. The cooling wind has been very welcome although it was overly robust and blew my corned beef slices into the grass. I am still feeling fine so assume that there was nothing nasty in the sward.

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Rosehearty Tower is an old RAF observation tower but is now a rather nice residence with fine views. The footpath goes past it and on to a nice seaside track.

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The stroll so far was going wonderfully well and we were thinking that we would recommend it to family and friends, even to those who might not want anything too strenuous. The views are wonderful as one can see for miles and miles and miles.

P1070716The patent skirt saver was still a bit of a white elephant as the helpful Scottish landowners had provided stiles on the path.

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Things were still going well until we hit a jungle of reedy type plants which were as high as an elephants eye and took a lot of barging through without the benefit of machetes.
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I am still surprised by the beautifully mown strip of grass we encountered on climbing over a stile. It was like magic. We strolled down it like royalty.P1070732In fact the beautifully mown strip of grass led to a castle perched on a cliff. The place was obviously lived in and well cared for but we didn’t see a soul.
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So far the stroll was perfect. We had enjoyed a strenuous walk but over cliffs where the indentations of other walkers’ feet could be easily seen. Passing the castle was to lead us on to something much more challenging.

The path at this point follows the cliff edge. If you don’t enjoy standing on the edge and walking then this bit isn’t for you. Indeed it became obvious that it wasn’t for us either as a few landslides had destroyed any chance of following our chosen route. We gave it a go but had to give up eventually. Of course this raises problems. If the path no longer exists where does one go?
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The only answer was to hop over a fence and skirt a field.
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Our pace was reduced to less than 1 mile an hour at this point as we were retracing our steps as well as climbing fences using the patent skirt saver. It began to look as though we might be very late getting to Pennan as there were bogs, gorse etc at every turn. The gentle stroll we had planned was becoming something else entirely.
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The first place on our stroll was to be Aberdour Beach, a mere 3 miles from Rosehearty, We still hadn’t got even there, despair.

P1070750Although a slice of cheese and a boiled egg at Aberdour Beach soon drove the despair away. The final nail in old despair’s coffin was a sign saying 3 miles to Pennan. We should go to the ball after all.
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P1070756This fine fellow was delighted to see us as we were delighted to see him. We exchanged friendly greetings and parted friends.

P1070770The rest of the stroll was enjoyable and easy. There was a bit of up and down but nothing remarkable. We had been told that the Pennan Hotel of Local Hero fame was no longer open. Well, it is open and we have eaten large bowls of delicious Cullen Skink washed down with suitable beverages. The bed tonight is comfortable so good night, sleep tight etc.

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July 27

Day 3 Pennan to Banff

Having showered myself and my small clothes, eaten a nice piece of salmon and the remains of Janet’s pate, with a G&T in hand I feel restored enough to begin.

I would recommend the Pennan Inn to anyone. It is small and very friendly. Indeed at breakfast this morning I felt confident enough to demonstrate Janet’s patent waterproof kilt. It is possible to go from absorbent to rainproof in less than ten seconds. The others, enjoying their breakfasts, applauded Janet’s inventive skills as I twirled.
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P1070775It is unusual to have a photo of the two of us together but a Dutch couple passing by took a snap.

The hill out of Pennan is rather steep. Our old car could only manage the ascent in bottom gear. Thankfully the Scottish breakfast was energy rich.
P1070776We were fair pechin’ when we got to the top.

I shall dwell on the first bit of the stroll because it was enjoyable. We met a number of people strolling about like us and enjoyed a good old clech with them.

The two ladies in the photo below though were the real surprise. We saw them approaching in the distance and when we were abreast of them we started to say “Hello” but they surprised us by saying “You’re Mike and Janet aren’t you?” It appears that they had stumbled on this blog and had strolled along to see if were on our way.
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The footpath to the beautiful village of Crovie was quite easy to find and navigate. I wouldn’t risk it without a map though.
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Apart from a very short stretch of encroaching whins the path was a delight.
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The bay. It is always a delight to visit Crovie. Outside the houses are handcarts so that people can barrow in their groceries. I’m not sure how you would get a large IKEA cupboard down there though.
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There is a lovely footpath which connects Crovie to Gardenstown (Gamrie)
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It was in Gardenstown that we made a rather silly mistake. We should have strolled to the end of the bay and joined the footpath up the cliff. Had we done this the rest of the day would probably been as enjoyable as the beginning. Instead we struggled up the road out of Gamrie and onto a minor ish road. We were hoping to be able to leave this tarmacadamed tyrant but it was not to be. We followed it all the way to MacDuff.

The sun was baking. Heat rose up from the road. The powerful wind was dry and arid. We marched on. There was nowhere to sit. The hours passed. We plodded forward, one foot in front of the other, no respite in sight. Then, we happened upon a refuge from the endless toil.

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I’ll readily admit that the above isn’t everyone’s idea of a picnic area but we had lost all pretentions of grandeur by this time and the slightly delapidated wall gave our weary legs well needed rest. I cracked the shell of my last hard boiled egg and drank a few drops of water. Bliss! I have just remembered. We were sprayed with something which tasted suspiciously like cow poo as we rested our weary limbs.

P1070819 MacDuff is MacDuff and has the famous Tairlair swimming pool, I am led to believe.

Onwards then to Banff. Tomorrow to Portsoy.

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July 28

Day 4 Banff to Portsoy

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Despite the dire warning on Banff harbour wall we managed to negotiate the perimeter without falling in. The skies turned a delightful Scottish sky colour after breakfast and promised rain. We checked out of our accommodation and felt the beginnings of a shower so donned our rainproof kilts in a trice and set out.

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Rainwear is quite hot so when the rain stopped we took it off. Then put it back on again. Then took it off. Then put it back on again etc. This state of affairs lasted for about 45 minutes until good old Scottish rain set in with a vengeance and saved us the bother of repeated quick changes for the rest of the day.

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The route leads nicely around the bay on a sort of promenade and ends up at a caravan park. The stroller strolls through the throng of tents, caravans and mobile homes eventually arriving at the small bridge with a label announcing that our old friend from a few years ago, cycle route 1, will lead us onwards. Cross the bridge and turn sharp right.

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From the main Inverness road Whitehills looks as though it is just a caravan park but is in fact a delightful small fishing town.

Following the shoreline the OS map appears to think that the path should continue beyond the village of Whitehills but three houses appeared to be where once there was a path. Good old cycle route 1 came to the rescue, as it has done many times before, and led us to a nice, largely traffic free lane.
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The stroll was uneventful really. Navigation was very easy and we arrived in Portsoy in time to eat our bacon and sausage salvaged from breakfast.
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We even had the pleasure of a nice, newly mown, lane down which to stroll into Portsoy.
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On arriving at Portsoy we hurpled down to our accommodation, took off our rucksacks, rainwear, shoes and socks and flaked out for an hour.
After reviving ourselves in the Station Hotel with a glass of something and some nosh we are ready for the off again tomorrow. Tomorrow’s stroll is quite short. it is a bit like today but might mean a bit of shuffling down the main Inverness road so that could be less than fun. After that though we will be on footpaths for ages and ages.

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July 30

Day 6 Cullen to Portgordon

One of the the nice things about these perambulations which we undertake is the chats over breakfast which we enjoy with fellow guests. Most people seem to like a bit of a chat but are a little reluctant to get the ball rolling. The conversations are always amusing and informative.

After breakfast at the delightful Royal Oak I set off out from our room pack on back and ready for the off giving a cheery farewell to our host and other guests. I felt that something was missing and realised that I had left my poles in the bedroom. The usual banter greeted my embarrassed return as I had also left my sandals and Janet in the bedroom.

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The path begins by climbing up some stairs to the wonderful Cullen viaduct, of which I have no photo so you must visit Cullen in order to enjoy its majesty. We have driven under this magnificent structure many times on our way to visit one of Janet’s school friends but I never imagined that we would stroll over it

The view from the viaduct was enchanting this morning/
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The path has suffered a little erosion in parts. Nothing which would intimidate the average stroller or cyclist but the powers that be had attempted to protect the foolhardy by erecting a barrier. The local strollers had cast aside these warnings and we were free to continue.
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Buckie where we rested in Pozzi. Having never visited Buckie before I was surprised at the shipbuilding enterprises everywhere in the harbour area.
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Those of you who have enjoyed AirBnB will know that one can’t arrive before a certain time. We arrived rather earlier than that and found the excellent Lennox Inn in Portgordon to be open.
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The congenial customers and landlady gave us handy hints about walking towards Lossiemouth as well as loads of other amusing stuff. The beer went down very well too. A good end to a very easy day of walking.
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From the point of view of ease of walking today has certainly been the easiest so far. Tomorrow will be much longer and may involve a river. An exciting prospect.

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July 31

Day 7 Portgordon to Lossiemouth

The weather is still on our side, thank goodness. We heard heavy rain during the night but all was dry once again this morning. We slept like logs last night and I didn’t want to rise at all this morning. Our AirBnB host told us, amongst many other things, that she was originally from Ethiopia where fruit grows without much effort from the grower. That sounds just the place for me.
Before setting out we visited the local shop to gather provisions for the day. Janet bought the last morning roll or buttery.
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The first part of the trip is down a disused railway line which one joins at the end of Portgordon through an elaborate gate.
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The path here is very straight, clear and easy to follow.
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The straight and narrow suddenly comes to a sharp right hand turn into some woods.
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We aren’t keen woodland walkers as we prefer the open vistas from hills or cliffs etc so this detour was something of a disappointment. We consoled ourselves with the thought that, should we need a comfort break, a wood was as good as anywhere for such an activity.
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As we entered the woodland we could here the beep beep beeping of a mechanical device. A few steps later the delightful perfume of trees, plants, flowers was overtaken by the unmistakable perfume of the landfill site.
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Both the beep beep beeping and the quiet hum of the landfill were soon left behind as we headed for the old viaduct which once carried railway engines, passengers and goods over the foaming current below. Imagine! Someone took the trouble of building a railway then abandoning it leaving a very nice viaduct just for us to cross today
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In order to still our beating hearts at the thought of crossing the engineering wonder we stopped for a few minutes, ate some meagre rations and thus fortified carried on
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The viaduct was every bit as good as we had anticipated that it would be with great views

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Over the viaduct and into Garmouth where can be found the incredible Speyside Coffee Roasting Company.
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Apparently Maggie fairs are popular here in Garmouth. I have no idea what a Maggie fair might be but I’m sure that they are great fun and Maggie’s are treated very well indeed.
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I suppose that we had completed about a third of today’s stroll as we lazed about in Garmouth drinking drinks and chatting. Having lazed about we headed down to the coastal path once more looking forward to a lovely seaside stroll. We had been advised that the beach was a bit shingly and could be a bit of a trial until getting to the beach at Lossiemouth.

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A bit shingly? A bit shingly? The bank of shingle prevents any sight of the sea from the footpath. It is possible to walk on the shingle but, having danced on shingle at Sidmouth Folk Festival many years ago, we didn’t fancy that for 7 miles. The lesser of the two alternatives is to walk behind the WW2 tank traps where there is a rough track which occasionally becomes a soft sandy track. We ran out of steam after a bout 4 miles of this and headed up the shingle bank. We took off our packs, lay down and slept for half an hour. Bliss!
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The sandy beach of Lossiemouth was a wonderful contrast to the shingle. We were diverted around the nesting sites and on to open beach. Our destination was in full, glorious, sight.
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The odd thing about Lossiemouth is that despite the fact that it is quite large and grand looking, it has some fine churches and houses, yet doesn’t appear to have many shops. We strolled off out after dumping our rucksacks in order to hunt for the elusive OS map. There are none here. We must go to Elgin for maps. The food is good though. We had a delicious fish pie for supper and have forgotten the shingle.

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August 1

Day 8 Lossiemouth to Burghead

No photos today. The internet connection is a bit slow so the photos time out. Hooray! Problem of slow photos resolved by going to the pub, the Harbour Inn in fact. It amazes me how often problems can be solved by going to the pub.
Over our breakfast this morning we discovered that our host and his wife are a musical duo. Unfortunately the violinist section of the duo had hurt her back so they were temporarily out of action. Having chatted about accordions for a bit the accordionist part of the duo was persuaded to give us a tune or two. Janet couldn’t sit still and did a very nimble strathspey around the breakfast tables as I looked on with amazement. The floor of the breakfast room was a sprung floor so she rattled the crockery in the dresser a bit. We learned too that our accomplished accordion playing host was a retired Presbyterian Minister who spent frequent retreats in Benedictine Monasteries about which he had many amusing anecdotes.
P1080085Our musical and ecclesiastical hosts saying goodbye

Having said goodbye to our amiable hosts we headed off once more to the Moray Trail. Passing the harbour we noticed a fishing museum. As OAPs it only cost £1 a head to go in. What a bargain.

Yesterday’s slog along the shingle was something of a trial to be honest so it was sheer pleasure to stroll along a firm sandy beach out of Lossiemouth towards Hopeman
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We have been told that the small holes on the beach are formed by razorshells. Janet believes that these delicious molluscs can be enticed out of their holes by tapping briskly on the hole. I was led to believe that you have to pour a small amount of salt down the holes. At least we now know that tapping briskly doesn’t work after spending some five minutes in that fruitless activity.
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The beach towards Hopemon is studded with short posts covering about half an acre. I have no idea what they might have been for. Whatever it was it isn’t any more.
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We were very lucky with the tides today. Although the tide was on its way back in we weren’t inconvenienced very much at all. There are two ways of doing this particular stretch. At lowish tide the beach route is the favourite as the sand is hard and so easy going. At high tide the going is more difficult on soft sandy dunes.
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We were in no hurry today so took our ease where we could find it. Janet, being of the shorter section of humanity, felt like an infant as she dangled her legs in mid air.
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Approaching Burghead we could see a huge building dominating the scene. What could it be? It is a massive maltings. As we passed by the installations the vague smell of cereals filled the air.
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We were intending to walk to Findhorn and stay there tomorrow but have discovered that you can’t wade over the estuary and so will to go to Forres. Luckily for us we were intending to go to Forres anyway so we will go to Findhorn but then carry on to Forres.

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August 3

Day 9 Burghead to Forres

This post is a day in arrears. Today we are in Forres for a bit of R&R having arrived yesterday. I didn’t do the blog entry yesterday due to a mixture of several factors. The internet was a tad slow and so was I as I had enjoyed a fine supper, good conversation, an entertaining production put on by the younger members of the household and a glass or two.

The Bothy at Burghead got us off to a good start with a hearty breakfast for me of scrambled egg and a generous portion of hot smoked salmon. The Bothy boasts that it has “Fancy pieces” and “hamely fare”. I didn’t spot the fancy pieces, perhaps they appear in the evening.

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Today’s stroll needed very little navigation skills as the route led down to the beach and then gave a choice of two paths. One goes through a wood for ages and the other goes along the beach. Neither Janet nor I enjoy being shut in so the beach it was always going to be. The tide was on the turn back in but we could look forwards to a few hours of easy walking along the hard sand of low tide.

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We had arranged to meet a schoolfriend of Janet’s at Findhorn where we could laze about for a bit, meet the younger members of the family and transfer our heavy packs to a car. This giving us the opportunity to stroll unencumbered for a few miles from Findhorn to Forres.
We see these rotten posts on the shore with great frequency but still have little idea of their purpose.
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As the tide rolled in we moved from sandbank to sandbank before the need to wade began. It is always a surprise to look back at the places where one was strolling but a few minutes ago to see them completely underwater.
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The Moray Trail leaves the shore at Findhorn and follows a series of lanes to Forres. The distance is about 5 miles which we expected to be able to walk in a couple of hours. The sun was quite hot with little breeze. The route was rather boring to say the least. We could see Findhorn Bay to our left. The bay is a wonderful wetland area of mud and sand with tussocky grass and burns all mixed up together. We had no idea at that point that it was such a mixture of going.
We trudged onwards along the hot, dull, cycle track for a mile or two. Our conversation was desultory comprising largely of the occasional gripe about the heat and the occasional comment about the beauty of the bay just a few yards away from us.
The authorities have erected a noticeboard at the edge of the trail which describes the bay. There was, in addition to this board, a gap in the fencing. We were both silent for a moment or two then one of us said “Shall we chance it?” “Yes” was the obvious reply.

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The tide was on its way back in as I mentioned earlier but gave no problems at first as our shoes were high enough to cross the little burns and rivulets without needing to paddle. This state of affairs persisted for quite a time. We could see a female figure approaching from the other direction so were heartened that we would encounter nothing which would be a big problem. This female figure entered the burn between us and paddled across up to her knees. Emboldened by this we crossed back in the other direction. Janet is of shorter stature than the woman we had seen so found it rather deeper than knee height.
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We continued onwards until stopped by another much much deeper burn. It was obvious that the incoming tide was making things a bit tricky. The tussocky ground towards the edge of the bay was quite dry. Yes, it was filled with deep holes and trenches hidden by the long grass but by prodding about with our walking poles we felt confident that we could get accross. I said to Janet “I’ll go in front and will fall down any hidden holes.” As I said this I fell into a hidden hole. Thigh deep! Lovely.

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The time had come to bail out and go back to the dull old cycle track. We could hear the noise of traffic so headed for it through the long grass, whins, brambles etc.

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The map shows a footpath which passes the distillery and arrives at the railway line where there is either a level crossing or a path under a bridge. Network rail obviously felt that this was far too easy for strollers and cyclists. A new station and set of rails had been installed a year ago and a new road built to accommodate the fact that this needed to be bypassed. We arrived at journey’s end to be confronted by locked gates and concrete bollards. We were feeling a little jaded by then so were not very happy. There is no diversion sign to indicate where the path now goes. Luckily for us a helpful bloke noticed our confusion and directed us to the new footpath, which adds an extra mile to do 100 yds thanks a bunch network rail.

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Forres is a lovely town and perfect for our day off. I think that we might stroll to Nairn tomorrow.

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